A Great Pyrenees is far from an ordinary breed of dog. It was bred for a very specific purpose and as such has a unique personality, characteristics and traits. It is important to consider all of the aspects of the breed prior to making the decision to adopt a Pyr. The Great Pyrenees is a dominant breed of dog and as such will require a firm, yet gentle hand and proper socialization and training. A Pyr is not a suitable choice for all individuals, nor is it a suitable choice for those unwilling or incapable of providing the proper amount of training, socialization or exercise.
Important Pre-Ownership Considerations
The decision to own a Great Pyrenees is a serious consideration and is not to be taken lightly. A Great Pyrenees is a very unique breed of dog and as such, there are unique responsibilities that go along with ownership. You must seriously weigh all the breeds traits before making a decision. Every year, hundreds of Great Pyrenees suffer from broken homes because their owners failed to consider all the factors before adopting them. Proper research will allow you to get a heads up on the breed to allow you to evaluate if it is the right breed for you.
The Great Pyrenees is a large breed of dog, with males varying in size from 27" to 32" at the shoulder or larger and females being slightly smaller at 25-29" at the shoulder. They typically grow for 3 1/2-4 years. It will grow rapidly, with a 8 week old puppy generally weighing between 25-30lbs. By 3 months of age, your Great Pyrenees will be the same size or larger than a full grown Golden Retriever. By a year and a half, your Pyrenees will have obtained a great percentage of its height, and will typically weight well over 100 lbs. The dog will then slowly grow, mostly filling out over the next 2-2 1/2 years. They mentally mature between 1 1/2-2 years of age and it is at this point that its dominant instincts will begin to emerge.
- Dog Dominance
Great Pyrenees, by nature are a dominant breed and will generally not tolerate any aggressive animal or dominant dog that does not submit to it. The adult Great Pyrenees will typically seek to assume the dominant role with other other dogs or animals you have. For most non-dominant breeds of dogs, such as labs, retrievers, collies etc, you should generally have few problems as the other dog will usually allow the Great Pyrenees to assume the dominant role. It is normal to expect some minor hostility towards one another initially, however this will normally subside over time. In fact most Great Pyrenees will get along well with many non-dominant breeds and will also not hesitate to protect it if necessary. They tend to be very tolerant with other dogs that they are familiar with, provided the other dog has no desire to challenge it for dominance.
However, if you own another dominant breed, such as Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pit Bulls and some Terriers etc., a Great Pyrenees will likely not be a good choice as it can lead to heartache later if the dogs are not able to co-exist. Dominance for the most part takes place at maturity and 2 dominant dogs can co-exist without incident for many years before problems begin. At the very minimum, mix the genders of dominant breeds with a male-female pairing. Some females will tolerate other females, others won't, especially if they are not altered. For best results, have one or both of the females altered. Altering early by 6 months of age will also help reduce problems as well. Same sex pairings of two male Great Pyrenees is sheer madness and will likely end in tragedy with expensive vet bills and heartache if the other dog refuses to submit to it, which is typically unlikely with two male Pyrs. For best results, avoid any same sex pairings of any dominant or potentially dominant breed.
The Great Pyrenees has very strong pack anf protection instincts and as such, should at all times be contained, preferably behind a tall fence. Un-contained, the Great Pyrenees is likely to roam the neighborhood and establish a very large "territory" to protect, which is likely to conflict with some of your neighbors and their pets. Within a fenced yard, the Pyr has established boundaries in which he will call his or her own. Chain-link, wood or farm fencing are the preferred options of fencing. Invisible or electronic fencing is a poor choice for this breed and is seldomly successful due to its high tolerance of pain.
Great Pyrenees are however easily housebroken and can make suitable indoor pets as well in many cases. The Great Pyrenees will adapt and protect most all forms of livestock including cattle, sheep, llamas, alpacas, fallow deer, horses, miniature donkeys and many more if properly socialized around them. The livestock will learn to respect and appreciate the protection that your Pyr offers it. Great Pyrenees are however less tolerant of aggressive fowl, such as roosters and Geese. This is also instinctive and by the same token, they will also not allow any birds of prey such as eagles and vultures, crows, magpies to approach its flock. Aggressive fowl should therefore be contained in areas that the Pyr does not have access to.
Great Pyrenees are barkers and will often bark at anything out of the ordinary. Many Pyrs will also bark simply to announce their presence to the neighborhood. Again, this comes from instinct, where Pyr's patrolled hundreds if not thousands of acres. The Great Pyrenees would commonly bark to announce their presence to potential predators to reduce confrontations and threats to their flock. Because of this, a Great Pyrenees might not be a suitable match if you live in the city and your neighbors would be annoyed at excessive barking. Many Pyr owners bring the dog in at night, which usually ends the barking sessions.
The Great Pyrenees is blessed with a thick, primarily white double coat. Expect heavy shedding, especially in the spring. Residual hair on your clothing is an occupational hazard for Pyr owners but most owners quickly get used to it. If you are obsessively clean or object to the thought of white hair on your clothes, in your house, car and virtually everywhere you live, then a Great Pyrenees is not the breed for you.
- Human Dominance
The Great Pyrenees' dominance is a key element to its thought process. In its mind, it is king of all it surveys and will naturally establish itself as the pack leader of any other animals, unless strongly convinced otherwise. Human aggression however is very rare with the Great Pyrenees, provided that it is properly trained and socialized. In fact, it is a serious show fault for a Great Pyrenees to show intentional aggression towards people. However, improperly trained, it may also attempt to establish itself to be a dominant member of the family, which can quickly lead to serious behavior problems. Human-dog dominance can easily be resolved in early stages of development. If left un-addressed to maturity, it will take some training and work to establish the correct dominance in your family.
The dog should understand that all members of the family are more dominant than he or she. A sometimes common mistake is for a single member of the family to assume to dominate role, in which the dog is left to assume that he or she is above all the other members of the family. Dominance issues are easily worked out in most cases during feeding, play and daily routines. A properly trained dog will not show any aggression towards any member of the family. All members of the family should be able to play with its food while eating, as well as take the food away at will without any signs of aggression. Any growling or snapping is an immediate indication that some work is required right away. Once the dog understands its role in the family, there is minimal chance of further aggression against its family. The Great Pyrenees is known for its enormous tolerance of small children and is known to actually adjust its temperament and play depending on the age and size of the child. The well trained and socialized adult Great Pyrenees will allow the toddler to crawl all over it and play with its nose and ears, while taking a more active role in play with older children. Great Pyrenees tend to be very protective around small children as well as will often place themselves between a child and someone it does not know.
Great Pyrenees are large and very strong and so when on a walk, a leash is an absolute must. This will keep your Pyr under control. As they are also very independent, unleashed, its likely your Pyr will bound off after an animal or dog if it determines it to be a possible threat or it may just up and decide to take some time to itself to check out the roses or neighborhood, despite your intentions. A Great Pyrenees outside of its established boundaries many times will develop selective hearing and may temporarily choose to rebel against you for a few minutes or instigate a game of chase me. Many a Pyr has lead their owners on a merry chase at some point in their lives, so to avoid frustration, bring the leash. You should also avoid allowing young children to walk them alone if there is a chance that your dog may come into contact with another dog as the child may be unable to hold your Pyr back if it decides to challenge the other animal. While extreme dog aggression is somewhat rare, many Great Pyrenees will be more tolerant with other dogs unless directly challenged or attacked. However, it is important that all people considering Pyr ownership understand the traits to avoid having to give it up later, due to lack of research prior to ownership.
- General Care
Great Pyrenees ownership also requires consideration of daily care. They must be brushed regularly, at least twice a week, more during shedding season to maintain a healthy, unmatted coat. The Great Pyrenees has a double coat, consisting of a soft, downy undercoat, which it sheds once a year, as well as the outer coat. Although the outer coat does not mat, the undercoat will if not brushed out regularly, especially during shedding season. The coat has natural dirt resistant qualities that help it stay clean. An absolutely filthy and wet Great Pyrenees will amaze you by being clean and white again shortly after drying off, as most of the dirt simply falls out once dry. Over time however, the coat will become slightly yellowish, which will simply require an occasional bath to restore their snow-white appearance. In Europe, it is common to retain the shedded undercoat in order to spin it. Great Pyrenees hair offers many times the insulating quality of wool and it also has a softer texture. To keep the coast maintained, a simple rake and slicker brush will suffice. The claws also require some occasional maintenance as well, especially the front and double rear dew claws, which do not come into contract with the ground and can curl around and grow into the paw pad if left unattended. Dew claws should be inspected regularly and trimmed at least once a year.
Fortunately, food requirements for the size of the Pyr is fairly manageable given its large size. An adult Pyr will generally consume roughly the same amount of food as a medium sized dog. The Pyr's calm nature and slower metabolism causes a relatively small appetite for the breed. Typically, an adult Pyr will only require 1-1.5 40lb bags of dog food per month. Other dogs of comparable size can consume more than double this amount.
Consider Adopting a Loving Great Pyrenees Rescue Dog
Before making a decision, you should also decide on what interests you the most, a puppy or adult dog. Both have advantages and disadvantages. If your Pyr is to be a pet, we recommend giving some serious thought on welcoming a wonderful adult Great Pyrenees into your home. Every year, hundreds of Pyr's are placed in shelters and rescue organizations for a variety of reasons, such as owners moving, unable to properly care for the dog or sometimes because the owner fell in love with a cute, fluffy puppy without doing the proper amount of research into the breed. There are a number of Great Pyrenees rescue organizations across North America and Europe than specialize in the breed and helping displaced Pyrs to find loving and responsible homes.
Adopting an adult dog has many advantages in addition to completing the life of a loving Great Pyrenees deserving of a stable and responsible home. Most adult dogs have their mature personality, eliminating the guess work on how they will be when they mature. Some come pre-trained and house-broken. It also allows you to avoid the puppy stage. Most specialized rescue organizations can also help you determine your needs so as to best match you with a loving Great Pyrenees that best suits your lifestyle.
There are currently a great number of adoptable Great Pyrenees throughout North America that are loving and deserving of a good home. Our Great Pyrenees search utility allows you to search for adoptable Great Pyrenees by state or province
»» Adoptable Great Pyrenees Pet Search
Please also take an opportunity to contact some of the following Great Pyrenees rescue organizations. These are organizations specializing in the Great Pyrenees and can offer you a great deal of information on the breed and help you locate a suitable pet. Many also offer information and photos of their available Pyrs on their web sites.
Adopting an Adult Great Pyrenees From Another Source
Adopting an adult Great Pyrenees from another source that may not be familiar with the breed, should be approached with caution. Not all Great Pyrenees are suitable for all adoption situations. For example, the working Pyr, or livestock guardian dog that has spent its entire life in the field with the flock with little or no human socialization is usually a poor choice for a pet as it can be extremely challenging to properly socialize and train it. Some other sources, such as shelters, SPCA etc may offer little or no backgrounds on the dog. As well, the Great Pyrenees that has been improperly trained or improperly socialized would be extremely challenging and likely unsuitable for a family situation. Use caution in these situations and always get as much background information on the animal as possible before making a decision.
Decided on a Puppy?
If you have decided that you are looking for a puppy and are prepared for the challenging task of housebreaking, training, obedience and socialization, you will now need to decide on what type of puppy and how much you are prepared to spend. There are generally 4 types of pure stock Great Pyrenees.
Pet or Companion Stock
If you are looking for a Great Pyrenees that will be primarily a pet or companion for you, then most likely you will be delighted with a dog designated as pet/companion stock. These are generally the least expensive of the registerable Great Pyrenees. The actual decision on what qualifies them as pet stock varies from breeder to breeder. Some breeders that show their animals and have a good knowledge of the breed standard will select one or more out of a litter as choice stock and the rest of the litter will be set as either pet or livestock guardian stock. Some breeders only sell pet/companion animals. Be aware than most all reputable breeders that sell pet/companion animals will require alteration and will more than likely require that you sign a contract outlining certain responsibilities, including alteration. Pet stock animals that are eligible for registration with the AKC/CKC/TKC/FCI or other organization can be registered as non-breeding animals only, which does not allow registration of any offspring.
If you are intending or possibly intend to involve yourself in the fiercely competitive sport of showing your dog, you will likely want to spend a bit more and aquire a show stock animal from a reputable breeder. Show stock animals are animals that are selected from a litter by breeders that generally show their animals and are well familiar to the breed standard. These are generally puppies that most closely conform to the breed standard. Typically, show stock animals will cost 2-3 times more than a pet stock animal and their designation means only that in the breeders opinion, the animal has the best chance at becoming a show animal. There is no guarantee than a Great Pyrenees sold as show stock will have the same qualities upon reaching adulthood and it does involve a good deal of speculation. Generally a show stock animal will also be registerable with the AKC/CKC/TKC/FCI or other organization as a non-breeding animal unless you have also negotiated with the breeder for possible breeding status.
Breeding stock animals are available from selected reputable breeders only and typically represent the highest in quality and conformance to the breed standard. These are usually animals that also meet the stringent requirement of show stock and also bear all the traits than make them a suitable animal to breed. They usually fetch a premium price of 2-3 times or more than that of a companion animal. These are animals that bear little or no apparent genetic defects or abnormalities, both physical and mental that could be possibly passed down to their offspring. Many animals sold as breeding quality are required to pass OFA and other certifications later on upon reaching maturity. For this reason, a breeding stock puppy may initially be certified with a non-breeding certificate from the AKC/CKC/TKC/FCI or other organization, which will be upgraded to a full certificate once the necessary clearances are passed. Many of these require the animal to be at least 2 years of age. Many breeders that offer breeding stock animals take their stock and line very seriously and will very closely scrutinize those that request them and will usually only sell to those individuals that meet their qualifications.
Livestock Guardian Dog
If your choice in a Great Pyrenees is primarily designed as a guardian for your livestock, then you will be looking for an animal available from selected breeders. These are selected animals chosen from a litter than are deemed to be best suited to their tradition role of a livestock guardian. Typically less attention is given to conformation to the breed standard as opposed to strong natural guardian instincts and a natural preference to bonding with livestock. Suitable LGD's will generally have a very commanding and dominant temperament and will also possess a natural preference to the flock, rather than people. Many breeders that sell LGD's will not sell them as puppies, but rather keep them until at least 1 year of age, during which time they will be well socialized to a flock situation. This helps to ensure that the dog you aquire will be suitable as a livestock guardian, as not all Pyr's are. For this reason, the cost of a LGD is usually much more than that of a show or breeding stock puppy as it reflects the costs of maintenance until it is ready to go to its new home. Most LGD's have minimal human interaction aside from working in the field and feeding time as it can lessen the bond with its flock and they will spend most of their time with its flock.