About the Breed
Click on the tabs below to learn more about the Great Pyrenees breed. More information on the Great Pyrenees Breed Standard can be found on the American Kennel Club’s website, to visit them online, click here.
As one of the oldest known breeds, it is believed that the Great Pyrenees, as well as most other large, white Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD’s), originated in Asia about 5000 years ago. These dogs then migrated and settled in different environments, allowing them to develop their unique characteristics.
The Great Pyrenees, also known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, resided in the high regions of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern Europe and eventually became popular with the French nobility. In 1824, the first Great Pyrenees was brought to the United States where the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1933. At present, Great Pyrenees can be found globally as LGD’s and beloved family pets.
Considered one of the giant breeds, Great Pyrenees are large, strong dogs. They are primarily white, but can have markings of badger, wolf-gray, or shades of tan. They have a thick, double coat consisting of a long, coarse outer coat and a fine, softer downy undercoat. When excited, a Pyr will flip its long, feathered tail up and curl it over its back.
Double dew claws are a defining characteristic of the breed and are found only on the dog’s hind legs. Pyrs range in height between 25 to 32 inches and generally weigh between 85 and 125 pounds; males are larger than the females.
Great Pyrenees are highly intelligent guardian dogs and were bred to be independent thinkers, thus allowing them to work without human direction. While they are calm, well mannered, gentle, and devoted to family, they can also be stubborn, wary of strangers, and are instinctive protectors. Proper socialization, positive reinforcement, and consistent handling ensure good canine citizenship with this breed.
The watchful nature of the Great Pyrenees translates well to living with humans, and some Pyrs are particularly fond of children. The dogs don’t miss much of what is going on around them and will move from room to room to keep tabs on the activities of the household. Many Pyr owners have commented on the intuitive qualities of their dogs and how they seem to know what to do in any given situation. Having a bad day? Need some comforting? Chances are your Pyr will know it and act accordingly. Great Pyrenees are also great leaners. Owners report sitting next to their Pyr one moment, and then listing steeply to starboard the next. Some Pyrs try the slow approach, hoping to end up in your lap before they are noticed. It is an endearing, although weighty, demonstration of affection!
Given their independent nature, Pyrs respond differently to traditional obedience training activities than some of the other dog breeds. Unlike breeds that were developed to enthusiastically obey human commands (think retriever!), your Pyr may take a while to think about your recent suggestion. Instant responses to commands may just not be a high priority. However, if you can appreciate their “I probably will – let me think about it” approach to training, you will be able to establish a relationship based on mutual respect. Like all dogs, Pyrs respond well to the consistent use of language and positive reinforcement.
As guardian dogs, it is natural for the Pyr to want to wander and explore. A secure, solid, tall fence will probably be needed to keep your Pyr at home. Pyrs routinely and instinctively walk the boundaries of their territory and good fencing will help define these boundaries for your dog. For the same reasons, a good leash is a must when you go for a walk. Pyrs are not good candidates for an off-leash romp. Barking is another inherited trait and functions as a first line of defense in deterring predators. Consequently, Pyrs can be more vocal than many other dog breeds. This trait should be factored into your decision to adopt a Pyr.
Underground electric fencing is not recommended for a Great Pyrenees. Not only will a Pyr cross over the fence line, underground fencing also make it problematic for him or her to return home. This type of fence also fails to keep strangers and other animals out of the yard, presenting potential problems for a guardian dog.
Pyrs are relatively healthy large dogs and commonly live to be 10 years old. The magnificent coat of the Great Pyrenees requires regular care. Brushing not only removes hair, but also removes dirt from the coat. After a good grooming session your Pyr may look like it has had a bath. New owners are often surprised at how infrequently these white dogs actually need to be bathed.
Digging is a favored pastime for some Pyrs ~ sometimes for the pure joy of digging, and sometimes with a real purpose. With their thick double coat, Pyrs often dig to uncover a spot in which to cool off, thus turning your beautiful white dog into a happy, muddy mess! Offering an alternative cool spot may alleviate this tendency.
Pyrs “blow” their undercoat once or twice a year, which requires extra grooming work (and a sense of humor) for a short period of time. The outer coat is recycled throughout the year and produces a much smaller amount of hair. Routine grooming is essential to good coat condition and skin health.
In many respects, the defining characteristics of the Great Pyrenees can be seen as either positive or negative attributes, depending on your own point of view. One person sees a beautiful, loyal, intelligent, independent, engaged dog, while another sees a huge, shedding, stubborn, noisy liability. Obviously, a Great Pyrenees is not for everyone.
If you are interested in adopting a Great Pyrenees, you will need to accommodate the characteristics mentioned above, particularly their tendency to bark and wander. You must also be willing and able to be its leader. This is only fair to the dog. A Pyr should not be expected to act like another breed, no matter how big and beautiful it is or how much you want it to act differently. Pyrs are frequently turned into rescue for acting like Pyrs. This is something we all wish to avoid.
Are all Great Pyrenees pretty much the same? Yes and no. “It depends on the dog,” is an answer frequently given to questions about these dogs. “Are they good with children?” It depends on the dog. “Will a Pyr get along with my cat?” It depends on the dog. “If I get a Pyr, will it bark at absolutely nothing?” It depends on the dog!
Please contact us to discuss your interest in this complex, magnificent breed. A trip to visit us may help with your “Pyr education”. We enjoy playing matchmaker and are thrilled when we find a dog and a person who meet each other’s expectations.
Still interested? Then check out our available dogs!
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