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Great Pyrenees (aka Pyrenean Mountain Dog)

(commonly referred to as Livestock Guard Dogs or LGDs)


General Description:

The Great Pyrenees originated in Central Asia or Siberia. The breed was descended from the Hungarian Kuvasz and the Maremmano-Abruzzese. The Pyrenees is also a relative of the St. Bernard, contributing to their development. It has a long history as a guard dog of sheep. The dogs made their way to Europe and remained in the high mountain regions until the Middle ages, when the breed gradually gained popularity with the French nobility as a guard dog.  By the late 17th century, every French noble wanted to own one. Armed with a spiky collar and thick coat, the Great Pyrenees protected vulnerable flocks from such predators as wolves and bear. The Great Pyrenees has proven to be a very versatile breed working as an avalanche rescue dog, as a cart-puller, sled dog, as a pack dog on ski trips, a flock guardian, dog of war, and as a companion and defender of family and property. The AKC officially recognized the Great Pyrenees in 1933.

Size:

One of the GIANT breeds, the Great Pyrenees stands between 25-32 inches tall with some as much as 40 inches tall. They weigh between 85-100 pounds.

Color:

Coat is either solid white or white with patches of tan, wolf-gray, reddish-brown or pale yellow. The dog has a weather-resistant double coat. The undercoat is dense, fine and wooly, and the outer coat is long, thick, coarse and either curly, wavy or straight. There is a mane around the shoulders and neck which is more apparent in male dogs. There is feathering on the tail and along the back of the legs.

Energy Level:

Medium activity level is typical, but the breed will show great strength and energy when their stock are threatened by predators. Although they can be quiet indoors, they require quite a bit of daily exercise. They are calm and observant of their surroundings, instinctively protective, not inclined to go looking for trouble, but may not back down if challenged.

Life expectancy:

about 10-12 years.

Children:

Great Pyrenees do best with children when it is raised with them from puppyhood, and if they are not being used as working flock guards be sure to socialize them well with people, places and noises. Recommended for families with children over twelve years of age. It is important that children always be supervised by an adult when interacting with a dog. Older children with an active social life need to realize that, although their friends may like dogs, it may not be appropriate for the dog to interact with every visitor. The Great Pyrenees will defend both house and master, and it is particularly attentive with children. They may mistake children roughhousing with friends as a threat and try to protect the resident children.

Other animals:

The Great Pyrenees is good with animals other than dogs and often loves cats if raised with them. As a Livestock Guarding Dog (LGD), the Pyr has a long history as a guard dog of sheep who protected vulnerable flocks from predators such as wolves and bear.

Abilities:

Ideal property and farm-stock guarding dog. Proven to be a successful companion dog. The Great Pyrenees has proven to be a very versatile breed working as an avalanche rescue dog, as a cart-puller, sled dog, as a pack dog on ski trips, a flock guardian, dog of war, and as a companion and defender of family and property.

Shedding/Grooming:

They are heavy shedders. A seasonal heavy shed occurs, in some areas twice a year. Their all-weather coat requires regular, thorough combing and brushings to remove all dead and loose hair and prevent matting. Regular brushing of the long double coat will keep it in good condition, but extra care is needed when the dog is shedding its dense undercoat. The outer coat does not mat unless there is a burr, foxtail or some other outside object that gets stuck to the coat. This can be an issue for outside working dogs. Some owners choose to trim the coats in the summer to avoid this from happening, but beware of sunburn. Bathe or dry shampoo only when necessary. Great Pyrenees shed all year round but does so heavily once or twice a year.

Health:

The breed has been known to have occasional hip dysplasia, bone cancer and luxated patellas (slipping knees). Can develop skin problems in very hot weather. Prone to bloat, the Great Pyrenees should be fed small rather than large meals and rest for 30 minutes before high activity.

Best with:

Requires experienced and confident dog owners who understand how to be gentle yet firm leaders. They are ideal for people needing a protective guard dog to watch over farm stock animals. They are relatively inactive indoors but need plenty of exercise. If provided adequate daily exercise, the breed can be a quiet house dog. They can live successfully in an urban setting as family companions, with enough exercise and constant socialization. However, they are more adapted to life in semi-rural or rural settings where they can have a job to do. This breed needs space - mentally as well as physically. If they are not working as an active flock guardian, they need to be taken on daily, brisk walks. A short walk around the block three times a day is not enough for this dog. Long and alternating walks are necessary.

Not for:

Great Pyrenees are not recommended for inexperienced first-time dog owners. They are not recommended for apartment life, regardless of the amount of on-leash exercise provided. They are not for people who require instant, unquestioned obedience to commands by their dog, nor for those who lack large fenced-in yards. The breed is not recommended for small children.

Pros:

Easy to housebreak. They are courageous, very loyal and devoted to family. When not provoked, it is calm, well-mannered, and somewhat serious. Gentle and affectionate with those he loves. They are highly intelligent and can be depended on to protect family and property as well as farm-stock. The breed thrives in cold climates. They can be a quiet house dog if provided adequate daily exercise, which includes long daily walks and lot of space to run around within a fenced area. Serious worker and loyal companion, but very independent.

Cons:

Most Great Pyrenees are not good off the leash and will wander away. Will roam if not fenced adequately. Needs lots of daily exercise. Tend to bark a lot and some tend to drool and slobber. Shed heavily. They have an independent nature, and require an experienced owner. Patience is needed when training the Great Pyrenees, as it may be slightly difficult. Because of their intelligence and independence, they are bored with repetitive training. If left alone inside the home without the proper amount of exercise and or leadership, they can become destructive. May be overprotective of property and children in the family when rough-housing with friends. May appear stubborn and non-compliant to obedience commands.

Further Information:

AKC Breed Information
AKC Great Pyrenees Clubs
Dog Owners Guide for Great Pyrenees
Breed Details

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