Great Pyrenees – Everything You Need To Know

The Great Pyrenees is a purebred working dog primarily bred to guard sheep against wolves and other predators in the mountains bordering Spain and France. However, they are a great family and therapy dogs in recent times. The Great Pyrenees are huge with a fluffy white coat and are beautifully majestic. They are intelligent, hard-working, protective, and have a mind of their own. They have a fantastic ability to detect threats, differentiate friends from foes, and keep their family and property safe. 

The Great Pyrenees have an extraordinary hearing potential which enables them to detect any noise even with closed windows or loud music. They are also very loud and vocal to scare off intruders and predators. The Great Pyrenees are known for their remarkable senses of light and sound, which had been their boon for centuries to wade off any kind of danger or threat to their family and property. These snow-white pooches are also incredibly affectionate and never fail to express their love using their paws. She makes you feel safe and will be someone to pour love on and ask for nothing but your company.

Great Pyrenees Pros and Cons

Good family petsHigh barking level
Devoted and gentleHigh shedding
Minimal exerciseDestructive

Great Pyrenees Basic Information

  • Name: Great Pyrenees
  • Origin: France
  • Group: Working dog
  • Size: Large
  • Height: Male: 27-32 inches,  Female: 25-29 inches
  • Weight: Male: 100- 160 pounds, Female: 85- 115 pounds
  • Coat: Thick double coated
  • Color: White with markings of gray, tan, badger, red, brown, reddish-brown.
  • Energy: Medium
  • Activities: Walking, herding
  • Barking Level: High
  • Shedding Level: High
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Litter Size: 8-10 puppies
  • Other Names: le grande chien de montagnes (the big dog of the mountains), le chien des Pyrenees (the dog of the Pyrenees), Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Pyr.
  • Original Passtime: Herding, guarding
  • Life Span: 10-12 years

History of Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees were bred to guard sheep against predators. Their origin is believed to be in the Pyrenees Mountains, which form a natural border between France and Spain. Their ancestors are believed to have originated in Asia Minor ten thousand years ago and slowly made their way to the Pyrenees around 3000 BC. The first written record mentioning the Great Pyrenees dates back to a Roman author from the first century BCE. However, you can find a more detailed description in the documents and information dating back to the 1400s. Initially, they were primarily bred only by peasants and individuals, but slowly, they started to mark their presence in the aristocratic circle. 

Great Pyrenees was declared the Royal Dog of France in the court of King Louis XIV. From then on, people used them to guard the estates of the French nobility. Eventually, they were imported to North America and gained popularity throughout Europe, England, and the United States in the 1800s. Unfortunately, unethical breeding practices in their homeland and the world wars led to the deterioration of the breed. As a result, several Great Pyrenees puppies and dogs were imported to the USA during the World Wars. However, exemplary efforts by reputable breeders after the war to restore their glory helped revive the breed, and they are now the most loved dogs around the globe.

Great Pyrenees Highlights

  • General Lafayette brought the first Great Pyrenees to the USA in 1824 as a present for his friend, J.S.Skinner.
  • The Fossil deposits of the remains of the Great Pyrenees date back to the Bronze age (1800 – 1000 BC).
  • In the mid-19th century, Queen Victoria of England owned a Great Pyrenees puppy.
  • They make a wonderful family dog creating a strong bond with their family, and need early socializing.
  • The Great Pyrenees are loud and bark a lot to keep their families alert and protect them from threats.
  • The Great Pyrenees have dew claws on their rear limbs, used for climbing.

Great Pyrenees Personality

The Great Pyrenees are large-sized dogs. They are powerfully built, grow around 27 to 32 inches, and weigh 85-160 pounds. They are muscular and thickly double-coated, whose outer coat is long, coarse, straight, or wavy, and the under-coat is soft and thick. The coat colors include white with tan, gray, red, or brown markings. 

The Great Pyrenees have dark brown and regally expressive eyes, round and black noses, triangular ears drooping downwards, and long, plump, and fluffy tails. The Great Pyrenees are gentle souls that look amazingly beautiful with a blend of majesty and elegance.

Friendliness Overview

Affection levelHigh

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment livingLow
Good for new ownersLow
Sensitivity levelHigh
Tolerates being aloneLow 
Cold toleranceHigh
Heat toleranceMedium

Great Pyrenees Physical Features

  • Head: The head is wedge-shaped with a slightly rounded crown and is proportional to the body. The eyes are almond-shaped, medium-sized, rich dark brown with intelligent expression. The ears are small to medium-sized, v-shaped with rounded tips; the muzzle and skull are equal in size and blend smoothly; the cheeks are flat and the nose and lips in black.
  • Neck: The neck is strong and medium length.
  • Topline: The backline is level and firm. They have a deep and muscular chest.
  • Body: The body is broad and strongly built. The rib cage is well sprung and oval-shaped. Back and loin are broad and strongly coupled.
  • Tail: Tail bones are long that they reach the hock. The tail is plumed and long. 
  • Forequarters: The shoulders are laid back, muscled, and close to the body. The forelegs have sufficient bones and muscles to provide balance. Each foreleg carries a dewclaw. The front feet are well padded, round, close cupped, and toes are well arched.
  • Hindquarters: The hindquarters are well balanced and powerful. The hips and thighs are muscular. The feet are firm, round, well-padded, and close cupped with arched toes.
  • Coat: The Great Pyrenees have thick double coats that are weather-resistant. The outer coat is long, flat, and coarse, with straight or slightly wavy hair. The undercoat is soft and wooly. The forelegs and rear legs have featherings called a pantaloon effect. The hair is longer in the tail.
  • Color: White with markings of gray, red, brown, tan, reddish-brown.
  • Gait: The gait is smooth and elegant, exhibiting power and agility. Well-balanced with good reach and strong drive.

Great Pyrenees Temperament

Great Pyrenees are herding dogs that are protective and devoted to their families. They are calm, gentle, loving, and trustworthy. The Great Pyrenees have good senses of light and sound and can detect threats precisely. They bark a lot and are loud as they try to alert the families of the possible dangers and wade off the predators. They are independent and have a mind of their own. They sometimes get aggressive when there is any potential threat or predators nearby. Your dogs create strong bonds with  families and make a great family dog. They are expressive and communicate their feelings with their paws. They are watchful and patient and do well with children and other pets with early socialization. Overall, they are adorable gentle giants devoted to guarding their homes and never fail to say, ‘I love you, human’ in their way. The overall temperament includes:

  • Gentle
  • Affectionate
  • Patient
  • Confident
  • Strong-willed
  • Fearless

Great Pyrenees Training

Great Pyrenees are independent and may be challenging to train and need perseverance and consistency in training. Like any other dog breed, they require early socialization and proper training. They are sensitive to any adverse reactions and need positive reinforcement while training. They love being around people, and treats and cuddling do wonders while training. They look forward to the training sessions, playing fetch, which helps in training regarding behavioral corrections. Also, crate training helps the puppy to be safe and prevents accidents. They enjoy playtime and tricks, and this mental stimulation keeps these dogs happy. Leash training is essential for Great Pyrenees puppies as they have a high prey drive and may wander off.

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Trainability Overview

Easy to trainLow
Prey to driveHigh
Mouthiness tendenciesLow 
Barking and Howling tendenciesHigh
Wanderlust tendenciesHigh

Great Pyrenees Exercise Needs

Great Pyrenees are active dogs and require minimal exercise. They are developed to herd livestock and protect them from the wolves. They enjoy doing activities like obedience trials and cart-pulling, which help in physical and mental stimulation.

A moderate walk of 30-40 minus per day is ideal and keeps them healthy and happy. In addition, a proper exercise routine helps the dog with the following benefits.

  • Social interaction
  • Weight control
  • Stress relief
  • Behavioral corrections like excessive chewing, persistent barking
  • Brain stimulation
  • Strengthening muscles
  • Routine toileting
  • Mental health and happiness

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy levelHigh
Exercise needsHigh

Great Pyrenees Grooming

Great Pyrenees are low-maintenance dogs and considered average to heavy shedders. They are easy to groom, and the coat needs to be brushed 2-3 times per week. Brushing helps remove clump hair and pull out the loose fur during shedding. One of the essential parts of grooming is bathing which keeps the dog clean. However, frequent bathing causes dry skin and itches. 

  • Bathing your dog using pH-balanced shampoos and pet wipes will keep your dog’s coat fresh, clean, and shiny. You can also bathe them once a week. However, daily brushing helps to keep the fur from knots and tangles
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  • Brush their teeth daily to prevent plaque and other dental problems. Never brush the teeth with a stiff brush as it will harm the gums and teeth. Also, make sure to use dog-friendly toothpaste. 
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  • Clean their eyes.
  • Clip their nails as a part of everyday grooming needs. Their toenails need to be checked once a week as longer nails may harm and injure the dog. You can trim the toenails with a commercial dog nail trimmer or with the help of a vet or professional groomer. 
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Grooming Overview

Easy to groomHigh
Drooling tendenciesHigh
Amount of sheddingHigh

Great Pyrenees Health

Great Pyrenees are healthy dogs and may not develop any health concerns. But it always helps to know when to take your pup to the vet.

General healthLow
Weight gain tendenciesHigh

Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is outwardly a painful disease that occurs when the bones of the back legs do not fit properly in the joints. While some dogs will exhibit symptoms, the majority of canines will not. Hip dysplasia is primarily genetic, although other causes such as accidents, excessive weight gain, and inappropriate training can also cause it. Even though this disease is fatal, therapies range from medicine to hip replacement surgery. To avoid this problem, avoid breeding dogs with hip dysplasia parentage and get annual examinations.

Other Causes of Hip Dysplasia: 

  • Injuries 
  • Excessive weight gain 
  • Wrong exercises 
  • This condition causes defects or damage to the hip bones and joints and worsens without treatment.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include

  • Reduced activity and movements
  • Reluctance to rise, jump, run or climb
  • Lameness in the hind limbs
  • Reducing thigh muscle mass
  • Swaying, “bunny hopping” gait
  • Grating in the joint during movement
  • Enlarging shoulders
  • Pain
  • Stiffness

Gastric Torsion: Bloat, commonly known as gastric torsion and gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a potentially fatal condition when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and twists. It is more common in deep-chested breeds.

Elbow Dysplasia: This disorder occurs when the elbow joint bones don’t fit appropriately. This condition generates abnormal pressure at the joint, leading to chronic rubbing and painful osteoarthritis. 

Symptoms include:

  • Mild to moderate pain  
  • Lameness in the forelimbs 

Cataract: As in humans, canine cataracts are characterized by cloudy spots on the eye lens that can grow gradually. Cataracts may develop at any age and often don’t damage vision, although in some cases cause vision loss. A board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist certifies the breeding dogs after testing them free of hereditary eye disease before breeding. Usually, you can remove cataracts surgically with good results. 

Patellar Luxation: When the dog patella (kneecap), which typically lies in the cleft of the femur (thighbone) slips out of position, it is known as luxating patella. If the patella luxates, your dog may feel periodic hind limb “skipping,” lameness, or locking up the leg at an abnormal angle. 

Entropion: Entropion is when the eyelid rolls inward, irritating the eyeball from eyelashes rubbing on the surface. In critical cases, entropion can cause a corneal ulcer. The treatment for this disease is surgical.  

Addison’s Disease: This hazardous disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, is triggered by the adrenal gland’s inadequate adrenal hormone development. Addison’s disease causes most dogs to vomit, have a low appetite, and be drowsy. Since these symptoms are ambiguous and may be mistaken for other illnesses, it’s possible to overlook this disorder until it’s too late. When a dog is depressed or where potassium levels rise, they interfere with heart activity, causing extreme shock and death, and more severe symptoms appear. If your veterinarian suspects Addison’s disease, they can run a battery of tests to validate the diagnosis.  

Anesthesia Sensitivity: This condition can affect dogs with low metabolism like Great Pyrenees. Inform your vet about it before treatment.

Bone Care: Large breed dogs need extra bone care as the bones grow faster and may develop pain and discomfort. They need to be kept with special care and consideration until about 18 months old.

Spay or Neuter: In spay, the ovaries or uterus in females is removed, and in the neuter, the testicles of the male dogs are removed. It is done to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy or fathering unwanted puppies and decrease the likelihood of certain types of cancer.

Recommended Tests for Great Pyrenees

  • X-Rays 
  • CT Scan 
  • Eye Examination 
  • Physical Examination 
  • Blood tests
  • Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease
  • From Auburn University for thrombopathia.
  • The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifies that eyes are normal.
  • BAER tests

Great Pyrenees Diet and Nutrition

Great Pyrenees are well built giant-sized dogs and need a large quantity of high-quality food. They should eat 4-6 cups of food every day. Each puppy is distinctive, and the correct amount and quality of food depend on their age, weight, activity level, health, and more. You can also split the meals into two 2 cups daily. 

Great Pyrenees are prone to obesity, and hence overfeeding must be avoided. Great Pyrenees pups can be given low- protein, high quality dry food. You can also feed them with fruits and vegetables that provide carbohydrate energy. Never hesitate to consult a vet to meet your pup’s dietary requirements to keep them happy and healthy.

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Great Pyrenees Living Condition

Great Pyrenees love to be around their humans and are protective. They are not suitable to live in apartments or perfectly fit in homes with bigger yards. They excel in sports and love outdoor activities like obedience training and cart-pulling. They are also content and happy with indoor games, toys, and play sessions with their owners. They love the attention of their owners and suffer from separation anxiety when left alone, which may lead to destructive behavior. They do well in homes with children,  other pets, and animals with early socialization. They have strong senses of sound and light and should be kept on a leash or within a fenced yard for safety. Great Pyrenees do very well in the cold and moderately well in hot weather conditions.

Did You Know? 

  • The Great Pyrenees are well suited for rural settings with big yards and don’t suit the apartments.
  • They are independent and should be on a leash as they may wander off. 
  • The Great Pyrenees have a high shedding level and should be brushed at least 30 minutes per week.
  • They have double declaw that should not be removed but trimmed periodically.
  • The Great Pyrenees require continuous and consistent training due to their independent nature.
  • Great Pyrenees is a famous canine actor in French films due to his stunning fluffy looks.
  • Great Pyrenees are good at pulling carts and herding livestock. So in France, he is called Patou, meaning ‘shepherd.’

Great Pyrenees Recognition 

  • American Kennel Club (AKC)
  • United Kennel Club (UKC)
  • Great Pyrenees Club of America (GPCA)

Adding a Great Pyrenees to Your Family

Things to remember before adding a Great Pyrenees to your family

Getting a Great Pyrenees puppy from a reputable breeder is best to prevent unavoidable circumstances like health disorders and provide you with vaccination certificates. It is best to check with the puppy’s parents to ensure his health and happiness. Always remember the following red flags to avoid backyard breeders and puppy mills.

  • Puppies are available around the year.
  • You can choose from a variety of litter that is always available.
  • We recommend you visit the puppy and his parents and get health clearance and vaccination certificates, to avoid purchasing a weaker puppy.

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Cost of a Great Pyrenees Puppy

The cost of a Great Pyrenees puppy ranges from $800 to $4000

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