Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees is hard to miss, thanks to their gorgeous white coat and large size. While puppies resemble adorable, fluffy teddy bears, a Great Pyrenees can grow to be 130 pounds. As adults, they are rather imposing, but as long as they are properly socialized they make lovely, calm companions and excellent family dogs.

Great Pyrenees
Original image by user Aiko, Thomas & Juliette+Isaac on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Pyrs have a history as a working dog, specifically as livestock guardian dogs. But, unlike dogs who were bred to herd, they have a low to moderate exercise requirement. Their job was simply to follow the flock, not to actually move it, and they can easily be sedentary for much of the day. While this means that they need less intensive exercise, it does have a drawback - Pyrs often followed the herd for days and miles and that tendency to roam is still present. Pyrs absolutely must be walked on a leash or contained in a very secure fenced-in area. Though they are calm, and well-socialized Pyrs are wonderful with families, children, and pets, you should consider a few things before bringing a Pyr into your home. First of all, they are independent of mind but also sensitive and emotional, and benefit from an experienced trainer or owner with a consistent, firm, but kind, training method. Secondly, if you wear all black clothing and don't want to deal with large amounts of white hair, the Pyrenees is probably not for you. Finally, they are large dogs and large dogs will be much more expensive to maintain over their lifetime. All that aside, owners of Great Pyrenees enjoy life with their loyal, hard-working, independent, and affectionate companions.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Great Pyrenees breed is also commonly known by the names Great Pyrenees,Patou,Chien des Pyr.

Popularity: Moderately popular

Life expectancy: 10 - 12 years

Breed group: Working Dogs (AKC)

Size: Extra large

Male Female
Height 0 - 0 in 0 - 0 in
Weight 115 - 119 lbs 84 - 88 lbs

Coat:

Colors: Gray, Red, Brown, White

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Very heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: Low

Good with children: Yes

Good with other pets: Yes

Intelligence / Trainability: High

Exercise needs: Very high

Tolerates being alone: Average

Hunting drive: Very high

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Very sensitive

Good for novice owners: No

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: Low

Barking: Very frequent

General health: Below average

Cost to keep: Average

History

As the name describes, the Great Pyrenees dog originated in the Pyrenees Mountains, which form the border between France and Spain. The Pyr has a long history of protecting sheep in the region. However, their history goes back even farther and their ancestors are thought to have originated in Asia Minor as much as ten to eleven thousand years ago. They would have appeared in the Pyrenees Mountains around 3000 B.C.

Bred to guard sheep and work for the shepherds in the region, Great Pyrenees managed to climb their way up the social ladder. In 675, the Dauphin in the Court of King Louis XIV declared the Great Pyrenees the Royal Dog of France, and they took their place as guardian dogs on the estates of the French elite.

The 1800s saw a rise in popularity of the breed in Europe, England, and the United States. During this era, the Great Pyrenees was introduced into the St. Bernard breeding program in Switzerland, in hopes of revitalizing and reestablishing the original St. Bernard's. But, in their native region, the breed began to suffer because of poor breeding practices.

Prior to the World Wars, enough Great Pyrenees were imported to the United States. Breeding slowed during the war years, but efforts were made after the second World War restore the breed and normalize breed standards.

Appearance

The Great Pyrenees is a striking dog. They are gorgeous, elegant, and impressive in their large size.
Typical characteristics are:


  • Proportionate head with an elegant, intelligent expression, small to medium-sized ears, and dark brown eyes.

  • A sturdy, well-balanced body. They are slightly longer than they are tall.

  • The tail is plumed and carried over the back.

  • Weather resistent coat with a long, flat, thick, outer coat of coarse hair, and a dense, fine, woolly undercoat.

  • Colors: White or white with markings of gray, badger, reddish brown, or varying shades of tan.

Temperament

Intelligence/Trainability

Great Pyrenees are intelligent dogs, but training requires patience. Pyrs are bred to work independently and as a result, they definitely have a mind of their own. In addition, they can be quite sensitive and do not respond well to harsh corrections. These dogs require a steady, consistent hand and an understanding trainer. Also, they mature to be quite large, so it is important to establish proper boundaries early on. Because of these traits, a Great Pyrenees may not be appropriate for a first-time owner.

Pyrs are wanderers and don't have a strong recall, so they will always need to be walked on a leash when outside of a yard. Therefore, early leash training is important so that they do not develop any pulling behaviors that are unacceptable for such a large dog.

As with all intelligent breeds, Great Pyrenees require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with a job, even if that job is simply chasing a ball or accompanying you on walks.

Activity

Even thought they were originally bred as herding/working dogs, Great Pyrenees only require a moderate amount of exercise. 20-30 minutes of exercise per day is enough to keep your Pyr healthy and happy. They also enjoy mental stimulation like games and activities. In general, they have a calm disposition.

Great Pyrenees are susceptible to certain bone disorders. Keep your puppy on soft surfaces like grass and keep play on hard surfaces to a bare minimum until your puppy is at least two years old.

Independence

Though they can be independent, Great Pyrenees are affectionate dogs who become attached to their human family members. They may be fine on their own for brief periods but will always be happy to see their family again.

Protective

As long as they are properly socialized, a Great Pyrenees is reserved with strangers but not aggressive. They are "guardian" dogs and will protect their family if needed. They will definitely bark at a stranger or intruder. Their vocal habits combined with their immense size and protective nature makes them good guard dogs.

Living Conditions

Great Pyrenees are well-adapted to colder temperatures and do okay and warmer climates. They will need an indoor space to protect them from extreme temperatures. Ideally, a Great Pyrenees has a very secure fenced in yard to roam and play. They are escape artists and the fence must be both sturdy and high. They love to roam and keeping them in keeps them safe.

Surprisingly, even though they are quite large, Pyrs can live in an apartment or small home quite happily. They will need daily exercise and walking on a leash is absolutely necessary if they don't have a yard.

Children and Other Pets

Pyrs are great with children, especially if they are raised with them and can be perfect "watchful" protectors. but because they are large dogs, care should be taken with small kids. They could lean on and push children, which could result in knocking over a toddler or child. In addition, an adult should always be the one to walk such a large dogs. Socialization and proper training are important for any dog. Special consideration should be taken with young children (under the age of 6):


  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

Keep in mind that all children should be taught how to interact correctly with ANY dog and should never be left unsupervised.

Great Pyrenees are generally good with other animals and pets, especially if they are raised together. A properly socialized Pyr gets along well with other dogs.

Health

The average life expectancy of a Great Pyrenees is between 10 - 12 years. Like all breeds, the Great Pyrenees is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Great Pyrenees is prone to these diseases:
  • Elbow Dysplasia (hereditary)
  • Anesthesia Sensitivity (hereditary)
  • Entropion (hereditary)
  • Addison's Disease (hereditary)
  • Patellar Luxation (hereditary) : Patellar luxation is a very common orthopedic disorder in dogs. A patellar luxation occurs when a dog’s kneecap (patella) is dislocated or slips out of its normal position. More info»

Grooming

Great Pyrenees have a double coat with a thick coarse top coat and dense, wooly undercoat. They are surprisingly low maintenance, even with their full coat. However, they are moderate to high shedders and dog hair is likely to be absolutely everywhere. Brush your Pyr weekly to keep its coat clean and healthy. Though it's tempting, do not clip your dog's coat in the summer months - the thick double coat insulates them and keeps them cool.

They don’t really need a bath too often, once every one to three months should suffice. When you bathe them, make sure to use a dog-specific shampoo that maintains the skin's natural PH balance.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your Pyr's ears weekly with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs, as they are especially prone to ear infections.

Some dogs wear their nails down on their own with exercise, but many do not. Long nails will require regular clipping and all puppies should be introduced to nail clipping early on so that it will be easier when they are older. Pyrs have double dew claws that should be neatly trimmed.

Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

Feeding

Recommended amount: 4-6 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less. Great Pyrenees are prone to obesity, so special attention should be paid to ensure that your dog doesn't become overweight, which can cause health issues in both the short and long-term.

Puppies have special feeding requirements. Use food specifically designed for large breed puppies. Adult dog food contains too much calcium, which will increase the risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Don’t overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies also have an increased risk for dysplasia. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a hassle, but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.

Avoid exercise 1 hour before and after the meal, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion (bloat).

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