Today, we’re joining the Positive Pet Training Blop Hop which is all about recall this week.
[insert exasperated sigh from all the pyrents out there]
If there’s one thing a Great Pyrenees does exceptionally well, it’s NOT coming when called. It should really be a pyr super power. The ability to tune out any sort of come command unless the word treat, walk, hungry, or ride is included in the statement.
Some pyrs don’t even care about the extra word. Nothing you can offer is going to make them get off their fluffy butts. Nothing.
If you share your life with a pyr, you are fully aware that an off-leash pyr is a disapyr. There are a few exceptions (I could probably name the pyrs that I know that can be off-leash on one hand), but the vast majority cannot be trusted off-leash. They immediately become deaf and roam to patrol their territory, which they believe is everything the light touches (yes, that was supposed to be a Lion King reference).
From here on out, I’m going to generalize all Great Pyrenees. There are pyrs that can be trusted and I don’t need a ton of comments telling me that pyrs can be trained because yours is. I know that some can be, but they are the exception, not the norm. So to save myself from saying, “the vast majority”, 17 billion times, I’m just going to add this disclaimer here 🙂
You can be an all-star trainer, but you will never be able to train a Great Pyrenees to have a 100% reliable recall. If anyone wants to accept the pyr recall challenge, let me know and I’ll let you borrow Mauja. However, you must allow me to supervise all training sessions so I can make a video at the end. You have to laugh or you’ll lose your mind with this breed.
Best breed ever, but such stinkers.
Now, all hope is not lost! While training a Great Pyrenees to have a 100% reliable recall on a day to day basis just isn’t realistic, a recall can be literally life-saving. It’s definitely not a skill to neglect.
In working on recall with your Great Pyrenees, it’s important to remember why they typically won’t come when called. The Great Pyrenees is an extremely independent breed. Pyrs are a livestock guardian dog (LGD) and work independently from humans. No one is coaching them through their job day and night.
The lack of human direction made it absolutely necessary for them to be able to function on their own. Even if your Great Pyrenees isn’t working the farm, he will still harbor this instinct. Don’t fight it, embrace it, or you will set yourself up for a lifetime of frustration with your pyr.
While I knew exactly what I was getting into when we brought Mauja home, I was confident that I could train out the barking and build a reliable recall. I had done it with tons of dogs before and had an awesome trainer backing me up – there was no reason I couldn’t do it.
Yeah, I was a complete fool.
Mauja challenged me in ways I never thought possible (and I thought our husky mix was a piece of work!) and taught me so much. Most importantly, she taught me to not only accept, but love breed-specific traits.
Let me tell you, I’m obsessed with all things Pyrenees.
Rather than fighting her and ultimately frustrating us both, I opted for a much more realistic recall for her and Atka. The emergency recall.
The Emergency Recall
While living in California, our trainer suggested teaching the emergency recall so we had something in case we ever had a life-threatening situation. We never let Mauja off-leash anywhere that wasn’t fenced, but accidents happen and we wanted to be prepared.
Since training the recall, we’ve only had to use it once for Mauja and it worked like a charm.
Before we started using a harness for Mauja, she slipped out of her collar after being spooked by something. She then heard a dog bark and sprinted across the street toward the noise. After brief panic, I composed myself and yelled,
She immediately stopped and happily pranced back toward me. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The training had paid off.
The emergency recall is a skill I will teach all of my dogs and recommend that everyone, especially those with a Great Pyrenees do the same. The best part, it’s a surprisingly easy skill to teach.
Training the Emergency Recall
- Come up with a command for your emergency recall. Make sure it is something you can easily remember, yet isn’t likely to be used in everyday conversation. We use the word “pronto”. You can also use a noise – Maggie from Oh My Dog! uses a two-note whistle. I’m not talented enough for that, but it’s a great option if you can whistle!
- Grab plenty of high value treats – something your dog doesn’t get in usual training sessions. You want this treat to be extremely special! Perhaps some cooked chicken or lean hamburger meat.
- Start off in an easy location (e.g. your house) and stand just a few feet away from your dog. Say the command, “pronto!”, in a high-pitched voice with happy, excited posture to entice your dog to come to you.
- When you dog makes it to you, reward him/her with treats for 20-30 seconds. Don’t just open your hand and let your dog snack away. Reward treat by treat for the full length of time. Endless, single treats are perceived to be a higher value than a pile of the same number of treats. You want it to feel like your dog hit the jackpot!
- After you’ve finished with the treats, let your dog go back to whatever he/she was doing. Often, “come” is associated with fun ending (coming in from outside, leaving the park) so let the fun continue as it was.
- Practice, practice, practice!
Once you have a good hang of the emergency recall in the house, it’s time to start adding distance and distractions. We used a long line in open areas and gradually worked our way up from there.
It is important to avoid using the emergency recall in non-emergency situations. Repeat usage in everyday situations (other than practice) will reduce the overall strength of the recall. You never know when the emergency recall will save your dog’s life, so be sure to keep it to true emergency situations.
If your Great Pyrenees won’t come, you can still train this life-saving skill.
Does your dog have an emergency recall?
Loved your explanation of the disclaimer. Your articles continue to be very interesting about the larger breeds.
Lara Elizabeth says
I love all your clever pyr wordplay! Ruby will never, ever be an off-leash dog but stuff happens and an emergency recall is something we NEED. Boca won’t wander far but she tends to go deaf when she’s sniffing something interesting. I really like your “pronto” command. I use “here” but without any hard consonants I feel like the word doesn’t have much impact.
Carole Warren McLaughlin says
As usual great information for Pyr owners – BUT I think I’m going to try this for my Aussie girl as well…. she has a mind of her own and chooses when she wants to “come” – and I like the word “Pronto” – not a word that she would hear often so definitely one that she “might” pay attention to if it means lots of treats…..
Tenacious Little Terrier says
I don’t have a separate emergency recall. I reward “come” heavily and I don’t poison the cue. Thanks for joining the hop!
Dachshund Nola says
Wonderful post! I use an emergency recall too (a whistle), and it’s such an important thing.
I have a female pup… Almost 1 yr old… And an adult male pyr//malamute mix. Both rescues. He is perfectly mannered – I swear he’s stop shedding if he could. He gets anxious and excited and still pulls on a leash but we are working in that. He’s gotten out twice and both times he was cornered and tackled and that how we got him back. That’s the only way! Granted, we’d had him weeks at the time so I don’t know how I would be today. But he does not come in from the yard when called very easily and if he does, it’s clearly feeding or walking times and then this 132 pound mass of fur flies at you and it’s hysterical looking.
*She* however comes when called except at night, when she makes me come get her; and she just looks at me so sad like, “I’m being good. I’m not barking!” The other times when she doesn’t come, she runs from me – usually because she’s got something in her mouth and she doesn’t want me to take it… Or she does want me to chase her because she loves that. They great news with her, when she was off leash, is that if we turn and run in the opposite direction, she will chase us!!! Ah ha!! Caught ya!!
Forest Poodles says
There is a lot of great info here! It was a good reminder for me to not dole out all treats at once. Spread the joy, as it were!
Jamie Jenkins says
Fantastic training tips – I’ve often wondered if pitch alone would work in an emergency, but I like the pronto word… not in my everyday vocab so it won’t get over-used. I tend to panic if their collar/leash slips or my toddler leaves the door open 0.5 seconds too long… knowing I have a word to use would be better… training starts… PRONTO! 🙂 Thanks so much for the great site and advice, my Pyrs Wyatt and Allie have already benefited so much.
I’m still laughing at “an off-leash pyr is a disapyr.” I am super impressed (and jealous) that you have a breed where you can make all of these punny references. Great post though with great tips too!
Very grateful that our pyr had a emergency recall word back when he was two/ less years old. My husband took him on an errand and accidentally opened the sliding door instead of hitting window button in the van. He jumped out of the car, it was night and raining, and continued on his way in a shopping center. My husband tried to get him, but he was well on his own way! So, he yelled ” Chicken!”, and he stopped and came right to him! Haven’t used a recall since, but maybe I should think of training him with a new recall word, he gets chicken occasionally so I’m not sure it would work again.
Melissa Stoner says
I adopted my pyr Woody last summer. Boise has great foothills trails and I wanted to try an off-leash hike, so I took him to a trail in a very steep canyon with a creek running along the bottom. As soon as the trail hit the creek, he “dysapyred” into the brush and did not come when called. So I pretended I didn’t mind and kept hiking in the direction I’d been going, quietly freaking out to myself. A half hour later he popped out of the creek bed and joined me on the trail. He got lots of treats and was happy to follow me back. He continued to ghost on me a lot on hikes and would also try to guard the trail sometimes, getting aggressive with other dogs. We hike a lot with a dog buddy who is great about sticking to the trail. Six months later he’s pretty darn good about staying with us. But if another dog or hiker or cyclist comes along, the only way to get him not to follow them is to either get him on leash or keep walking the other direction until he makes up his mind to follow us. Most people are pretty good natured about his poor recall because he’s a big fluffy charmer and we choose very remote trails with less traffic. But we need to work on the emergency command. I love that the pyr’s strong will requires you to respect, understand and work with them. It makes for a stronger bond. Thanks for this great blog!
Melissa Stoner says
PS: He’s rarely aggressive with other dogs on the trail anymore. A trainer gave me a great tip: if you hike the same trail all the time, he thinks it’s his territory and will defend it. We have the luxury of miles and miles of trails, so I change up trails regularly and he is much more playful and friendly with the dogs we meet.
I recently “adopted” Leia when her owner had to move to a city for her job and was not able to take her. I thought how hard could it be, I thought her previous owner was exaggerating when she told me stories of her. I was wrong! She is 1 1/2 years old and seriously the most lovable dog ever, but I can never let her off her leash. I also have a 5 year old black lab that never does anything wrong, I’m not kidding, hes very obedient and always has been. Leia can not be trusted. I’m struggling with her. I’m going to try this because over the weekend, she got loose. Thankfully, she didnt run near the highway, but instead ran to the creek behind our house. For an 1 1/2 hours, i tried playing, throw sticks, sounding cheerful and not mad. My lab tried luring her to me over and over again, but nothing worked. She would run close to me and i tried ignoring her so she wouldnt think it was a game, but the minute i reached to her to pet her or anything she would bolt. In the end, my lab tricked her into our barn and i was able to trap her. There has to be something i can do. When she’s on the leash or chained outside, all i do is call her name and she immediately runs to me, but shes completely different if she has nothing holding her back.
Treats works the best for my Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Sherpard rescue. Also, once she turned 3, she calmed down quite a bit; she was a holy terror up to then
My Kaisa, a Pyr/Akbash mix, is 4-1/2 now; she was 10 weeks old when I adopted her and we spent her first year in a neighborhood where she was mostly either in the house or yard or on a leash walk. Then we moved to a place in the country where she has since been free to roam hundreds of acres of woods and fields to her heart’s content, defending the property from coyotes, bears, and other local predators. I struggled with the “come” command for a long time, although it was apparent from early on that she was merely exploring, never lost, and would always return in her own sweet time. She’s very well behaved in many situations where a lot of dogs wouldn’t be, yet she doesn’t respond well to many of the usual dog commands. However, if I speak to her conversationally—exactly what the training manuals say you shouldn’t do with dogs—she pays much more attention. When I’m asking her to stop barking, “Hey Kaisa, thanks for protecting us. I think you’ve scared all the bears within a mile radius at this point; how about you take a break and go lie down now,” or similar input in an upbeat tone has a FAR higher success rate than any simple one-word command. It took me a very long time (just this last year) to discover an emergency recall that works for us. It’s still not a one-word command; it’s just the tone of voice: I make it super deep and growly; to me it sounds harsh and threatening, but it gets her attention immediately when I snap out with complete conviction something like, “STOP right there and DON’T you take another step,” she will—miraculously—actually stop in her tracks (at which point I instantly switch to enthusiastic praise), and often comes straight to me to bury her head between my legs, which is her usual language for “I missed you”/”I’m so happy to see you”/”I’m sorry, don’t be mad”/”please comfort me”. When we’re walking together and she’s off leash, if I hold her collar she’ll shake her head vigorously as if to dislodge me. But if I simply rest my hand lightly on her shoulder or back, she’ll match her pace perfectly to mine, even keeping close enough to stay in contact with my leg. Her adolescence was sometimes a frustrating journey for both of us, but she’s an absolute joy 99% of the time now.
Debora B Marcinkowski says
So reassuring and helpful, in regard to our 2 Great Pyr siblings that we rescued at just 7 weeks old…
Erin Davis says
I’m having such a hard time training my pyr to come when called. Of course he only does things on his own time, which is usually okay. But when training, he gets confused about what I want him to do, so he will ignore any and all treats. I’m focusing on “stand” and “here” because he’s usually napping (LOL), but he just doesn’t understand that I just need him to follow the treat in order to do what I want. I’m going to Petco obedience class for one-on-one lessons, but all he’s learning is if he just lays there, someone will eventually throw a treat at him. Do you have any methods for avoiding this confusion & frustration and instead providing incentives that will make it worth his time?
I grew up with a lab- who of course had an opposite personality, so while I’m used to training methods, I’ve never seen a dog get so confused and give up during training.
Milton Milner says
Our emergency recall word for our pyr is Malcolm Gladwell.
Rhonda M Velasquez says
Ours is Hot Dog!
Rhonda M Velasquez says
Ours is Hot Dog!
Glenda Lee says
My pyr actually is deaf. Any suggestions for us? I’ve never had a dog without a great recall, including my GSD’s. She’s an absolutely wonderful girl but check in goes out the wine w hen freedom is involved.
We believe that our 12 week old Pyr. Pup is also deaf. We don’t know what to do. Does anyone have anything they can share with us. Has others had this problem?
Gail Lessard says
I believed my pyr was deaf too but he eventually proved otherwise. There are still times he tunes out the world for whatever reason.
SAM RIMPEL says
Can you use a “Sport Dog collar” to train a Great Pyrenees?
Kathy Manos Penn says
I love your site. My part GP, who is black, BTW, is working on his second book, and we’ve used the disapyr term in it and the whole thing about NOT coming. Keep the humorous info coming, please. We even mention your website in the book as Lord Banjo’s site…and noting that your three dogs have a cat friend named Indie.
Chris Malcheski says
I just read this article tonight, and in my opinion it is the first and ONLY 100% realistic assessment of the situation I’ve run across. SUCH an awesome read!! Our Pyrenees is out in the very very large back yard right now and will not come inside … for the second consecutive night. The concern is with the neighbors imploding over the noise but since we’re in rural-ish central GA, any neighbors who may have called the Sheriff’s Dept. about the incessant barking probably got the same response we got when we tried getting a deputy to help us get him inside (simply by walking on our porch and knocking on the door): if you didn’t call 911, they’re not going to give you the time of day. These people are definitely not community minded and are not likely to be up for any awards. So our Jack is outside at an ungodly hour, saving the world for democracy by running off anything that flies, walks or runs, and is not shy about doing so. It’s what he does and we’re not going to change it. In this semi-rural setting, God knows he protects this house with a fury that makes my blood curdle and we most definitely don’t want to be toning THAT down. So … in addition to your enormously entertaining writing style, the content was spot on and the most lucid and realistic thing I’ve read on this subject. He loves to be brushed, and you do NOT pass within 10′ of him without his rolling over for the coveted tummy rub. You’re absolutely right – quirks and all, Pyrenees are the most phenomenal dogs in existence. Their beauty is a side benefit. They are purpose DRIVEN.
Annie Nichols says
Well said my rural Great Pyr lover!
L. Brady says
Love the article! Never thought of having a recall word. Good to know for the future, thanks.
Our Sophie passed at 7-yrs – cancer. The number one dog that made me laugh everyday!
Sophie was trainable. She could go off leash and knew most of the basic tricks. She came when called, although taking her sweet time. In all fairness, this only happened after she slipped her collar at age 2-1/2 yrs and was hit by a car. This caused an ear issue and resulted in muti-pills and a cone-collar for a month. It took a difficult learning experience but she respected the rules ever sense. Sophie was an incredible beast and beauty who forever has our hearts.
Annie Nichols says
Oh my goodness! We have a 2 yr old Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Sheppard mix & I was just about ready to get MYSELF therapy! We live in a rural lake community with barely any traffic. Lots of hollars (yeah, I live in the Ozarks) and critters to explore. So…I’ve been letting him off leash on our walks now since we adopted him at 6 months. But, our little community is growing and Quincy HAS to stop at every house with any sight of humans and bound up to say a big ‘ole “Howdy!” Problem is…people all have shotguns around here and he just might bound up to the wrong house.
He will be on leash from now on. I just thought Great Pyr’s were a stubborn breed…had no idea they just plain ‘ole won’t come. (The majority of them anyway!) Thanks for the Emergency Recall tip. We’ll start working on that one!
I will try to train my pyr, but she thinks “No” is good, and “yes” is good. nothing will change her mind!
I have been so lucky with Urska! She has all the Pyr personality and behavioral traits except one. She does not have any desire to roam on her own. She does not consider escaping, even when the kids leave the gate open. She does love a nice long ramble, but checks over her shoulder to make sure I am keeping up and stops and waits if she is more than ten feet away or so. I still keep her on a lead with a halter when we walk – but she is loose leash all the way. I keep her on a long 30 ft. lead when we are out in the unfenced portion of our property, but she sticks right by me. She does not try to go after other animals or people – what she will do is plop down and refuse to move until I go with her to investigate a new (or old) friend – human or otherwise. I would love to have a second pyr, but I am worried he will roam – and teach Urska to roam as well.
My pyr issue is with my mixed Pyrenees and Malinois. She has like two personas on leash and off leash when the independent pyr takes over. Some days the Mal takes over. As the Mal training is near perfect Even on A long line But if she has the chance she will run and start wandering around our grounds. Glad to find this articles and comments to know that I’m not the only frustrated one out there 😂
Jane P says
I just got a rescue “German shepherd “ mix a month ago: 22 mo male, 80 lbs. Today his dna came back: Great Pyrenees 47% & Malinois 45%, German Shepherd 4%, Golden Retriever 4%…
He’s shedding like a son of a gun but training is going pretty well. Plz lmk if you have any tips/tricks for me—I love him
Thank you for this site, I am feeling so much more at ease knowing that my boy is ever so normal listening to all the comments. He is like all the others on here. He is such a joy and I love that he is independent and so smart. But in saying that he is also frustrating at times. He has been great with all our other furkids (goats, cats and horses) since day one. He has a great goofy personality that I just adore. Just as of this last month he’s figured out how big he really is and hops over our 4 plus foot fences with ease, so he has been getting out of his designated yards now. And as you may guess once he is out he does not like to come back until he is tired or hungry. I have been putting him on a tether after his adventures and he look so pitiful and upset about it, a few days of that I let him off and as soon as he knows the coast is clear away he goes again. I was hoping that after a few times of that he would get the hint to just stay in his areas and then he would have all his freedoms but it’s not taking and by the sounds of the other comments on here. It might not any time soon… I’ll keep working on it or end up building higher fences. The things we do for our furry ones.