When it comes to the Great Pyrenees breed, do you know what is myth and what is fact? We have 7 common statements about pyrs with information on their validity!

Great Pyrenees: Myth or Fact?

When you walk around with two big, fluffy, white dogs, people are bound to stop you and ask questions. I always love chatting about Mauja and Atka, but I tend to hear several comments over and over. Can you determine which of these statements are Great Pyrenees myths?

  1. Great Pyrenees eat a lot of food.
  2. Great Pyrenees should be shaved to keep cool in the summer.
  3. Great Pyrenees can live happily in a small house/apartment.
  4. Great Pyrenees are massive dogs.
  5. Great Pyrenees need to guard livestock.
  6. Great Pyrenees can be colors other than white.
  7. Great Pyrenees are easy to train.

Great Pyrenees eat a lot of food:

MYTH!

Whenever someone talks to me about Mauja and Atka, one of the first things they say is, “boy, you must spend a lot on food!” When I reply with, “It’s really not as bad as you’d think,” I get quite the quizzical look.

I completely understand. Pyrs are a giant breed, therefore they should eat like one!

Fact is, they really don’t eat much more than your average medium sized dog. Great Pyrenees have very slow metabolisms which enables them to thrive on less food than you would anticipate. In fact, many pyrs will only eat 2-4 cups of dry food per day.

Due to their very slow metabolism, it can be extremely easy to allow your Great Pyrenees to become overweight. Many pyrs will actually regulate their weight on their own. I have never had to cut back on the fluffies’ food to keep them at a healthy weight. They eat what they need and leave the rest. However, not all pyrs are this way! It’s absolutely essential to keep an eye on your pyr’s weight to ensure he does not become too heavy.

It is also important to remember that their slow metabolism effects the amount of medication they will need. It can be very easy for a vet to use too much of a sedative for surgery. Always, always make sure your vet understands the metabolism of a Great Pyrenees before sedation. Mauja was too heavily sedated for her spay and had a much more difficult time coming out of it and recovering. Thankfully, she ended up being just fine.

Great Pyrenees should be shaved in the summer to keep cool:

MYTH!

This is one of the most common Great Pyrenees myths. Please, please, pleeeease do not shave your Great Pyrenees in the summer. Your pyr has the double coat for a reason – it keeps him warm in the winter AND cool in the summer. But, how exactly?

I LOVE this graphic for explaining how a double coat works and wish I knew who created it!

How a dog's double coat works

A Great Pyrenees has two different coats, depending on the time of year. In the winter, he grows a thick, fluffy undercoat to keep him warm. This undercoat blocks the cold air and allows him to effectively guard his flock. Even when offered shelter, many pyrs will not want to use it.

When the weather starts to warm up, your pyr will shed his fluffy undercoat. Shedding season is rough guys, but make sure you brush frequently to keep the fluff contained! As your pyr blows his coat and you help by brushing it out, your pyr is preparing himself for the warm weather. The lack of the thick undercoat will allow the cool air to reach his skin and properly circulate.

However, there is another important reason not to shave your Great Pyrenees in the summer. Pyrs have extremely fair, freckled, pink skin that burns very easily. The coat helps to protect your pyr from the sun’s rays and avoid sunburn.

Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees can happily live in a small house:

FACT!

It’s a common misconception that because pyrs are such large dogs, they cannot comfortably live in a small house. Contrary to common belief, the Great Pyrenees does not need a large amount of indoor space.

Pyrs are fairly inactive indoors and prefer to snooze the day away. As long as your have a comfy couch or some cool, tile floor, your pyr will be perfectly happy with that amount of space.

I am a believer that pyrs should have a yard because they typically LOVE being outside. That being said, they do not need one to be happy. By providing your pyr with adequate exercise, you can both live a happy life together.

Great Pyrenees are massive dogs:

MYTH!

Okay, yes – the Great Pyrenees is a giant breed so he is obviously a very large dog. However, his size is amplified due to the thick, fluffy coat. You’d be amazed at how tiny they are under all that fluff!

According to the breed standard, a male Great Pyrenees should be between 27 and 32 inches at the withers and most will weigh between 110 and 130 pounds. Pyrs are not overly muscular dogs and should not lumber. They need to be agile in order to adequately protect their flock. If you are unsure if your dog is overweight, here are a few tips.

Great Pyrenees Need to Guard Livestock:

MYTH!

While there are some people that feel a pyr should always guard livestock since that’s what he was bred to do, many will disagree. However, your pyr does need a job to do. A Great Pyrenees without a job is a bored pyr who will most likely become destructive or bark incessantly. Pyrs are amazing for so many things other than just guarding livestock!

Pyrs make absolutely wonderful therapy dogs. Their gentle disposition makes them pyrfect for visiting both children and the elderly. Due to their gentle, tolerant behavior, many do exceptionally well with those with special needs. There’s nothing better than watching someone’s face light up as they’re snuggling a Great Pyrenees.

Many pyrs enjoy carting, nosework, and even agility! Find the activity that both you and your dog enjoy and get out there and be active. Not only will your pyr be much happier, but you’ll build an incredible bond as well.

Great Pyrenees can be colors other than white:

FACT!

Well, kind of fact. The Great Pyrenees should be primarily white but can also have areas of gray, badger, reddish brown, or varying shades of tan. These colors should cover no more than 1/3 of the dog’s body and are usually seen on the ears, head, and base of the tail. A few spots on the body can also be seen.

The undercoat is typically white or lightly shaded. Either is acceptable for a Great Pyrenees. Mauja has very faint badger marks on her ears and the base of her tail, but Atka is completely white. To see all the various shades of badger marks and how they change through a pyr’s life, check out this post!

Carol Masters Beckman’s Roxy. Check them out on Facebook at Beckman’s Great Pyrenees of Vaughn Hill!
Carol Masters Beckman’s Roxy. Check them out on Facebook at Beckman’s Great Pyrenees of Vaughn Hill!

Great Pyrenees are easy to train:

MYTH!

Add it to the list of Great Pyrenees myths! I was out with Atka the other day when a man approached us to chat about Atka. I told him that Atka is a Great Pyrenees and he responded, “I heard they’re easy to train!”

I literally snorted.

Probably not the most appropriate thing to do mid-conversation with a stranger, but oh well. I couldn’t contain myself.

The Great Pyrenees is an extremely independent breed. They were bred to work on their own without the need for human direction. This leads them to be not so interested in training.

Even though they aren’t typically interested in our obedience nonsense, it is still immensely important to work on training with them. Pyrs are exceptionally smart and need to be challenged. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a destructive, barky-pants. You’ll both be miserable.

Find what motivates your pyr – maybe it’s a special treat, snuggles, or a certain toy – and use that to motivate him! Always keep training sessions short as pyrs bore very easily and you’ll both become frustrated.

What other common Great Pyrenees myths do you hear? Was there anything in this article that surprised you about the breed?

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When it comes to the Great Pyrenees breed, do you know what is myth and what is fact? We have 7 common statements about pyrs with information on their validity!

15 comments on “Great Pyrenees: Myth or Fact?”

  1. Great info as always, Kelsie! I hardly knew anything about Great Pyrenees before becoming a reader of your blog and have become even more interested since meeting the fluffies in person!

    I must admit I would have thought they needed more food – sounds like they eat about the same amount as our Goldens. Although I don’t think our boys would self-regulate their intake if given the opportunity. I also love your comment about the thick fluffy coats. People are always amazed at how trim Harley looks when he goes swimming and his coat is tamed!

  2. I am down to one Pyr and he does bark a lot at night but then comes in the house when he wants too. He is a working dog who watches over my farm critters and does a great job. My gut is almost 9 years old and still going strong. Great dogs & friends he smiles at me when I get home.My Australian Shepard on the other hand sleeps all night and runs around all day chasing the critters.

  3. Agree on all of them but the last one. Training ease depends on the individual dog. One of my Pyr’s has no interest in training, but the other loves it and picks up new skills quickly.

    • Agree with you on this one. Our boy picks up things rather quickly but responds to commands in his own time. He doesn’t have the lightening speed reaction time of a Lab if I ask him to sit or lay down, or play rock, paper, scissors etc, but he does respond and his recall is usually rather good.

      They’re a super intelligent breed and learn quickly, but they also take their time responding probably because they’re weighing options and considering other things they’re also thinking about.

  4. I love reading your blog!! I fell in love with the breed when I saw one that would ride on a cart with his owner at Scarborough Faire (ren fair). I now have a Husky and an Australian Sheperd (both rescues) who also have undercoats and the husky sheds pretty much year round. I previously had a Samoyed – one of the best dogs I have ever had! Your blog has shown me that even being older and having a large house and smaller yard I would also be ok with a Pyr! Not now but maybe in the future.

  5. Love this myth and fact. I have been involved with Pyr Rescue and have had prys for years. I train dogs and on the first day of class I explain to people that I have GSDs and Pyrs and the difference in training them.

  6. I have 2 male great pyrs that were originally used to guard our flock of 50 sheep.Now we no longer have the sheep and have trained them as house dogs. It took a lot of work but during the day I can take them outside without a leash and they will stay with me and play. At nite with the deer and other critters the temptation is just to great so they are on the leash. I love my dogs and they are great friends

  7. Do Pyrs still have a tendency to roam if they have a home and people they love? Read that you must have a high-fenced yard for your Pyr or the dog will take off, sometimes permanently.

    • Our Pyr’s live with is on 20,000 acres in the middle of a National Park. They have the freedom to roam at will but seldom go far as they are guarding our property from the bear and deer. Once in a while they may go a mile away but love coming home in the evening to eat and sleep inside at night

  8. Good graphic but I’m trying to understand it. It talks about when the undercoat starts growing in and how the dog can overheat. This would only be for hot summer months I would think but the coat wouldn’t grow then. It doesn’t say when it starts growing in. Then there is the impacted under coat but no description for that. Not good. It doesn’t refer to when the coat is perfect for winter. I may be overthinking this but I would like to understand that double coats. I know that you never shave them. Great myths and facts!

  9. I “mistakingly” took my very first Pyr (25 yrs ago…learned since then)to obedience training. It was hysterical, kalamity jane did what the instructor demonstrated even before she was asked to and then pulled me to our car to go home!

  10. I could not poosibly agree more on any of these points.
    Every picture I have of my Pyr indoors his of him sleeping or just about to be. I don’t have a large house but he is fine as long as he is sleeping with me. I have a little less than half an acre on my property and I have seen him sit maybe ice outside in his five years (that is until he thinks he sees a leave blow around in the yard). I don’t have much work for him as far guarding (although someone in town has let me experiment with their chickens so I’ll be getting some backyard chickens in the spring). His main job is pulling the garden cart around which he loves (which doubles as a sled for the little kids) and gets mad when I take the harness off. There are times when I have no work to do but I hook him up anyways just to make him happy

  11. Isn’t this only advice for dogs that are outside a lot?

    If your dog is inside 95% of the time, they won’t blow their coat out and they also aren’t going to get sunburned. Keeping their coat just means they will be miserable anytime they go outside for half the year.

    I’ve had a pyrenees for over a year in florida and he hasn’t blown his coat. I can only imagine this could be forced by leaving him outside often and long enough for him to get hot, why would I want to do that?

    I’ve seen very happy shaved pyrenees and then others who won’t be shaved because their owners were told they would sunburn if they were outside more than 15 minutes. These dogs were breed to be in the mountains, their coat isn’t designed for 90 degree summers.

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