Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
Mountain dogs are big. Big on energy, big on personality, and big on being vocal. The Great Pyrenees is no different. If you're looking for a large pup who is constantly vigilant, loves to be outside - especially in low temperatures - and enjoys tons of attention, the Great Pyrenees may be the dog for you!
These large white Gentle Giants are majestic, protective, and very loving towards their family members. They want to keep you safe, roam around outdoors, and shower you in affection. There are so many quirks and details that make the Great Pyrenees unique from other breeds. From the double dewclaws to the nocturnal habits, the Pyr's traits and features are sure to leave a lasting impression. Let's break down what makes the Great Pyrenees so great!
Also Known As...
Pyrenean Mountain Dog. Patou. Pyr. Gentle Giant. Montañés del Pirineo. Perro de Montaña de los Pirineos. Can de Montaña de os Perinés. Chien des Pyrénées. Le Grande Chien des Montagne. Chien de Montagne des Pyrénées.
"Good heavens, there's some kind of...fluff-monster coming this way!" "Nah, my good dude, that's just a Great Pyrenees."
The Great Pyrenees breed reaches as far back as the Bronze Age, 1800-1000 BC. The remains of these dogs were discovered in fossil deposits, which helps us to understand how much the Great Pyrenees breed has overcome to still exist today.
They were originally bred in the Pyrenees mountains to herd and guard livestock. The large frame, agile movements, and fearless nature helped to scare away predators on the mountains. The double dewclaws on the rear legs helped them to cover and climb the rocky terrain between Spain and France.
Beginning as an aid and companion to lowly shepherds and livestock owners, the Pyr became a favorite breed of the Grand Dauphin of the French royal court and was named the Royal Dog of France in 1675. French royals and aristocrats used the formidable dogs to guard and protect their estates.
The Great Pyrenees eventually gained popularity throughout England, Europe, and the United States in the 1800s. In 1824 General Lafayette brought the first pair of Pyr dogs to the United States.
In 1931 Mary Crane founded the Great Pyrenees breed in America. She began Basquaerie Great Pyrenees in Needham, Massachusetts with the help of her husband. The Cranes imported the first Great Pyrenees from France to start the breed's roots in the U.S. Thanks to their devotion, care, and dedication to the Gentle Giants, the Great Pyrenees in the United States continued to thrive and grow. The American Kennel Club acknowledge the Great Pyrenees as a "pure-bred breed" and they were allowed to participate in AKC competitions in 1933.
Not only were Great Pyrenees guard dogs and protectors of livestock, they were also used to transport materials back and forth between France and Spain. During World War 2, these dogs easily covered ground in the Pyrenees Mountains while carrying artillery supplies for soldiers.
Today, Great Pyrenees are kept more often as family pets than as herding or working dogs. They rank 66 of 193 in the American Kennel Club's popularity list.
An adult male Great Pyrenees can stand between 27-32 inches tall, and the females can reach 25-29 inches tall.
The Great Pyrenees can grow to be a pretty large pup, it is a mountain dog after all. The male can weigh from 100 to 130 pounds, and the females can weigh between 85 to 115 pounds.
The Great Pyrenees is generally calm and composed, when they're not set off by strangers walking by your home. These pups are loyal, protective, and self-reliant. Although they love their family members and enjoy being around humans, Great Pyrenees are comfortable being on their own for long periods of time.
These Gentle Giants got the nickname because, although they can be protective and alert towards strangers, the Great Pyrenees can also be your favorite cuddle buddy. They are a great option for therapy dogs, and would be a good match for those who love to hike or go on very long walks.
Intelligence / Trainability
The Great Pyrenees are strong-willed, stubborn, and intelligent. These bright dogs are able to easily apply their solid work ethic to herding livestock, protecting family members, or guarding their homes. When it comes to basic domestic training, it's likely your Pry won't show too much interest in what you're trying to teach.
Great Pyrenees aren't the easiest breeds to train. Perhaps they're simply not interested in learning how to sit and stay, or it could be that the tasks aren't challenging enough. Either way, your Gentle Giant would rather prefer be outside playing and running. Training a Great Pyrenees can be a bit of a challenge that may not be suited for novice dog owners. If your Pyr isn't properly trained, you'll have a large formidable pup on your hands.
Best Training Techniques For Great Pyrenees:
- Start early! Your life with a Great Pyrenees will be so much easier if you start training as early as possible.
- Patience is important. Smart, but stubborn, your pup may respond slowly or nonchalantly to your commands. Don't let this behavior discourage you.
- Positive reinforcements. Verbal encouragement is enough to let your pal know they're doing good. Any negative responses from the owner can make a Great Pyrenees timid, anxious, and reserved.
- Location, location, location! Picking the right area to train your pup is also important. This breed is always on alert, so find a place with little to no distractions. You want your dog's attention to be solely on you during your training time.
- Consistency. Keep up with your pup's learning by carving out some time each day to train. This will ensure your dog is consistently progressing each day.
There are some large dogs that can live on farms, in a house in the suburbs, and even in an apartment downtown. The Great Pyrenees isn't one of those large dogs, unfortunately.
These dogs aren't quite suited for city living in small quarters. This special breed is nocturnal. They'll sleep a lot during the day and will be up guarding the home at night. This also means they'll be barking during the night - which your neighbors won't enjoy.
A Great Pyrenees dog breed would thrive in a stand-alone home with a large fenced yard. They love to roam, so a fence is a top priority to keeping the dog on your own property. These pups would also be great living on a large parcel of land with plenty of space to run and explore.
With such a thick coat, the Great Pyrenees is better suited for colder temperatures. If living in a warmer climate, don't allow them to stay outside on hot summer days. It's always important to consider the climate and temperature so your pal won't overheat.
Good For Families And Kids?
Don't let the full-grown size of the Great Pyrenees deter you from this fun loving fur friend. This breed is great for families and kids. The Gentle Giants are loyal and loving towards their humans. They live to protect their owners and to shower them with affection. Calm and kind enough to be therapy dogs, this breed would also make fun playmates for kids.
The average lifespan of an adult Pyr is 10 to 12 years.
Large working class dog experience a lot of wear and tear. The Great Pyrenees was bred to handle hard environments in cold temperatures. Even as a family pet, a Pyr carries a lot of body weight and requires lots of exercise to stay in top shape.
An owner's top priority is to make sure their pup is healthy and happy. Here are the most commonly know health issues associated with the Great Pyrenees breed.
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia.
- Eye Issues (Entropion and Cataracts).
- Luxating Patellas.
- Cancerous Cell (mostly in older Pyrs).
This special breed isn't hyper, but they are very active. Made to walk long distances on the mountain and chase off predators, the Great Pyrenees require a lot of physical activity.
If you don't live on a farm or in the mountain, you'll have to get your dog up and moving. A nice long walk will help burn off energy and physically stimulate your pup. A daily walk around the neighborhood will be enough for your fur friend.
Friendly With (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
Like most larger breeds, if your Great Pyrenees is consistently socialized at an early age you'll have very little issue with other dogs, strangers, or other pets.
The Great Pyrenees isn't one to start an aggressive interaction. With proper training and socialization, this breed will get along well with smaller pet and other pups. When it comes to strangers, the Pyr will naturally be suspicious of new people. They'll take the lead from their owner and will show friendliness when they learn that a new person isn't a threat.
Coat & Grooming
The Great Pyrenees is known for their stunning white double coat. The longer top coat is softer than the rough undercoat. The breed sheds moderately and needs routine brushing sessions a few times a week with a pin brush that will detangle both layers, or a slicker brush. Seasonal shedding will produce more balls of hair than usual.
If you're living in a warmer climate, don't cut your Pyr's coat short. The long hair will protect their skin and help cool their bodies in the sun.
These special pups have double dewclaws on their rear legs. Don't forget to clip them to a manageable length when trimming all of the other claws.
As we've mentioned, the Great Pyrenees are a nocturnal breed. They like to sleep a lot during the day and patrol their territory at night. If a Pyr feels that something is off, or if they think the home is being threatened, they will sound the alarm. Owners of Great Pyrenees dogs will experience waking up in the middle of the night to the pup growling and barking.
Toys A Great Pyrenees Would Like Best
A Pyr would love to roll and tumble with their favorite humans. Rough housing with their owner may be more fun for the pup than the human. The Great Pyrenees are large and strong. They may not know their strength with wrestling with their human friends. If you'd rather not roll in the mud with your giant fur pal, toys will absolutely get that tail wagging.
This breed is smart, stubborn, and independent. A game of fetch probably won't last long. Instead, your pal may take the frisbee and play with it on their own. Tug Toys, like the Rope Pretzel Toy, are great for an adult to enjoy with their Pyr. It's highly recommended to keep children from play tug with the large strapping dog for safety reasons.
Although they're not known as big chewers, the Great Pyrenees have large jaws that are very powerful. These dogs will need durable toys that will be able to survive playtime. Super Chewer Toys and KONG-like toys are a great fits for the Pyr. Items like Sonny the Rolly Ghost Ball are fun and interactive. This toy is a ball of flexible rubber with an all-natural rubber core. Not only does the toy roll and bounce, it also dispenses treats to keep your pup's attention!
For a more extensive list, check out the following post:
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Great Pyrenees are well-known for their history of hip and elbow dysplasia, which can cause arthritis, eye issues, and knee problems.
If your pup is having problems with movement or joint pain, you may want to consider supplements for their diet. As always, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian first.
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your graceful Pyr with the aches and pain in their hips and joints. ($32.99.)
BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
For senior Great Pyrenees or dogs suffering from arthritis or hip dysplasia (or just any dog that enjoys lounging!), a comfortable, supportive dog bed is always a good idea.
This dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s tired body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your large Gentle Giant. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Great Pyrenees Of Your Dreams
- National Pyr Rescue
- Great Pyrenees Club of America
- Great Pyrenees Association of Southern California
- Great Pyrenees Rescue of Greater Chicago
Notable Instagram Great Pyrenees
Want a daily dose of the great white Gentle Giants? Get a load of these adorable fluff balls living their best lives on Instagram.
***Looking for a gift to blow your Great Pyrenees' mind? Spoil them with a Super Chewer BarkBox! Every month, the Super Chewer BarkBox delivers 2 super-durable toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and 2 (!!!) meaty chews. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month.
Featured image via LadyLunaBeans/Instagram