Breed of the Week: Great Pyrenees

This week we’re taking a look at one of my sister’s favorite dog breeds, the Great Pyrenees!  Why is it her favorite?  First and foremost, because it’s fluffy!  She loves all things fluffy.  That’s why our animals are called fluffybutts and where the name originated, lol.  She also loves them because of one Great Pyrenees our aunt and uncle owned named Texas.  He was such a love and exemplified the Great Pyrenees’ gentle disposition toward those they consider theirs.

Mountains Landscape Pyrenees LakeThe Great Pyrenees has many names, such as Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Patou, Montañés del Pirineo, Perro de Montaña de los Pirineos, Can de Montaña de os Perinés, Chien des Pyrénées, and Chien de Montagne des Pyrénées.  They hale from the area in and around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France and northern Spain.  Their purpose was, and still is in some places, to guard livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle, and horses.  But they’ll guard just about anything they decide is theirs to protect, like they’re people and any other animals in the home.  Although they are fierce protectors against invaders and predators, they can generally be trusted around small animals and children.  Their instinct from millennia as livestock guardians is, first and foremost, to protect.

The Great Pyrenees is related to many other European livestock guardian-type dogs.  These include the Maremma Sheepdog from Italy, the Kuvasz from Hungary, the Akbash Dog from Turkey, and the Polish Tatra Sheepdog from, you guessed it, Poland.  They are also believe to be more distantly related to the Newfoundland and St. Bernard.

Maremma Sheepdog
Maremma Sheepdog
Kuvasz
Kuvasz
Akbash Dog
Akbash Dog
Polish Tatra Sheepdog
Polish Tatra Sheepdog

They all look quite similar, don’t they?  Except the Newfoundland and St. Bernard, which are, again, more distantly related to the Great Pyrenees.  They still look similar in build, though.

Newfoundland3
Newfoundland
St. Bernard
St. Bernard

The Great Pyrenees was most often a guardian of sheep or goats.  In fact, many were raised right alongside their herd so they would be accepted as a part of the herd, itself.  Their white fur, besides allowing the shepherd to distinguish them from a wild animal, also allowed the Great Pyrenees to blend in with their charges and surprise predators when they came upon not a sheep but a really big, angry dog.

Great Pyrenees flock guardian

With their family, the Great Pyrenees are loving, gentle, patient, and loyal.  Due to their guardian tendencies, however, they need to be socialized at a young age and have continued socialization throughout their lives to prevent aggressive or fearful behaviors.  These behaviors can lead to the dogs not allowing visitors on their people’s property or in their home and should be discouraged early on.

This is also a strong-willed, independent, and stubborn breed (all traits that are required for a guardian of flocks, but aren’t necessarily desirable when they’re a house pet).  They may be difficult train and, therefore, are not for everyone.  However, once a person has their loyalty, that Great Pyrenees will protect them for life, and even give up their life for them if needed.

Great Pyrenees are not a breed for places with sound restrictions.  They bark, and bark often, unless trained otherwise early on.  They are also mostly nocturnal and will bark more at night than during the day.  The barking is their way of telling others that the property is protected and to scare intruders or predators away.  The hearing of these dogs is ideal for detecting intruders.  Even with the AC on full blast, music turned all the way up, the TV on, everyone talking, and all the windows closed, Great Pyrenees can hear an intruder entering the property and will let their people know about it in a very loud way.  They should be confident and protective but not aggressive unless their “flock” is in danger.

Although most Great Pyrenees do best with a large yard and large home, they can do well in an apartment with a couple walks a day given their mellow nature.

Great Pyrenees should be kept in a large, securely fenced yard when outside.  As guardian dogs, they like to patrol their perimeter and, without a fence, that perimeter may be a lot larger than one may prefer.  They need only moderate amounts of exercise and can be lazy, especially when the weather is warm.

Great Pyrenees in snowThese dogs are partial to cool and snowy weather because of their thick, double coat.  However, do not trim or shave the coat down during the summer, even if they seem like they’d get overheated.  Their double coat insulates them and helps keep them cool, just as it insulates and helps keep them warm during the winter.  One should expect consistent shedding throughout the year and one major shedding period at least once a year.  Their coat needs brushed one to two times per month if they’re kept as a house pet.  If they’re outside most of the time, they’ll need brushed more often, at least once a week, to remove dirt and weeds and prevent matting in the fur.

Double dewclaw
Don’t let their dew claws get this long!

They are also one of the few breeds born with double dew claws on their hind legs.  It is advisable not to have them removed as they are used for climbing purposes.  It’s better, overall, to just keep them trimmed down so they don’t catch on something and tear as that can be quite traumatic and painful.

Although bred for guarding sheep, Great Pyrenees will make themselves at home in the house, enjoying lying on any furniture they can fit on, and even some they can’t!  They love, love, love being with their people, their “flock” so to speak, and are very affectionate with them.  They use their paws to show their affection, hanging them on their owners’ shoulders, thighs, knees, and arms.  Most Great Pyrenees, if socialized properly, are ideal for families with children as they are gentle and mellow and will protect those children as if they were their own young.

If you are interested in purchasing or adopting a Great Pyrenees, please do your research!  These dogs are not for everyone.  While loyal and devoted, they can be stubborn and independent-minded.  They need firm, consistent leadership.  One should also consider the fact that they shed year-round and, as many large dogs do, they may drool, especially with exercise.  They also bark a lot and are not ideal for places where they might disturb the neighbors.  However, if you’re looking for a dog who will love on you and protect you, your family, and your property, show you affection but not get underfoot, be patient with your children and smaller pets, this might just be the dog for you!

Fun Fact:  Duke the Dog, a Great Pyrenees in Cormorant, Minnesota, was elected mayor in 2014.

Do you or have you owned a Great Pyrenees? Please tell us about him/her in the comments below! I’d love to hear about your experiences with the breed.

Have suggestions? Comment below!

Have a breed you’d like to see featured in our next Breed of the Week? Leave your suggestion in the comments below!

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