Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees’ goal in life is to protect sheep, goats, livestock, people, children, grass, flowers, the moon, the lawn furniture, bird feeders, from any real or imaginary predators that may intrude on your personal space. And to give tons of unconditional love. Anyone who has seen this stunning white giant becomes enamored. What's not to like? He has a strong build, a beautiful, thick coat, and exudes elegance and majesty. One look and you can see the intelligence and steady temperament that many seek in a good family dog.


the pyrenean mountain dogVital Stats:

Dog Breed Group: Working Dogs

Names and nicknames: Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Patou (FR), or simply Pyr

Height: 70 to 80cm (males) / 65 to 72cm (females) at the shoulder

Weight: 60 to 70kg (males) / 45 to 55kg (females)

Life Span: 10 to 12 years


The Pyrenean Mountain Dog was originally developed to guard flocks alongside shepherds, protecting them from bears and wolves. He keeps working as a guardian angel of the flocks in many regions of Europe, North America and Asia. But nowadays he usually also works in other areas, such as therapy and rescue work. 

The Great Pyrenees is an intelligent dog who is used to working on his own and figuring things out for himself. This can be a wonderful trait, but having a mind of his own can also create some training challenges. It's worth the work, though.

Calm inside the house, he somehow manages not to get underfoot, and has an amazing ability to determine friend from foe. A Pyr is courageous and devoted to his family, protecting those he loves with his life if needed. Many families feel safer with a Great Pyrenees in their home.

When brought up right, he's a social guy who likes to be active and play with other dogs of any breed. He loves children, and it's best to give him as much exposure to them as you can. Once he's trained, you can take him to nursing homes as his size is perfect for those confined to wheelchairs.

Be aware that he barks a lot, because that's his job. He'll vocalize — loudly — to ward off pesky intruders, and he's got a broad definition of intruders. He will bark even more at night because of his extraordinary senses of sight and sound, which enable him to detect coyotes, deer, wolves, raccoons, bear and possum (all of which must be protected against). His vocal styling will definitely scare them away and keep the family and property safe.

A Pyr's hearing is so sensitive he can detect intruders even with all the windows closed in the house, the air-conditioner, TV, and dehumidifier running on high and the iPod playing AC/DC at full blast. He really can hear that well, and he'll definitely let you know all about what he hears.

He'll let you know his emotions, too. Almost all Pyrs use a paw to let their people know how much they are loved. He'll paw on your shoulder while you're driving, on your lap while you're eating, on your leg when a yummy treat is near (even a not-so-yummy treat).

He has double dewclaws — not one dewclaw like most dogs, but two that are near each other. Don't even think of removing them, because he uses them to climb (part of your protection services). Keep the double dews trimmed, as they can easily get caught on fences and tear easily.

He'll make himself at home on any type of furniture; including couches, beds and chairs, even if there's no chance he'll fit. Never mind that detail; he'll squeeze himself in one way or the other, even if it seems physically impossible. A Great Pyr will remind you that his comfort should be of the utmost importance to you. Who the heck do you think king-size beds are made for?

An authentic Patou is affectionate and gentle, hardworking and independent. He can be a devoted family companion or a conscientious career dog. His pride is evident in the regal way he carries himself. Make no mistake — he has a job to do, and he loves to do it.



The Great Pyrenees may eventually live in apartments because he's mellow. But homes with large yards are better.

If you want a dog you can walk off leash, this may not be the dog for you because of his independent thinking and wandering tendencies.

Expect some shedding on a constant basis and at least one major shedding period per year. On the up side, the Great Pyr only requires about 30 minutes of brushing every 2 or 3 weeks.

A Pyr can be difficult to train because of his ability to think on his own. He's not a good match for new or timid dog owners, because he needs consistent leadership and a strong master who will socialize and train him with positive reinforcement.

He's a wonderful watchdog, but he also thrives with his family and should be allowed to live inside the house. He can become bored and destructive when separated from his family or left to live out in the backyard the whole time.

A Great Pyrenees is generally loving, gentle and careful with younger creatures, so he's a wonderful dog for families with children.

He's a hard-core barker and is not recommended for homes where his barking can disturb others.

Great Pyrenees do best in cooler or temperate climates, but don't clip his hair during hot weather. His coat is a natural insulation and keeps him cool.

He needs exercise, but not as much as you'd think — 20 to 30 minutes a day is fine.

To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store.


A Bit of History

The sheep-guarding Great Pyrenees originated in the Pyrenees Mountains, which form a natural border between France and Spain. He's known by Great Pyrenees in the United States or Canada, and Pyrenean Mountain Dog in the United Kingdom and most of Europe.

His ancestry is believed to date back ten to eleven thousand years to dogs who originated in Asia Minor. His ancestors are thought to have come to the Pyrenees Mountains sometime around 5000 B.C. There the breed was developed to create a dog who would aid shepherds.

At first, it was considered to be a dog owned by peasants. But in 1675, the Dauphin in the court of King Louis XIV declared that the Great Pyrenees was the Royal Dog of France. This prompted the French nobility to acquire Great Pyrenees and use them to guard their castles and estates.

Throughout the 1800s the breed gained popularity in Europe, England and the United States. The Pyrenean Mountain Dog was introduced into the St. Bernard's breeding program in Switzerland, in an effort to reestablish the numbers of dogs at the famous hospice where the St. Bernard originated. In the Patous’ homeland, however, the breed began to deteriorate due to unscrupulous breeding practices. After World War II, however, Eurpean breeders began efforts to restore the breed to its former glory.




A calm, gentle, docile demeanor is the norm for a Great Pyr. Shyness, aggressiveness and nervousness are not acceptable whatsoever, but like every dog, the Great Pyrs need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Inviting visitors over regularly and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills. Socialization helps ensure that your Great Pyr puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.

The Patou is gentle, courageous and devoted to his people: the best friend anyone could ask for. He's also a warm blanket and a comforting soul in the night.

He is intelligent, used to working on his own and figuring out things by himself, which means he's an independent thinker and can be stubborn. He manages to be a good guard dog while also being friendly, calm and gentle.




Not all Great Pyrs will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.

Bone Care: Large-breed bones require special consideration. Treat your Great Pyr like an antique until he's about 18 months old. His bones grow so fast that he can have growing pains, which is uncomfortable. He doesn't fill out until he's three or four years old.

Gastric Torsion: Also called bloat, this is a life-threatening condition that can affect large, deep-chested dogs. This is especially true if they are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat is more common among older dogs. It occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists (torsion). The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in the stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen and is salivating excessively and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic and weak, with a rapid heart rate. It's important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you see these signs.

Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don't display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. If you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia.

Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this is also a degenerative disease. It's believed to be caused by abnormal growth and development, which results in a malformed and weakened joint. The disease varies in severity: the dog could simply develop arthritis, or he could become lame. Treatment includes surgery, weight management, medical management and anti-inflammatory medication.

Patellar Luxation: Also known as slipped stifles, this is a common problem in small dogs but can occur in large dogs as well. The patella is the kneecap. Patellar luxation occurs when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, although many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared from a particular condition.



A good fence around your yard is absolutely necessary, and it should be at least four feet but preferably five or six feet high. The Patou is used to roaming while protecting his flocks, and he needs territory. If you don't have a fence to corral him, he'll keep running to grasp territory.

He needs strong leadership and training from the time he's a small pup. Despite his size, he responds better to gentle, positive reinforcement. He is scarily intuitive, has impeccable manners and a prodigious memory: he will never, ever forget anything, which is why you always need to use a kind and gentle approach in training. Negative training makes a Pyr shy, timid and fearful, which is problematic in any dog, even more in a dog of that size.

Crate training benefits every dog and is a kind way to ensure that your Pyr doesn't have accidents in the house or get into things he shouldn't. A crate (a big one) is also a place where he can retreat for a nap. Crate training at a young age will help your Pyr accept confinement if he ever needs to be boarded or hospitalized. Never stick your Pyr in a crate all day long, however. He shouldn't spend more than a few hours at a time in it, except when he's sleeping at night. Great Pyrenees are people dogs, and they aren't meant to spend their lives locked up in a crate or kennel.

The Great Pyrenees need roughly 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day to keep him in his best condition. That's not a lot for a dog this size. He adores cool or cold weather and loves to go for long hikes, except when it is hot. Don’t overwork him in the summer because he needs to be kept cool.

The Great Pyrenees is an intelligent breed and can become bored a bit too easily. Provide proper stimulation with toys to prevent any destructive behavior. He enjoys being with his family and shall not be left alone for long periods.

Training a Great Pyrenees is easier if you start early and maintain kindness and consistency. He needs you to establish the rules as soon as he comes into your home. If you don't want a 70kg dog on your couch, then the cute 15kg fluff ball shouldn't be allowed on the couch either. Patience is the key to training him, but remember that even after basic training you'll never have a dog who can roam off-lead, since he will wander regardless of your cries and commands.

Leash training is also important, especially considering that your Great Pyrenees will eventually use up to 70kg of weight to pull you where he wants to go. Don't let him off-leash as he will, without a doubt, roam.



Coat Color And Grooming

Great Pyrenees are considered to be average to heavy shedders, depending on the climate they live in, so expect to have white hairs on your clothes, furniture, car and toothbrush.

Despite the shedding, he's fairly easy to groom and only requires about 30 minutes of work every 2 or 3 weeks. If his silk-like hair gets dirty, it dries quickly and combs right out. Granted, he leaves white, silky dust bunnies on your floor, but if you collect it and put it outside, birds will use it for their nests — it's a good insulator for their newborn babies.

The Great Pyrenees has a double coat, the top coat and the undercoat. The top coat is long and thick and should be coarse in texture. It may be straight or slightly wavy, but it shouldn't be curly. There should be a mane or ruff around the neck, more pronounced in males; and feathering on the back of the legs, forming a pantaloon on the back thighs. The tail should have a plume and the face and ears should have short, fine hair. The undercoat should be dense and woolly.

He is white or white with markings that can be badger, tan, gray, or reddish-brown in color. The markings can appear on the head, as a mask, on the ears, on the tail, and (occasionally) on the body — but markings should never cover more than one-third of the body.

The undercoat can be either shaded or white.

Other than brushing, the Great Pyrenees coat requires very little care. Baths can be infrequent (once every couple of months, or even less) since his coat tends to shed dirt.

Because his floppy ears block air circulation, they must be checked and cleaned weekly to prevent ear infections. Gently wipe out the ear with a cotton ball moistened with a cleaning solution recommended by your veterinarian. Never stick cotton swabs or anything else into the ear canal or you might damage it. Your Pyr may have an ear infection if the inside of the ear smells bad, looks red or seems tender, or he frequently shakes his head or scratches at his ear.

Begin accustoming your Pyr to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.



Children And Other Pets

A Pyr loves children and is absolutely devoted to them. He'll protect them with his life; in fact, he is tender and delicate toward everything that is small and weak. The Great Pyrenees generally does well with other animals in the house, especially if he's been raised with them from puppyhood. It is as if they were his “flock”. A well-socialized Pyr tends to get along with other dogs.