Does your Great Pyrenees bark? If so, you are not alone. There are several reasons that the Great Pyrenees is surrendered to rescue, but the most common reasons include size, their tendency to roam, and to top off the list – Great Pyrenees bark. A lot.
Whenever I talk with potential adopters about pyrs we always discuss what they should expect in regard to barking. They usually respond with, “Oh, my (insert breed here) barks all the time. I’m used to it.” I let out a chuckle and think, “we’ll see how you feel later”. I often joke that anyone interested in a Great Pyrenees should take Mauja for 24 hours and then decide how they feel about their current dog’s barking.
Great Pyrenees don’t typically bark much as a puppy, so a puppy’s bark is not indicative of how the dog will act once mature. Usually around 6-8 months, your Great Pyrenees will ‘find his voice’ as he matures into the guard dog he was meant to be. Mauja’s always been a barky butt (as we lovingly call her), but Atka didn’t make a peep until almost 9 months old.
Mauja and Atka bark at people, dogs, plastic bags, screeching cars, birds, someone shoveling, kids playing, yelling on TV, weird noises, objects that aren’t where they are ‘supposed to be’, and us when they’re feeling particularly sassy. Great Pyrenees bark at anything they feel could possibly be a threat. Furthermore, they don’t stop barking shortly after the sound occurs or when the person is beyond the yard. Great Pyrenees bark and bark until they are absolutely, positively sure that their message was heard and understood.
You cannot train a Great Pyrenees not to bark.
Let me say that again.
You cannot train a Great Pyrenees not to bark.
Yes, you can absolutely manage the barking, reduce its frequency and intensity, and remain on the good side of your neighbors, but attempting to eliminate pyr barking is going against their natural instincts. Asking a pyr not to bark is like asking a bird not to fly or a fish not to swim. I’m a firm believer in working with your dog’s natural instincts, not against them.
Great Pyrenees bark during the day and night. There are several tactics to help reduce the amount of barking and find a middle ground between your desires and your pyr’s instincts.
Great Pyrenees Day Barking
The Great Pyrenees is a livestock guardian dog who was born with the natural instinct to guard his flock. The flock need not be livestock; it can very well be your family. Pyrs are not attack dogs and generally will not become aggressive with predators unless the situation becomes dire. They prefer to intimidate their enemy through their giant size and booming bark. Attempting to prevent your pyr from guarding will just lead to a confused, unhappy, and unstable dog.
A lot of the time, Great Pyrenees bark at things you can’t see or hear. Rest assured, they are indeed barking at something. It might be the sketchy-looking leaf that just blew by your backyard or a person coughing 3 miles away, but they are barking at something!
Dealing with Great Pyrenees barking during the day is a bit easier because you will generally have more understanding neighbors when the sun is shining. The technique that has worked time and time again is to thank Mauja and Atka for barking (read more about that technique here). Praising your dog for doing his/her job will go a long way in minimizing the amount of barking. However, sometimes your Great Pyrenees will get so worked up about something you can’t hear or see and nothing you say or do will quiet him down. Mauja and Atka will ignore their highest value treats when they are in serious guard dog mode. Simply bring your pyr inside (you’ll definitely have to go outside and get him!) until he calms down so your neighbors don’t hate you.
Ideas To Reduce Barking
Socialize, socialize, socialize. Allow your pyr to experience the world around him and learn about different sources of stimulation. Socialization will allow him to determine what is ‘normal’ in his world and what are the possible sources of threat. Regardless of whether your pyr is 10 weeks or 7 years, socialization should occur. Dogs are most receptive to socialization as a puppy, but that doesn’t mean it should be neglected at an older age. The Great Pyrenees is naturally aloof so socialization will help prevent your pyr from being suspicious of those around him.
Exercise. Great Pyrenees have relatively low activity needs, but their exercise should not be pushed aside. 30-60 minute brisk walks each day will help your pyr to learn even more about the world and hopefully limit boredom barking. Great Pyrenees were bred to do a job so they need to be given the opportunity to use that energy in a productive way. Without proper exercise, pyrs will bark incessantly and/or become destructive.
Mental stimulation/training. The Great Pyrenees is an incredibly smart, yet independent, breed of dog. It’s important not to confuse independent with dumb. Pyrs were bred to work on their own without human direction so they typically have little interest in obedience training. However, it’s important to exhaust their minds to help lessen their barking. It will take time, but find what works for your pyr and keep sessions short as they bore easily. Atka has his Advanced Canine Good Citizen certification – it can be done! Kongs and other interactive toys are also great for keeping your pyr’s brain busy.
Thank your Great Pyrenees. This is hands down, the best technique I’ve tried so far. Never yell at your pyr for barking; he is doing his job! I talk more in-depth on this technique to reduce Great Pyrenees barking here. When you thank your pyr, go outside or over to him and acknowledge his work. Let him know that you’re grateful for the alert but you’ll take it from here. Your Great Pyrenees knows he needs to protect you, but he also knows that you will protect him.
Great Pyrenees Night Barking
The Great Pyrenees is nocturnal by nature so typically their barking will increase once the sun goes down. Nighttime is when most predators will be active, so the Great Pyrenees had to adapt to best protect its flock. I have found that the most successful way to keep pyrs quiet at night is to establish a consistent bedtime routine.
Our bedtime routines started with Mauja and Atka on day one to try and get them on the same schedule as us. Every night we would do the same thing: evening potty break, bedtime treat, snuggles and a bedtime song (yes, I’m serious), and then finally crate time (when we were still working on house-breaking). Once they were each housebroken, our last step was to close the bedroom door so they were in there with us overnight.
A proper bedtime routine has been a complete game-changer for so many people who are frustrated by their pyr’s nighttime barking. People even tell me that they thought the bedtime song was ridiculous until they tried it. Some pyr’s latch so tightly to their routines that they’ll cry if you try and finish without their usual song! Mauja and Atka’s nighttime routine no longer includes the song, but we still do the same thing every night to keep things consistent.
I would also recommend purchasing a fan or a white noise machine to filter out the sounds that your Great Pyrenees will inevitably hear. I also advise against keeping your window open if you are still struggling with nighttime barking. They have exceptional hearing so Great Pyrenees bark at things you can’t hear. You want to drown out as many noises as possible.
Unless you live in the country and are using your Great Pyrenees as a livestock guardian, it is not recommended to leave them outside overnight. Mauja and Atka would be so incredibly happy if we let them outside overnight, but we would have the police knocking at our door at 1 am due to noise complaints. Trust me. When it’s dark they do. not. shut. up. I never worry that anything will sneak up on us, though!
Great Pyrenees bark. There are some pyrs that are naturally quiet, but they are the rare exception to the rule. Don’t get a puppy and expect to be able to raise him not to bark; their instinct is incredibly strong. If you are hoping to share your life with a quieter Pyrenees, talk with rescue groups where the dogs are living in foster homes. This will give you a better idea of what to expect in the dog (but remember, you never truly know how a dog will act in a different home).
If you learn to appreciate the breed-specific traits of a Great Pyrenees, you will never be able to imagine your life without one <3