Great Pyrenees Dog Breed – The Pyrenean Mountain Dog

Great Pyrenees Dog

Affectionate, Loyal, Protective

The Great Pyrenees is a breed of large, fun, affectionate dogs. They love to be with their family and owners but are not quite as warm to strangers.

Having been used mainly as herding dogs in the past, instinct makes these dogs typically a bit more awake during the night, and sleepier during the day.

These gentle giants are a great addition to most families, their intelligence and independence almost makes it seem like having another person in the house.

A white Great Pyrenees standing on grass in the sun
Great Pyrenees

These dogs are smart, as they were supposed to be able to act fast and independently. Unfortunately, their intelligence can make training a bit of a hassle.

They will prefer to do their own thing most of the time, yet remain loyal all the same. The Pyrenees are also known for having stubborn streaks, so they require a somewhat experienced owner to command their respect.

A Great Pyrenees dog standing in the wind, against a white background
Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees
– Temperament

These dogs are comparable to giant, moving teddy bears with their treatment towards their owners. This fact makes them great for kids, who not only are big fans of teddy bears but are also often running around while making loud noises. This dog breed is calm enough to handle such chaos, and they are also most comfortable herding smaller creatures around.

Young children are, of course, at risk, due to the dog’s large size, so they should be watched when interacting. Kids should also be taught right off the bat what not to do when handling the dog as well.

That giant teddy bear treatment? It’s pretty exclusive. The Pyrenees is known for its loyalty to its owners, which also makes it notoriously inhospitable towards strangers.

Most of these dogs will allow strangers so long as their owner seems comfortable with their presence. These dogs require extra socialization to make them less anxious around strangers.

Want a Very Smart Dog?

Be careful what you wish for.  Highly intelligent dogs not only need physical exercise, but a mental workout daily to keep them from being bored and acting in strange ways.  

Many of these highly intelligent dogs do well if given a job such as being a therapy dog or working in obedience /agility.  If nothing else works, provide some stimulating toys to keep their brain’s neurons firing.  Puzzle games and kong toys work well for this purpose.

A Pyrenees functions best when they have a large amount of territory in which to patrol and explore. If your property does not suit its needs, it may try and spread its area.

It’s recommended that you have an enclosure to prevent the dog from getting a bit Napoleonic over a neighbor’s lawn. An invisible fence won’t do. Only a sturdy, tall fence can contain a dog of this size.

The Great Pyrenees is notorious for its vocal personality. They have very sensitive ears and are aware of the slightest disturbances. If they become aware of them, they’ll make you aware of them soon after. But they are not considered to be a yappy type of dog.

Despite their independent personalities, Pyrenees can become dependent on their owners. They are better than most dogs when left alone, but may still indulge in some bad behavior if left alone for too long.

They are more likely to bark more than anything when separated, so they may not be the best option for an owner who is gone most of all day.

History of the Great Pyrenees

A white Great Pyrenees dog frolicking in a green field on a sunny day
Great Pyrenees

The history of the Great Pyrenees is hinted at in its name. The breed originates from the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern Europe, between Spain and France.

While the breed is from Europe, it’s likely they have roots farther east, in Asia Minor. These dogs probably made their way into Europe around 5000 years ago, traveling as they guarded flocks.

Guarding herds being the job they did best, these dogs held a significant role in society. They were popular among the peasants for the most part but later became very popular among the nobility.

In France, this special recognition saw its height when the Great Pyrenees was named Royal Dog of France during Louis XIV’s rule.

The breed’s popularity among the French royalty made it famous throughout parts of Europe. The Pyrenees was gaining fame quickly, leading its population to increase as well. These dogs soon had a decent foundation in Europe. It wouldn’t be long before they made their way into the new world.

The Pyrenees dog breed made its first appearance in the Western Hemisphere in Newfoundland. In 1662, they were brought on fishing boats to the new continent, where they bred with the native Newfoundlands to create the Landseer.

These dogs arrived with the French General Lafayette in the US a while afterward in 1824. While they became even more popular in Europe during this time, the breed remained unstandardized for a while.

The First World War had a drastic effect on dog breeding around the world. Since almost every European country was involved and focusing all efforts on the war, breeding just wasn’t a priority. After the war, it was even harder for breeders, as Europe was in shambles and economic ruin.

Many breeds saw their populations shrink, although, many Great Pyrenees managed to be imported into the US during this time. They never saw themselves threatened with extinction.

World War 2 had a similar effect, although, the Great Pyrenees was not at significant risk due to its foundations in the US. Other breeds were not so lucky.

After the war, the tide began to turn, as the US’s economy allowed for people to afford a higher quality of living. There’s no higher quality of life than living with a dog, so many breeds saw their numbers begin to go back up.

The Pyrenees continued to gain popularity in the US up until the 2000s. The breed is relatively less known now, as it currently holds the ranking in the AKC as the 73rd most popular breed in the United States. On the contrary, it remains a pretty popular breed in Europe, where it is known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog.

Ease of Training

A Great Pyrenees Puppy sitting down looking at the camera
8-Week Old Great Pyrenees Puppy

The Great Pyrenees is notoriously difficult to train. The main problem lies in the dog’s independence. Their instinct and intelligence help them act independently, so they typically need some coaxing for them to do what you want.

Beginner owners might want to look elsewhere, as this breed may take charge instead.

Housebreaking does not usually present much difficulty since these dogs are often well behaved and reserved. Owners will often take their young dogs to obedience classes to make the training process easier as well.

It is important for all dogs to be socialized at a young age, but especially with the Great Pyrenees.

Their suspicious instincts make them wary of anything unusual. They are not recommended for areas of high population density, whether it be people or wildlife, as it only makes for more things to bark at.

Taking a dog on frequent walks can help it become accustomed to its environment and less anxious about things that are odd.

Vital Statistics

Average Height: 25-32 in. (64-81 cm)

Average Weight: 85-120 lbs. (39-54 kg)

Average Lifespan: 10-11 Years

Colors

The only coat color registered by the AKC for this breed is white.

While there is only one coat color, the AKC recognizes 4 markings for this breed:

  • Tan Markings
  • Gray Markings
  • Badger Markings
  • Reddish Brown Markings

Recognition

  • Fédération Cynologique Internationale:  Group 2,
  • American Kennel Club:  Working
  • Australian National Kennel Council: Utility
  • Canadian Kennel Club:  Working
  • Kennel Club (UK):  Pastoral
  • New Zealand Kennel Club: Utility
  • United Kennel Club:  Guardian

Grooming

This breed has a thick double coat with an outer-coat that is long, thick and coarse. The undercoat is downy soft. These dogs are high maintenance when it comes to grooming. Brushing and occasional professional grooming may be necessary

They are considered to be a seasonal shedder which means they shed twice a year. During their period of shedding daily brushing is recommended. Owners recommend bathing these dogs when needed, as excess bathing can damage their coats.

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Did You Know?

The Great Pyrenees is one of the few breeds that have double dewclaws on their rear legs.  It is suspected that they needed them to help them climb steep cliffs when the breed was first developed in Southern France.

It is important to brush a dog’s teeth too. It won’t make too much difference to how their breath smells unless you’re brushing daily, but it will promote good dental health. Dogs can build up bacteria, plaque, and tartar if their teeth are not cleaned, which can lead to pain and infections. Many owners will brush their dog’s teeth at least 2 or 3 times a week.

All dogs will need to have their nails clipped. When a dog’s nails get to be too long, they may become uncomfortable or painful. To prevent this discomfort, owners usually cut their dog’s nails when they start getting too long, usually around every 3 weeks. The Great Pyrenees has an extra pair of dewclaws that need clipping as well.

A good way to tell when a dog’s nails are too long is if they can be heard clicking against the ground as they move.

Protection

When it comes to security, you can’t go too wrong by going for the Great Pyrenees. These large dogs can carry an intimidation factor so they might make someone think twice about trying something. Their size is backed up by their strength, making them capable of knocking down intruders, if put in harm’s way.

While their size makes for an excellent guard dog, you’d probably hear the intruder coming before it would even matter. These dogs are vocal about anything that seems off to them and is instinctively suspicious of strangers.

Beyond people,  the Great Pyrenees will seemingly bark at almost anything that moves in the whole neighborhood. They are known for their impressive hearing, which assisted them when guarding herds.

The Great Pyrenees has the ideal mentality for a guard dog, in the way that they are incredibly loyal to their owners. This loyalty is paired with the breed’s protectiveness of its territory, making them especially suspicious of anything unusual.

While this trait is handy when protecting your property, it can become a nuisance when having guests over. The dog has to trust the owner’s opinion to allow foreign company.

Health Considerations

Dogs, unfortunately, do not have universal healthcare. This is bad because they get sick and injured just like humans do. It is vital to be able to provide the adequate healthcare for a dog when getting one. It is also important to know the sorts of health risks associated with a certain breed, as some breeds are more prone to certain issues than others.

The Great Pyrenees is, overall, a decently healthy breed. Large dogs are typically more unhealthy, usually living for a smaller amount of time and being affected by more cancers. The health risks associated with this breed are:

  • Bone Issues While Growing typical in very large breed dogs
  • Addison’s Disease
  • Entropion
  • Gastric Torsion (Bloat)
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Cataracts
  • Elbow Dysplasia

It is also important to find a reputable breeder when purchasing any breed. A good breeder will know a lot about their breed, and be able to pass health checks for it.

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Interview with a Great Pyrenees Owner

A True Day-to-Day Glimpse via this Great Pyrenees Owner Interview

A big Thank You is extended to Sean Smith from Hudson, Ohio, the United States, for taking the time to share his thoughts about his new puppy, Phoebe.

Thanks, Sean

Can you tell us a bit about your Great Pyrenees?

I got Phoebe from a large litter of puppies around April 20th, 2016. She was 6 weeks old at the time, although, it’s recommended that they are brought home a bit older than that. Phoebe is a little ball of fun, but she hasn’t stayed little for long.

Already she had gotten much bigger than when I got her, only a couple weeks ago.

Great Pyrenees Owner Interview

How easy was she to train?

I am currently in the training process with Phoebe. The Great Pyrenees are very intelligent dogs, and this has become quickly apparent. It did not take long for her to realize where to go to the bathroom, and her quick growth has helped her wait in between bathroom breaks. This being said she is a bit mouthy.

Whenever she nips with her sharp puppy teeth, I stop all interaction and clearly say, “No,” before continuing. Altogether, consistency is key.

How much exercise does she need?

Great Pyrenee puppy
Phoebe, the Great Pyrenees Puppy

Phoebe is still a puppy, so she has gotten most of her exercise terrorizing the furniture and bounding about my house. This being said, as an adult, she’ll need regular, daily exercise.

I plan on accomplishing this by walking her for an hour each day, as it’s especially important with these larger breeds to maintain their weight and health.

It also keeps the dog calmer, as it helps rid her of any excess energy that could be spent chewing on the couch.

Does she have a particular doggy smell?

Phoebe has not been a very aromatic dog, which pairs suitably with her bright white coat. The only scents she’ll pick up are those that she has rolled around in.

These are quickly removed with a bath, however. Being a puppy still, she will get some urine on her back legs when she goes to the bathroom. I often just dry her off with some paper towels before I let her back into the house.

Does she shed?

Phoebe has started to shed quite a bit already. I’ll often end up vacuuming my carpets twice a day. On top of this, I brush her every other day to remove and shed hairs that get caught in her coat.

Her shedding is not a huge issue so long as you keep up with it, although, I would not recommend this breed for people with, particularly bad dog allergies.

Does she bark much?

Bark, no. Yap? Yes. For most of the day, she is quiet except for the occasional burst of yapping at passersby or my cat trying to slink about the house.

During the night, however, she is a bit more animated. I put her in a crate at night, to which she makes her displeasure very known. I’ll sometimes wake up to these same bursts of yapping, although, they often just remind me to let her out to go to the bathroom.

What is she like around other dogs?

I have two other dogs, both of which took a bit of time getting accustomed to the new puppy in the house. Once they got over hostilities, Phoebe has gotten along with them just fine.

She is very playful, although, I’ll often monitor her to make sure she isn’t nipping through one of my other dog’s ears. With strangers’ dogs, she’ll often yap at them, but not make any sort of approach, as she is already fairly bound to the property.

Do you have any other pets besides dogs?

I have a cat named Salem who becomes the unfortunate target of this marauding puppy. It’s a good thing Phoebe is still short and clumsy, as it allows Salem to make a quick getaway most of the time.

Sometimes they can share a room, although, often Phoebe will bound to meet her and greet her to play. She isn’t aggressive with the cat, but she will sometimes mouth her, which I’ll stop as soon as possible.

How is she around children?

Given that I don’t live with any kids, she hasn’t had too many opportunities to interact with them. When she has been met by children around the neighborhood, they have often treated the same way as any adult.

When they pet her, she’ll be a bit docile at first, although, as she gets more comfortable she will become more playful and devious. Altogether, she behaves fairly well around them.

Would you consider her a fussy eater?

I’m actually considering whether or not her stomach is bottomless. She enthusiastically gobbles up any and all food that is placed in front of her.

When I’m not feeding her, she’ll be on watch for any food within her reach. This is easier at the moment, although, when she gets bigger it may become more of an issue. I have kept a consistent standard of no table food, but I’m sure she’d get to it if she got the chance.

How much time does it take to groom her?

She is not very time consuming to groom. In fact, it’s quite enjoyable. She was a bit fussier when I first got her, but she’s become accustomed to the frequent brushing.

Teeth brushing came with a bit more struggle, although, she came around. When it comes to clipping her nails the only extra thing to look out for are her dewclaws, which I clip with the rest of her nails, only a bit less often.

Any special personality quirks?

Phoebe is a very quiet, independent puppy. There are times I’ll see her doing her own thing and exploring the home. There are also times where I don’t see her at all, so you have to be pretty vigilant to make sure that she doesn’t get into any trouble.

She has a particular tendency to go and sleep on the tile floor in one of my bathrooms, so I’ll often find her there should I lose her.

Any further advice for people considering getting this dog?

I would recommend just being very vigilant as to the dog’s location when training. As adults, they are known to be independent, so it’s less of an issue then.

With training, it is of paramount importance to make sure you are consistent. These dogs are smart, and they pick up on any slip-ups. However, with consistent training and effort early on, the Great Pyrenees proves to be an amazing, fun, and calming companion.

Great Pyrenee out in the snow

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