Many people purchase/adopt dogs or puppies without understanding the breed traits and the Great Pyrenees is certainly no exception to this. These irresistible balls of white fluff are stunning, adorable, and are always crowd favorites. Not to mention they are gentle, loving, devoted, and loyal companions. However, the Great Pyrenees is not like most other dogs. Many pyrs are surrendered when surprised owners experience some breed-specific traits. Before anyone adds a pyr to their family, I wish they knew these five things.
1. Great Pyrenees bark. A lot. Usually around 6 months, a Great Pyrenees will find his voice and begin his job of guarding and protecting. Unlike most guard dogs, they are not “attack” dogs. Great Pyrenees will very rarely attack and typically only as a last resort. They prefer to scare off predators by intimidation through barking and their extra large size. Because pyrs have very sensitive hearing, they are able to detect the faintest sounds from miles away. A Great Pyrenees will let you know he has heard something and bark until he feels the threat is gone. A pyr’s guarding instinct does not lessen when the sun goes down. In fact, it increases. The Great Pyrenees is nocturnal by nature in order to safeguard his flock during vulnerable hours. Patience and a proper nighttime routine are critical to overcoming this in house dogs.
2. Obedience is not a priority. I have seen several articles circulate recently stating that the Great Pyrenees is one of the dumbest dog breeds. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As a livestock guardian, a Great Pyrenees had to learn to work independently from humans. An adult, working pyr does not need to be told how to do his job and this translates to house pyrs as well. Pyrs like to do things at their own pace and on their own time. While you may see a Golden Retriever plop into a ‘down’ in half a second, a pyr will take his time to slowly position his body. Being off-leash is typically not an option for this breed as well. Their independence causes them to roam and only a fence can keep them contained. You cannot teach a pyr to stay on your property as he feels his property is as far as he can wander.
3. Maturity doesn’t occur until about 3 years of age. Maturity refers to your dog’s mental capacity, not energy level (an energetic dog is not necessarily an immature dog). Giant breeds take much longer to mature than average sized dogs. For example, a one-year-old medium to large breed and a three-year-old giant breed have very similar levels of mental maturity. A Great Pyrenees can reach a triple-digit weight before even turning a year old; a 100+ pound puppy is not for everyone! Since pyrs mature very slowly and have little interest in obedience, they can be a challenge. It’s not uncommon for me to ask a pyr to sit, only to have the dog look at me, walk five feet away, and then slowly lower himself into a sit. I always tell people that if you don’t have a sense of humor with your young Great Pyrenees, you’ll never survive 😉
4. Grooming is a must. Once a Great Pyrenees gets his adult coat (around 6-8 months), weekly brushings are essential. A pyr’s coat is remarkable in that it keeps him warm in the winter and cool in the summer. However, brushing is essential to pull out the dead undercoat that can prevent proper air circulation. Shaving a Great Pyrenees eliminates his ability to regulate his body temperature and also greatly increases risk of sunburn to their fair skin. It’s also important to remember to trim the double dew claws on a regular basis.
5. Getting a Great Pyrenees does not ensure a great livestock guardian. I have seen many people purchase a pyr puppy only to surrender him a few years later because he was not doing his job properly. While instinct is huge, a pyr must have help learning appropriate behavior in guarding his new flock. Typically, this help comes from an older livestock guardian, but humans can assist as well. Regardless of your pyr’s role, LGD or house dog, socialization and training will mold your pyr into an amazing dog.
The Great Pyrenees is a remarkable dog that will always be a part of our family. I absolutely love the breed and the ‘quirks’ they possess. However, many people fall in love with the breed’s beauty rather than their unique traits. If people knew these five traits before adding a Great Pyrenees to their family, far fewer pyrs would be surrendered.
If you have a Great Pyrenees, what do you wish people knew about them beforehand?