Pastoral, Utility, Working Dogs, Working, Guardian Dogs.
CKC, FCI, AKC, UKC, ANKC, NKC, NZKC, APRI, ACR
Grey with white spots before the age of two, then they grow into their adult coats that may be pure white, cream or light tan with darker markings around the face and ears. The skin, nose and claws are black.
Dogs - 27-32 inches (68-81cm)
Dogs - 100-160 pounds (49-59kg)
Bitches - 25-30 inches (63-76cm)
Bitches - 85-115 pounds (39-52kg)
This dog was meant to roam and will range as wide as 15 miles when left to his or her own devices. Great Pyrenees are able to jump or dig under many fences, so if you're going to keep the dog contained on anything other than a ranch with livestock (they won't leave the flock), you'll need a very strong fence.
When kept as companion animals, they can come to enjoy living in the house with you but will certainly get the entire place covered in long white hair in short order. While they don't like being separated from the family, they do often like to have their own spot outdoors, too.
They are certainly not suited to apartment living and will very quickly become destructive if not allowed to get the kind of exercise they need to not be nervous in such situations. Even if they do, such a small space makes these dogs far more nervous and aggressive than they need to be.
The great, white, mountain dogs have been guarding sheep in the Pyrenees and serving in the French Royal court for hundreds of years. They have been very carefully selected to not only herd sheep, but also to protect them from any danger. They can even take on bears if necessary.
Great Pyrenees dogs are also bred to fend off human attackers, so they make very good and loyal guard dogs. In slightly less rural situations, they will usually be aloof with people who visit the house and let them.
The Pyr, as they are affectionately known, are massive dogs, with males weighing up to and over 160 pounds. Their fur is white or light colored and can be a few inches thick. They shed and so much that a veritable flurry of downy undercoat can moult in the summer.
As such, the Great Pyrenees are not typically house dogs. Aside from their exercise requirements, which are great, they often prefer to be out of doors, running around and on the alert.
Most Great Pyrenees dogs have very good eyesight and are tall enough to see trouble coming from a distance. Their heads are large and broad, supporting large jaws. Because they're so large it will take two years for these dogs to reach maturity.
One distinguishing characteristic of the breed is the double dewclaw found on each back leg. They sometimes have more than one, but a vet typically removes those in excess of the usual two. They also have a unique metabolism that can actually produce an ailment if they're fed too rich a diet.
They are still used widely for herding purposes with animals other than sheep, such as llamas, goats, horses and cattle. In the last 20 years they have become companion animals for some people, mostly those living in suburban areas. Special measures need to be taken to ensure they don't escape and range about.
The Great Pyrenees coat is also an impressive sight. It is so thick; one may find it difficult to even part their fur well enough to see down to their skin. The undercoat is very thick and fluffy, often being at least two or more inches long.
The coat becomes dirt repellent with preening. The inner and outer coats form a barrier that is quite waterproof and able to keep warm well under freezing.
The dogs that are known throughout Europe as mountain dogs seem to all be descended from a single breed that is first recorded in Eastern Europe and Western Asia as long as 12,000 years ago.
The Great Pyrenees as its own distinct breed is known to go back to at least 5,000 years in the area of the Pyrenees Mountains in what is today Southern France and Northern Spain. They were little known outside the region until people began visiting the mountain countries in the late 19th century. At that time many dogs of ill breeding were sold to tourists and bought all over Europe to limited success.
With the decline of major predators in Europe, the need for the Pyr declined greatly as did the breed's numbers until they were first established at kennels in the US, England and Belgium.
Due to their massive size and strength, they have been used for various wartime purposes, most recently in World War II when they were harnessed with artillery-laden sleds and sent over the mountains. Not only were they capable of making the journey without supplies and guidance, but they were also able to guard their loads.
Today they are most commonly farm or ranch dogs, although some live in suburban or urban environments with very good quality fences.
These dogs have been bred to herd sheep and make decisions while being left on their own in the mountains for weeks or months at a time. Everything about their character is a result of their purpose.
For starters, the Great Pyrenees is known for being independently minded. They do not blindly follow orders and become quickly bored with them when repeated on a regular basis. Letting this dog know you're trustworthy is of greater value than trying to assert your dominance.
They tend to think of their human masters as partners, which is, of course, how they've interacted with people for hundreds of generations. Training can be complicated by their imperious attitude.
The breed tends to be quite good with children that are part of the family, though it is not recommended that very young or stranger children be allowed in the dog's presence unsupervised. Great Pyrenees do not like having their ears tugged, at all, and that's just the sort of things many children do. The squealing also bothers them.
Though mostly about the business, Great Pyrenees dogs can be very affectionate with their human "flock." This is often demonstrated by lying their head on you or the characteristic leaning, for which they are famous. Dogs that are bonded to a family will usually try to sleep somewhere where they can touch some part of a family member unless they're confined outside.
Great Pyrenees dogs can be aggressive at times and it will be apparent early on which dogs are far too aggressive to be kept. Any reputable breeder will be able to show you records pertaining to other pups in his or her line. Nipping such behavior in the bud is absolutely necessary, since an out of control Pyr could do some serious damage.
However, with careful socialization and lots of gentle, positive reinforcement, the Great Pryrenees has no reason to be an aggressive dog. They are usually very confident creatures, accustomed to having the run of the place.
As they become older they are even less likely to take kindly to strangers and are often perceived as "aloof," even with family members. You can be certain this is just your dog taking very careful stock of the situation, but it can be very off-putting to some people, but is simply how this breed operates. Positive re-enforcement of acceptable behaviour is the best course of action, whether your dog is actually fearful or not.
The breed is relatively small and the lines have been maintained for utility for many years. Congenital disorders are rare, but there are a few consequences of their great size that can cause difficulties.
Stomach twisting or Bloat: Typically Great Pyrenees and other mountain dogs are fed two small meals each day. If they eat too much food too quickly they can literally twist their stomachs up. This is very painful for the dog and will eventually cause death if not reversed with surgery. Joint disorders: like most big dogs, they are prone to hip dysplasia. Being very careful with your Great Pyrenees for the first two years can minimize the likelihood of this. They are growing so rapidly at this time that any injury can manifest itself in a bone or joint deformity. A rare inherited condition, Deafness should be apparent from an early age. Ignoring your commands is only a particular sort and is not genetic.
Those with Great Pyrenees can attest to the mountains of hair that come out of this dog. It's because this undercoat fur is continually being shed that the dog stays so clean.
There are few dogs that produce quite so much hair as the Great Pyrenees. It falls out constantly, but really flies off them in the biannual "coat blowing" where it seems to come out in sheets and buckets. There is little that can be done to stop the coat blow once it has begun - all the brushing in the world will just seem to keep bringing more hair.
However, a weekly combing (or even more often) will keep the hair down to a more manageable level. This can be accomplished with a rubber comb and will help keep mats and dreadlocks from forming. The rake-like "cotch comb" is also very good at pulling out large quantities of undercoat, as are "pinbrush" types that resemble wool cards.
It is vitally important that you keep their dewclaws trimmed. These don't get worn down by exercise and can actually grow right into the dogs leg if they're not kept short. Pyr pups should have their paws regularly handled to get them used to the idea of being worked on. Some people even use a Dremmel tool to wear the nails down.
Many owners make it a point to clip hair away from their hind quarters so nothing can get caught in the long fur that develops back there.
Great Pyrenees puppies and dogs both hate having their ears touched, but it is vitally important you do so on a regular basis. Their floppy ears can turn into a real mess if you're not allowed to clean them out every month or so. This should entail a quick wipe around the outer ear with a gauze pad.
The Great Pryrenees require at least two hours of exercise each day and will happily take much more. They have incredible stamina and if they're inclined to run around after something, they can do it all day long and still not seem to be tired.
Though they are bred to trot at a relatively slow pace all day long, they are also capable of bursts of speed when they feel something is a threat. As such, they can easily get away from you if allowed off leash, and very often on the leash with you still attached.
It is always a good idea to make sure your dog has plenty of water available when working out, especially in the summer. While the coat does help them stay cool (and should never be shaven off), it is still quite heavy and this breed needs special consideration in desert environments.
They key to training the Great Pyrenees is to take his or her temperament into consideration before you do anything. These dogs are intelligent - so much so that they prefer to make their own decisions about most things. This means that the most important thing you can do to gain your dog's trust is to be fair. They have a highly developed sense of personal justice that develops with age.
However, it is vitally important, for your dog's well being and your own sanity, that a few basic commands be obeyed with as little questioning as possible. It is also a good idea to prove to the dog that even if they don't ever quite get the idea of commands that you're capable of being even more stubborn than they are and command some respect.
Because they are so resistant to taking commands, owners have found that they easily adapt to crate training when it comes to housebreaking. Since the puddles are tremendous, it is good to get this out of the way as soon as possible. It should prove far easier than getting the dog to reliably come when called.
It is, however, of the utmost importance that you train the dog to be touched and handled when young. They should also be able to meet new people while on a lead without being aggressive in any way. Since they are so large, any such behavior problems has to be taken care of while the dog is quite young, otherwise they'll be far to old to correct and the habit will be long engrained and impossible to change.