Great Pyrenees Overview
- Dog Breed:
- Great Pyrenees
- Breed Group:
- Working Dogs (Livestock Guardian Dog)
- Large, calm, protective, affectionate, stubborn
- 26-32 Inches
- 90-130 lb.
- Life Span:
- 10-12 years
- Coat Colors:
- White with occasional tan, grey, or red on the face and ears
- Area of Origin:
- Best For:
- The Great Pyrenees is a wonderful breed that is best suited for families that want a big gentle dog with moderate exercise requirements.
Great Pyrenees Characteristics
Great Pyrenees Gallery
About The Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees resembles a polar bear!
Originally bred for herding and protection
Friendly and affectionate
Have you ever wanted a polar bear? Get ready for the next best thing: a Great Pyrenees. If you squint, they look exactly the same!
Bred for herding and protection, they thrive in homes with lots of land where they can “work” by patrolling the borders. Their love of the cold, large size, and thick coats make them ideal for families with farms or other lifestyles that allow their dogs plenty of time and space outside. Despite this, they are friendly and affectionate animals who love to be with their humans.
The Great Pyrenees (also called the “Great Pyr” or just “Pyr”) is a gentle wooly giant that requires moderate exercise, regular grooming, a patient handler, and a strong fence. They are beloved by those who keep them as working dogs and as a family pet due to their calm temperament and protective instincts.
They are calm despite their giant size, and have less of a tendency to drool than other giant breeds. Although they shed like any other very fluffy dog, you won’t have a problem…as long as you redecorate your entire home in white! If that’s not an option, be sure to train your dog to love the groomer from an early age.
Great Pyrenees Breed History
Origins in the Pyrenees Mountains
Referred to as “Mountain Dogs”
Officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1933
The Great Pyrenees’ origins are in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, after which the breed is named. They were actually referred to as “Mountain Dogs” for years because of this! The first recorded mentions of the breed are from the sixteenth-century, where they were being bred as herding and livestock guardians for flocks of sheep.
Dogs with full white coats were selectively bred in order to make them more visible to their handlers. It made the large dogs easier to see from a distance and made them look distinct from the wolves that they protected livestock from.
Despite being popular with both laymen and the aristocracy, the breed was not formally recognized until the twentieth-century when it was brought to the United States. It was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1933. The Great Pyr is now a beloved breed across the globe!
Great Pyrenees Size & Weight
A giant breed!
This isn’t a large breed: it’s a giant breed! There’s a reason why they are lovingly called polar bears. If it could stand on its hindlegs, it would tower above most humans. Because of this, you may want to think before bringing one into a home with vulnerable people such as small children or the elderly.
As your dog ages, you might need to help support it on the stairs or getting into vehicles This is also true in case of illness: not everyone can lift a hundred-pound dog into their car. If this is a concern, you may want to consider developing a relationship with a vet who does house calls.
Great Pyrenees Personality & Temperament
Calm and protective
Very affectionate breed
Nocturnal by nature
The Great Pyrenees is a calm and protective guardian. Unlike other large working dogs such as the Belgian Malinois, this breed has an easy-going temperament more similar to a Saint Bernard or a Newfoundland. They have an excellent personality and are very affectionate.
One unique aspect of owning this breed that many are unprepared for is its nocturnal nature. It is widely agreed that Great Pyrenees have a tendency to be active at night. If you consider its origins, this makes perfect sense. The breed wants to protect its territory and herd (family, in domestic cases) at its most vulnerable. This is surely at night, when the creatures it protects are asleep.
One behavior that is associated with this is night barking. The Great Pyrenees traditionally protected the flock by barking. For both working dogs and pets, this can often mean that the dog will follow its natural instinct to bark at night. New owners are cautioned to train against this behavior if it becomes an issue.
Big dogs have a big bark!
They can thrive as an outside dog if given adequate shelter from the elements. But like any other dog, this one is man’s best friend and values human companionship above all else. They enjoy the outdoors, but need your attention and love like any other dog.
Great Pyrenees Health & Grooming
Special grooming required due to its double dew claw
Common health problems include hip dysplasia, vision trouble, and heart problems
The Pyr’s massive white coat protects it in summer and winter. It also makes this dog especially fun to pet and cuddle. However, it also means that grooming is very important. It is recommended that this breed be brushed twice a week. They have a double coat, and will shed their undercoat in the spring.
Like other double-coated breeds, you should never shave a Great Pyrenees. If you shave a double-coated dog, you risk the fur never growing back properly. This can cause the dog to overheat in the warm months and freeze in winter. If you have severe allergies or cannot abide shedding, then it might be best to look at other breeds.
A special grooming consideration of this breed is its double dew claw. It can get caught and potentially be ripped. This is very painful for the dog, and thankfully preventable by either regular grooming or professional removal of the dew claw in puppies.
Other common health problems with this breed include hip dysplasia, vision trouble, and heart problems. The best way to keep your dog healthy is to develop a relationship with a good veterinarian. If you get your Pyr as a puppy, make sure that the animal comes from a good source and not a puppy mill or backyard breeder. Your breeder should be able to give you both parents’ health records.
Great Pyrenees Training
Stubborn by nature
Can be difficult to train
Nipping and biting are not expected
The Great Pyrenees is stubborn, loyal, stubborn, affectionate…and even more stubborn. They can be difficult to train. If you have not worked with this breed before, you should reach out to a trainer or attend some training courses. Even a basic obedience class will allow you to, with the help of a professional, learn what learning style best suits your dog.
Nipping and biting are not expected of this breed. However, they can be protective of family members. If you notice biting or nipping behavior in your dog, especially as they grow out of puppyhood, contact a trainer. Even a playful nip from a giant dog can be dangerous.
The Great Pyr is a notorious wanderer, due to its origins as a livestock guardian. And those big legs can cover a lot of ground! Those who keep this breed in a small yard will discover its talent as an escape artist if not given enrichment. Due to their large size, escaping from anything but the sturdiest and tallest of fences is a breeze.
Because of this bad habit, it is recommended that you microchip your Pyr. You should also have your vet annually check that the chip is still in place. This guarantees that your dog has a way to be identified even if it loses its collar.
Great Pyrenees Exercise Requirements
Stubborn by nature
Can be difficult to train
Nipping and biting are not expected
This breed requires a moderate amount of exercise. If they are not working, be prepared to offer them plenty of enrichment. They want to feel like they have a job. Regular walks can act as “patrols” and teaching them to let you know when you have visitors can help them feel like they are protecting the home.
In fact, training them to alert you to different situations is a wonderful way to both enrich their lives and harness their working instincts.
They are an affectionate breed, and can be quite playful. This is very cute when you have a fluff ball of a puppy. Remember that your lovely little marshmallow is going to grow upwards of seventy, or even one-hundred, pounds. Curbing behavior such as jumping early is important to make sure that your life together is a happy one.
Great Pyrenees Diet & Feeding
Big dogs burn through a lot of calories!
High protein and healthy fats are important
Don't free feed this breed
Every dog has its own dietary requirements based on breed and other factors. Because of this, you should always consult with a veterinarian or animal nutritionist about your dog’s specific needs. This is the best way to make sure that your dog has a long and healthy life.
And remember: a dog’s nutritional needs change as they grow up. At every stage of life stage, you should reassess what you’re feeding your pet. A puppy, an adult dog, and a senior dog of the same breed will have very different needs.
That being said, there are some things you can know for sure before bringing home this wonderful breed. It will come as no surprise to you that most of these considerations are tied to size. They eat a lot!
Big dogs burn through a lot of calories. There are several dog foods marketed specifically for large breeds that will help your dog stay strong and healthy. High protein and healthy fats are important to maintaining their muscle mass and fluffy coats.
You should not free-feed this breed, as you don’t want your dog to become overweight. It can be difficult for an obese Great Pyrenees to lose extra pounds because they prefer moderate exercise and are already large.
PSA: Pay attention to what treats you feed and what your dog sticks his nose into outside… a big dog with an upset stomach can make one heck of a mess!
Great Pyrenees Rescue Groups
One of the most rewarding things you can do is rescue a dog. If you have your heart set on a Great Pyrenees, consider looking at breed-specific rescues. If you decide to get your puppy from a breeder, make sure that the breeder is reputable and can give you a full history of the parents’ health and lineage. If you decide to look at rescues, here are a few to get you started:
- National Great Pyrenees Rescue https://www.nationalpyr.org
- Great Pyrenees Rescue Society https://www.greatpyreneesrescuesociety.org
- Northeast Pyr Rescue http://www.nepyresq.org
You can also search rescue sites like www.Petfinder.com by breed, or reach out to local animal rescues and tell them to let you know if your breed of choice is ever available to foster or adopt.