History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners
The Great Pyrenees is a large-size dog breed with a hard-working spirit and a sweet disposition. It’s known for its typically white double coat and massive, muscular stature. The Great Pyrenees, or Pyr, is an adorable gentle giant, very loyal to its family, and typically gets along very well with children. However, potential owners must understand their propensity for nocturnal barking and the need for socialization.
HEIGHT: 25 to 32 inches at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 100 to 150 pounds (males); 85 to 110 pounds (females)
COAT: Thick double coat
COAT COLOR: White, but may have markings of gray, tan, badger, or reddish-brown
LIFE SPAN: 10 to 12 years
TEMPERAMENT: Gentle, affectionate, patient, confident, strong-willed, fearless
Characteristics of the Great Pyrenees
Pyr puppies are the cutest, sweetest balls of white fluff that grow up to be big dogs with equally big hearts and souls. However, they are also world-class, potentially excessive barkers with a keen sense of hearing. Because they are so loyal and loving, they will immediately alert you-and the entire neighborhood-to an intruder, and this is especially true at night since they were bred to be nocturnal guards. This usually may make them less suitable for certain households.
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History of the Great Pyrenees
The Pyr has an ancient lineage that likely dates as far back as the 18th century B.C. The breed appears to have evolved from mountain sheepdogs in Central Asia that date back many thousands of years. As evidenced by fossil remains, the fantastic Pyrenees (or a close ancestor) was brought to the Pyrenees mountain range of southern France sometime between 1800 to 1000 BC. The breed was developed as a guardian of sheep and the home by the Basque people of that region. During the 17th century, it was adopted by French royalty and nobles.
The Great Pyrenees was brought to the U.S. by General Lafayette in 1824. However, the breed was not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until over 100 years later in 1933. It is known as the Pyrenean mountain dog in Europe and is still a keen worker to this day.
Great Pyrenees Care
Pyrs have a strong drive to work and protect and they will benefit from some type of job, such as guarding homes or training for obedience competitions. In general, these dogs are usually very calm, loyal, and loving companions.
Pyrs need to spend plenty of time with the family or they can become bored and destructive. The National Pyr Rescue recommends never leaving the dog outside in the yard when the family is not home as they may try to escape to pursue suspected predators. A physical fence is definitely needed as their thick fur and a high pain tolerance can lead them to ignore an electronic fence.
Although not working dogs, Pyrs need a fair amount of exercise on a daily basis, even though they are not super high energy. Expect to walk your Pyr a minimum of 30 to 40 minutes a day, but it’s adaptable and may do well with up to two hours of exercise, as well. This breed can be walked on a leash but may tend to wander off independently when off leash. They do best if they have access to a large, well-fenced yard in which to do some roaming and patrolling.
Special care should be taken to prevent exposure to very hot temperatures during exercising your Pyr, as the breed can easily overheat. They do extremely well exercising in cold weather, however.
The Pyr has a long, thick outer coat that is primarily white and somewhat coarse, with a soft, woolly white undercoat. This breed has a moderate to high shedding rate and requires routine grooming, especially a thorough brushing once or twice per week. Their coats don’t tend to mat, but brushing will help keep shed hairs out of your house.
However, given the size of the dog, you will still be seeing white Pyr hair on all of your clothes and furniture. Their coats naturally shed dirt and that means you will only need to bathe your dog once every couple of months. But it isn’t recommended that you trim or shave the dog’s coat during hot weather as it protects the dog from the sun.
Pyrs have extra dewclaws on their rear limbs, which they use for climbing. You should trim your dog’s nails to keep them from splitting. Also, since this breed likes to gently paw you to get your attention, trimming can reduce the risk of scratches.
Dental care can help prevent gum disease; brush your dog’s teeth at least a couple of times per week to keep its mouth healthy.
Pyrs were bred to be intelligent but independent watchdogs for flocks and training can end up being difficult. They need consistency and are best with owners who are experienced in dog training. Socialization from a young age is important for this breed as they are usually naturally suspicious of any newcomer.
Common Health Problems
Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed. The following are some conditions to be aware of:
Hip Dysplasia: An abnormal formation of the hip socket
Osteochondrosis (OCD): A common joint condition that causes abnormal cartilage growth instead of bone
Entropion: A genetic condition where the eyelid is inverted or folded inward
Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism): A hormonal condition that causes a deficiency in adrenal hormone production
Diet and Nutrition
This breed should be fed two meals per day of up to three cups of dry dog food per meal and a Pyr could benefit from a brand formulated for large breeds. The amount your dog will need will depend on size, activity level, age, and other factors. Discuss your canine’s individual nutritional needs with your veterinarian. Monitor your dog’s weight to prevent overfeeding and obesity.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees Club of America’s breeder referral list is a great place to start your search for a puppy. Expect to pay anywhere from between $1,000 to $4,000 depending on the breeder and the dog’s lineage. Among the national groups are usually the National Pyr Rescue and Great Pyrenees Rescue Society.
However, if you are looking for a rescue you will find many local organizations devoted to saving and re-homing Pyrs by searching online.
Great Pyrenees Overview
- Calm and affectionate
- Loyal and protective
- Gets along well with children and most other pets
- High shedding rate and needs frequent grooming
- Training can be challenging
- High affinity for warning barking, especially at night
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
Before you decide on a dog, especially a massive-sized breed just like the Pyr, be sure to do plenty of research. Talk to other Great Pyrenees owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to find out more about what it’s really like to own this big soft-hearted pup.
If you’re interested in similar breeds, look into these to compare the pros and cons:
- St. Bernard
There are many dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.
Would the Pyr fit in well with a multi-pet household?
The breed’s history as flock guardians makes them good with cats and other pets, especially when raised with them. They get along with other dogs when properly socialized, but National Pyr Rescue notes it is rare that they get along with dogs of the same sex as adults.
Is the Great Pyrenees good with children?
This breed is devoted to its family’s children and makes a loving family dog. One precaution is that thcan be dog will be too large for young children to walk on a leash. They can also be overly protective of children when rough-housing with others who are not part of the family.
Is the Pyr a rare breed?
No, this is not a rare breed. (It will be rare, but not impossible, however, to find an all or mostly black Pyr puppy, though it may not be a purebred.) But happily, you will not really have to go far to find this lovable dog breed and many owners are inspired to name their new pup to honor its trademark snow-white fur.