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» Grooming

Introduction  | Characteristics  | Standard  | Grooming  | Feeding  | Training  | HealthFinding your Pyr

The Great Pyrenees has been bred for centuries as a serious, working dog. It quietly goes about its business with determination and no complaints. The breed in its natural habit, high in the mountainous region of the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, looks quite a sight differently than it is commonly seen in shows in North America and Europe. Its coat yellowing, matted and unkept, the un-groomed Pyr has sometimes fooled even those familiar with the breed into thinking it is not really a Great Pyrenees.

Indeed, the difference in appearance between the working Pyr and the well kept Pyr is quite astounding. The heavy double coat, while giving the impression of being high maintenance, can actually be well maintained through regular brushing at least a couple times a week. The outer coat is naturally dirt and mat resistant, however the undercoat will mat if not properly cared for, especially during the annual molt, where it will shed most of its undercoat to prepare it for the warm summer months.

Basic Essentials

Slicker Brush

The slicker brush is one of the most important grooming tools for the Great Pyrenees' thick double coat. It comes in different shapes and sizes, but all have curved or hooked wire bristles that will help remove dead hair, tangles and foreign objects (dirt, grass seeds etc.) from the wooly coat of your Pyr. The Pyr is a large dog and so for best results you will want to get a larger slicker as well as ensuring you obtain a quality one. Cheaper ones will wear out quickly as the bristles will snap off. A quality large slicker will cost you between $5-10, depending on the brand.

Soft Brush

The soft brush can come in handy for finishing work, helping to gently brush out dirt and some dead hair. It is very useful for brushing out sensitive areas, such as the dog's underside as well as the face and head. It also helps in fluffing up the coat after a bath and good brushing with a rake and slicker. Typically, the Pyr will enjoy this brush as it gives a soft massage to the coat during use. This brush can be cleaned easily by simply running a rake through the bristles, which will catch all the dead hair. A quality soft brush cost less than $8 and will have soft, year stiff nylon bristles. Some brands also offer a slicker or other brush on the reverse side, however these tend to wear out faster than ordinary brushes.


The rake is another essential tool for any Pyr owner. It allows you to easily remove dead hair as well as untangling many simple snarls in the undercoat. Serious mats however should be removed with a mat slicer or in serious cases, cut out from the coat. The rake will become more important during the annual molt or shedding of the undercoat in spring to early summer. A good raking, once or twice a week, combined with a slicker will keep the coat in tip-top shape and tangle free. The rake also comes in handy as a quick way to clean the dead hair out from your other brushes. Typically a good quality rake will cost you $6-$8 and if taken care of will last for years.

Bristle Brush

A bristle brush, or pin brush is optional, however it can be useful for helping to remove dead hair from the coat, as well as light tangles. It also helps to soften out the coat during use as well. A quality bristle brush will have straight wire bristles, usually with a small nylon cap on the end of the bristles. These can be most useful on the heaviest parts of the coat, such as the mane, and sides of the body as well as the feathering on the back of the legs.

Nail Trimmer

The canine nail trimmer is also a must for any Pyr owner. They generally come in 2 different types. The first is the shear type, as shown in the illustration. These generally work the best with the Pyr's thick, tough nails. They use a garden shearing type action to clip the nail. They are a must for the dew claws as well, that do not come into contact with the ground and require trimming at least twice a year or more. The dew claws, especially the dual rear ones are prone to curving around and becoming ingrown into the pad is neglected. A good nail trimmer will cost about $8. For best results, the all metal ones are more durable than the less expensive plastic handled ones. The second type of nail trimmer is the guillotine type. These are usually spring loaded and a sharp blade will slice the nail. These typically work best with smaller dogs due to the thickness of the claw.

Optional Grooming Tools

In addition to the essential above, you may also want to invest in a number of optional tools, especially if you are planning on showing your dog. These include things such as canine toothbrush and paste, ear cleaning swabs or wipes, dog tear remover, scissors, shears etc.

Bathing Supplies

A quality canine shampoo and conditioner is required occasionally as well, more often for those that show their dogs. There are a great number of specialized canine shampoos on the market, some better than others. Never use human shampoo or dish soap as this will dry the coat out. The one exception to this is Ivory white dish or bar soap, which can be used in a pinch as it is 99% pure. A quality canine shampoo should be PH balanced. For best results, however use a quality dog shampoo, available most anywhere that sell pet supplies. There are a number of different types on the market, you will likely want to invest in a couple of them.

Types of Shampoos and Conditioners

General Dog Shampoo: This is your everyday shampoo for most all uses. Some contain different additives such as moisturizers etc. Generally, most people experiment with a couple different brands before they find the one they like. Sometimes this will be the least expensive brand.

Whitening Shampoo: This is a special type of shampoo that will help in reducing yellowing of the coat and make it appear whiter. The shampoo is actually a bluing solution, similar in principle to bluing white clothes. Because of the way the human eye perceives colors, adding a slight blue tinge to a light colored surface will give the appearance of a brilliant white. With this shampoo, it is important to rinse the coat out well, as bluing shampoo left in the coat for too long can leave a noticeably blue stain that may be difficult to get out.

Deodorizing Shampoo: This is rarely required for a well groomed Pyr. The natural oils in the coat also offer natural deodorizing, provided the dead hairs and other foreign objects are removed from the coat.

Flea Shampoo: This is special shampoo that is generally used to help reduce fleas. These do not typically work well with Pyr's due to their thick coat. Flea problems can be more effectively combated using special vet strength flea solutions. This is covered in our health section.

Special-use Shampoos: There are a number of special shampoos on the market, such as oatmeal, organics ones etc. Generally, you will not realize a noticeable difference with these to justify their higher cost.

Rinse-out Conditioner: This is a special canine conditioner that is designed to keep the coat moisturized and conditioned. It can be used immediately after shampooing.

Leave-in Conditioner: This is a special conditioner, usually in a spray, that is designed to give a extra bit of luster and moisture to the coat. This is often used in shows to add body to the coat and help repair split ends.

Basic Grooming Guidelines

Armed with your arsenal of basic grooming equipment of slicker brush, rake and soft brush, you are ready to do battle with your Pyr's coat. In reality, the coat is quite marvelous to work with, if maintained regularly. Many owner find brushing to be enjoyable and your dog will definitely enjoy the time as it is the canine equivalent of an all body massage. There will always be occasions, where it will appear daunting, such as when your Pyr happily emerges from the tall grass, cover head to foot in grass seeds, however in most situations, the coat can easily be maintained. The coat will shed small amounts year round, with an annual spring molt that will see nearly all of the undercoat release over a small period of time, usually a week or two. The very first brushing of your dog or puppy may be more difficult as the dog becomes accustomed to it. For best results, if possible begin brushing your dog when it is still a puppy and allow it to become familiar with it.

The well groomed Pyr will be proudly show off your handiwork to the entire neighborhood after a brushing session.
Step 1: Rake your Way to a Well Groomed Pyr
Begin your grooming with your rake, gently using it in a comb-like movement from the neckline to the base of the tail, including the sides of the body. If you have a spray leave-in conditioner, this can be used beforehand to help release any tangles. When using the rake, be careful to apply gentle pressure, too much will agitate the dogs sensitive skin. If unsure, rake the palm of your hand to find the correct amount of pressure. If using too much and the action is uncomfortable on your hand, it will also be uncomfortable for your dog. Avoid using the rake on the dogs underside, ears and face, which have less hair and are more sensitive. The rake will pick up the dead hairs from the undercoat. Generally, 4-5 strokes will clean most of the hair from the undercoat. During molting season however, this will take considerably longer and you will likely need to rake the coat out for 10-15 minutes, during which time you will collect a large amount of hair. This will need to be repeated every few days during molts to ensure no mats develop. If a concern, collect the cast off hair in a shopping bag or container to avoid the "snowfall in June" motif for your yard. A great many people highly value Pyr hair and spin it into beautiful sweaters and other garments as it is much warmer than wool and very unique in its texture.

Step 2: Slickers Up!

The slicker should immediately follow the rake and will remove the dead hairs from the outer coat, as well as most foreign objects, such as dirt, seeds and grass. Start from the neck and slowly making your way to the tail. With your hand, gently lift on the dogs coat in thicker areas, to ensure that the slicker is reaching deep into the coat. Special attention is often required on the dogs hind quarters, tail as well as the mane, which are thicker and more prone to snarls. As with the rake, the slicker can cause discomfort in some areas, such as the dogs underside and feathering on the forelegs, so use gentle pressure in these areas.

Step 3: Soft brush your way to a clean finish

For most brushing sessions, the soft brush, or in the alternative pin brush will finish off the dog. In the same motion as the slicker, the soft brush will add some body to the outer coat and will also collect any of the dead hairs in the outer coat that the slicker missed.

Basic Bathing Guidelines

Your Pyr's coat comes complete with a natural dirt resistant quality than allows it to shed dirt once dry. However over time, the coat will become yellow due to dirt deposits and it may require an occasional bathing. This of course can be substituted for a dip in a nearby stream or river. Care should be taken to avoid over-bathing, which will reduce the dirt resistant qualities of the coat. Generally, once a month or less, not including the odd special occasion will suffice for most owners.

Bathing a Pyr is no different than a regular dog, aside from its large size means it takes somewhat longer, usually 30-45 minutes. Be aware the first bath may be somewhat difficult as your Pry will not particularly appreciate it. However after the first couple times, it will learn to tolerate it more. Methods of bathing can differ depending on your situation and equipment. Some people use the bathtub or shower, some prefer using the outdoor hose and others have a fully equipped outdoor bathing tub. Most Pyrs if using a hose or spray, you will likely want to enlist a helper to help hold the dog, or leash it to a firm object as Pyrs have been known to pace or move around when subjected to a hose or spray. If possible, use lukewarm water, never hot.

If you are planning on using a whitening shampoo, this can be used following the regular shampoo. Ensure you only leave the whitening shampoo on the dog for less than 5 minutes to avoid blue staining of the coat. You also need to ensure that you rinse very well to ensure you haven't missed any.

After the final shampoo has been completely rinsed off, wet the dog down again and follow up with a canine conditioner. This will help moisturize the coat, remove snarls and help to repair split ends. Leave the conditioner on for a few minutes, rinse completely and towel dry. Once towel dried, the coat can be allowed to air dry for a normal effect or blow dried for a full bodied coat effect.

Pyr's sometimes love to get dirty and even the most conservative of Pyr's will need the occasional bath to restore their snow-white luster.

General Periodic Care

Nail Trimming: All Pyr's will need periodic nail care to avoid problems. A trademark trait of the breed are double dew claws or spurs on the hind legs that also come complete with two extra toes. The dew claws do not come into contact with the grown and as such need to be trimmed. A neglected dew claw will eventually curve around and become ingrown into into the paw. It also has a higher chance of becoming snagged on something and torn. A broken nail can breed extensively and it may be difficult to stop the bleeding. To avoid these potential problems, trim your dogs nails at least twice a year. If you dog does not get much activity outdoors, you may need to trim the regular nails as well to avoid them getting too long.

Eyes: Some Pyrs have weepy eyes that may leave a reddish-colored discharge. Over time, this can discolor the coat around the eyes if left unattended. This can be removed with a cotton swab moistened with dog tear remover. Some log neglected stains may require repeat treatments to completely remove the stain.

Pyr's have trademark double dew claws on each hind leg as well as single dew claws on each front leg. These will need trimming, at least twice a year to avoid ingrown or torn nails.
Ears: The ears should receive regular cleaning to avoid potential problems. Regular cleaning once a month will remove dirt, excess wax as well as helping to reduce the potential for problems, such as ear mites and infections. For best results, use dog ear wipes, that come in a bottle similar to baby wipes. Wipe the inner ear and clean out the excess wax and dirt, being careful not to go too far into the ear canal. A clean and healthy ear should have little to no odor. Strong, offensive odors indicate a potential problem, possibly mites or an infection which will require a visit to the vet.

Ear wipes make cleaning your dogs ears quick and easy. They allow you to clean, deodorize and disinfect all at the same time. Be sure to keep in a cool place to avoid having them dry out.

Teeth: Periodic cleaning of the Pyrs teeth will also help to avoid potential problems and ensures you pyr will have pearly whites for them to show off to all those around them. A medium bristled toothbrush or a special dog toothbrush will fit the bill. A non-flavored or lightly flavored toothpaste will work the best as Pyr's usually dislike having their teeth brushed and will so even more if it is accompanied with strong tasting toothpaste. Some owners also use baking soda, which offers a natural deodorizing and also a natural scrubbing action that can help clean the teeth better than toothpaste alone. A good brushing at least twice a year or more, with a vet cleaning or checkup once a yet will ensure that you Pyr keeps its teeth and gums health well into its senior years. Signs of trouble are yellow plaque deposits on the teeth and puffy gums or bleeding around the gums when brushing the dogs teeth. A quick trip to the vet can help these problem nicely.

Regular once a month brushing of your dog's teeth will remove excess plaque and will help to avoid future dental problems and will help ensure your dog keeps its teeth into its golden years.

Next: Great Pyrenees Feeding

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