Great Pyrenees: Is this the breed for you?
You’ve seen these big, beautiful white dogs. You’re impressed, naturally. You think you want one. This is understandable. But . . . is this the breed for you? They are not the ideal pet for everyone!
The mature, sedate Great Pyrenees which you have seen did not just materialize suddenly. It grew from a cuddly, lovable ball of fluff which at 8-12 weeks of age is most captivating. From puppyhood to adulthood is a great distance and a considerable time. As a breed they are remarkably healthy and long lived. They have few major genetic problems and usually live to be 10-12 years old.
Pyrs combine a great intelligence with a deep devotion to family and home, and a natural-born instinct to guard and protect. While trustworthy, affectionate, gentle and tractable, they can become, when and if the need arises, protective guardians of their family and their territory. Thus, they command respect as watch dogs as well as admiration as pets.
Adult Pyrs are placid by nature and calm in the house, enjoying quiet periods in which to rest and sleep. But they are a large breed and as such are not always suited to life in a small apartment or urban setting with little yard space and lots of activity around. They want their life to be consistent and predictable.
The addition of a dog to your family is a major decision and deserves a great deal of time and thought. A Great Pyrenees is placid by nature, so despite their size, they are excellent house dogs. Yes, an adult Pyr is a beautiful, calm dog, but there are other considerations-have you thought of these?
Are you physically able to handle a very large dog? Basically gentle, they are strong, and during the phases of puppyhood can be a real challenge.
Does dog hair around the house bother you? If so, forget the Pyrenees. While with routine grooming they are not much different than any other breed, they do shed and there are white hairs in Pyr homes and on Pyr people.
A Pyr needs love and attention on a daily basis. Are you and your family able to provide this? A lonesome Pyr is a bored dog, and a bored dog can become destructive. Great Pyrenees are at heart guard dogs and members of the great family of livestock guardian dogs. As such, they share with them certain strong characteristics. Pyrs were bred to be left alone with the sheep up in the mountain valleys. They are a guard dog by instinct, not by training. Their basic personality isdifferent from most breeds, since most breeds were bred to take commands from people, while Pyrs were bred to work on their own.
A Great Pyrenees is an intelligent, sometimes willful animal. They have minds of their own and are not easily obedience trained. Things that you consider important may not be the same things your Pyrenees considers important. Many are almost cat-like, in their independence.
Do you have room for a Pyr? They are large and must be confined in a well fenced area, or they will exercise their powerful instinct to establish and patrol a large territory. When out of the fence they must be kept on lead at all times. If you require a dog who will be a great “off-leash” companion for your outdoor activities, if you want a dog who will follow your every command, or if you want a competition obedience dog, the Pyrenees is probably not for you.
Like all livestock guardian breeds, Great Pyrenees are barkers, especially at night. The amount of barking varies from individual to individual, but the instinct is there and in some cases can cause major problems. Most Great Pyrenees in urban or suburban settings must be kept indoors at night.
The Great Pyrenees is a guard dog and as such cannot be expected to welcome uninvited intrusions onto your property. They will accept anyone whom you invite into your home. They are not “attack” dogs, but can be very intimidating to the surprised visitor. It is an owner’s obligation to maintain a Great Pyrenees so that his guarding instincts can be exercised in a responsible way. These are things to think about. If you find you’ve answered them honestly and still want a Pyr, here are some suggestions as to how you should choose your puppy.
Adapted from a publication of the Great Pyrenees Club of America, rev. 1992.