Great Pyrenees

Table of Contents

great pyrenees portrait
Dive into the fluffy, snow-white world of the Great Pyrenees! These gentle giants are more than just pretty faces. With a unique blend of fierce loyalty, protective instincts, and an endearing love for cuddles, they're the canine world's best-kept secret!

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

Perfect for those who love a big, cuddly companion, the Great Pyrenees is a hit with families and farmers alike. This breed thrives on love and space, making them ideal for homes with large yards or farms. Their protective nature and gentle demeanor make them excellent guardians and playmates.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEGreat Pyrenees
OTHER NAMESPyr, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Chien de Montagne des Pyrénées
ORIGINFrance
BREED GROUPWorking Group
BREED SIZELarge
HEIGHT25-32 inches
WEIGHT85-160 lbs
LIFESPAN10-12 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSHigh
EXERCISE NEEDSModerate
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYModerate
SHEDDING LEVELHigh
POPULARITY RANK69th
great pyrenees standing on green grass
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Appearance

The Great Pyrenees is a breed that can only be described as majestic and awe-inspiring. With their towering height, these gentle giants can stand as high as 32 inches at the shoulder. Don’t be fooled by their size though, as they often tip the scales at over 100 pounds, making them a formidable sight to behold.

These dogs boast an impressive body structure – muscular, yet elegant. Their bodies are slightly longer than they are tall, providing a perfect balance for their large build. The breed’s strength is beautifully masked by a thick, fluffy, snow-white coat that adds an extra layer of grandeur to their appearance.

Their heads are equally impressive, with a slightly rounded crown and a muzzle that’s about the same length as their backskull. Their dark brown, almond-shaped eyes exude a kind and confident expression that will melt your heart. The ears are V-shaped, set at eye level, and drop close to the head, giving them a poised, alert look.

One of the most striking features of the Great Pyrenees is their plush, white coat. This double coat is weather-resistant, with a long and coarse outer coat that’s never curly, but may be slightly wavy. Beneath that lies a dense, woolly undercoat, providing them with ample insulation from harsh weather conditions.

The tail of the Great Pyrenees is another spectacle in itself. It’s set on quite high and reaches at least to the hocks. When the dog is relaxed, the tail hangs down, but when they’re alert or excited, it curls up over the back, forming a plume.

The Great Pyrenees is known for its serene and dignified demeanor. Their facial expression often portrays a sense of wisdom and tranquility, making them appear noble and sophisticated. Despite their size, they move with grace and elegance, each step radiating confidence and poise.

In essence, the Great Pyrenees is a magnificent blend of strength, elegance, and gentleness. Their physical characteristics not only make them visually stunning but also perfectly equip them for their traditional role as a diligent and protective shepherd’s dog.

great pyrenees in a park
Photo: JZHunt/Getty Images

Temperament

The Great Pyrenees is a breed overflowing with personality and charm. These gentle giants are more than just their stunning looks; they have a temperament that endears them to everyone they meet.

At first glance, you might be taken aback by their size, but spend a little time with a Pyr and you’ll quickly discover a dog that’s affectionate, patient, and incredibly calm. These dogs are often described as having a zen-like tranquility about them, which is a testament to their composed demeanor. They exude a peaceful aura that can turn even the most chaotic household into a haven of serenity.

However, don’t mistake their calmness for laziness. The Great Pyrenees is a vigilant protector, always on the lookout for potential threats. This protective instinct is rooted deep within their heritage as livestock guardians, and they take their duty very seriously. Whether it’s your children, other pets, or even your property, rest assured that a Pyr will keep a watchful eye over their loved ones.

Despite their protective nature, Pyrs are not aggressive. They are reserved with strangers, but not hostile. They prefer to assess the situation before making their judgement, showing a level of discernment that’s quite admirable. Their reserved nature shouldn’t be mistaken for shyness; they are confident dogs who simply choose to be cautious.

When it comes to family, the Great Pyrenees is all heart. They form deep bonds with their human companions and are incredibly devoted. They are especially good with children, often adopting a gentle, patient demeanor around them. They love nothing more than being part of family activities and will relish any opportunity to spend time with their loved ones.

Independence is another hallmark of this breed. They are intelligent and capable of making decisions on their own, a trait that was essential in their past as shepherd dogs. This independence, coupled with their quiet confidence, gives them a dignified air that’s hard to miss.

But don’t let their independence fool you into thinking they’re aloof. Pyrs are known for their loving nature. They are affectionate dogs that love to give and receive attention. They might not be as outwardly enthusiastic as some breeds, but they show their affection in their own unique, endearing ways.

great pyrenees smiling
Photo: Kathleen Moir/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The Great Pyrenees requires a special environment to truly flourish. These dogs are more than just a pretty face; they have a unique set of needs that must be met for them to live their best life.

Physical Environment

First and foremost, the Great Pyrenees is a large breed that requires plenty of space. Having been bred to guard livestock in mountainous regions, they thrive in environments where they have room to roam. A large yard or farm is an ideal setting for them, as it allows them to indulge their instinct to patrol and protect their territory.

Climate Adaptability

When it comes to climate, the Pyr’s thick double coat is built for cold weather. They were bred to withstand the harsh winters of the Pyrenees mountains, so they’re quite comfortable in colder climates. In fact, they absolutely love romping around in the snow!

However, that same coat makes them vulnerable to overheating in hot weather. In warmer climates, it’s essential to provide them with plenty of shade and water, and to limit their exercise during the hottest parts of the day.

Ideal Owner

Pyrs love being part of the family. They crave companionship and enjoy spending time with their human pack. Their pet parents should be loving and patient, ready to shower them with affection while respecting their independent nature.

Other Pets

Great Pyrenees are also known for their adaptability when it comes to other pets. They can get along well with other dogs and even cats, especially if they’re raised together from a young age. Their protective instincts often extend to their furry siblings, making them excellent companions for other pets.

great pyrenees standing on snow
Photo: rpbirdman/Getty Images Signature

Grooming

The Great Pyrenees, with their fluffy, white coats and regal bearing, are truly a sight to behold. But maintaining that majestic look requires a bit of effort. So, let’s delve into the world of grooming a Pyr and explore what it takes to keep them looking their best.

Coat Care

First up is their crowning glory – their beautiful double coat. The outer coat is long and somewhat coarse, while the undercoat is dense and woolly. This combination is designed to protect them from harsh weather conditions, but it also means they require regular grooming.

A thorough brushing once or twice a week should keep their coat in good condition. During shedding seasons, which typically occur once or twice a year, you might need to brush them daily to control the loose hair.

For this task, a slicker brush and a rake comb will be your best friends. Start with the slicker brush to remove any loose hair and then follow up with the rake comb to get down to the undercoat. Remember, the Pyr’s coat has natural oils that help keep it healthy, so bathing should only be done when necessary to avoid stripping these oils.

Dental Care

Now, let’s talk about dental care. Just like humans, dogs can also suffer from dental problems if their teeth are not properly cared for. Brushing your Pyr’s teeth at least two to three times a week is ideal to remove tartar build-up and bacteria. Dog-friendly toothpaste and a soft, bristled brush are perfect for this task.

Nail Trimming

Don’t forget about the nails! Great Pyrenees have sturdy nails that grow quickly. Regular trimming is necessary to prevent overgrowth and the problems it can cause. If you can hear their nails clicking on the floor, it’s time for a trim. A good pair of dog nail clippers or a grinder will do the job.

Ear Care

Lastly, every grooming session should also include a quick check of their ears and eyes. Clean their ears regularly with a vet-approved cleaner to prevent infections. Their beautiful, almond-shaped eyes should be clear and bright. Any redness or discharge could be a sign of an infection and should be checked by a vet.

Additional Grooming Tips

Grooming a Great Pyrenees isn’t just about keeping them looking good. It’s also an excellent opportunity to bond with your dog and to check for any skin issues, lumps, or other health problems that may not be immediately visible.

great pyrenees standing in the forest
Photo: HPCPHOTO/Getty Images Signature

Exercise

The Great Pyrenees might not seem like the most active breed, but don’t be fooled. These gentle giants do require a decent amount of exercise to keep them healthy and happy.

Exercise Amount & Types

On average, an adult Great Pyrenees needs about an hour of exercise per day. This doesn’t mean you need to run a marathon with your Pyr. Instead, a good mix of activities will keep them engaged and satisfied. This could include a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood paired with some playtime in the yard.

Due to their background as livestock guardians, Pyrs enjoy having a job to do. Incorporating activities that stimulate their mind as well as their body can be especially beneficial. For instance, simple obedience training or hide-and-seek games can be a fun way to engage their intelligent minds.

Weight pulling is another great activity for this breed. It not only provides physical exercise but also taps into their natural strength and stamina. Plus, it can be a fun and rewarding way for you and your Pyr to bond.

Despite their size, Great Pyrenees are not high-energy dogs. They are equally content to spend time relaxing with their family. However, it’s important not to let their laid-back nature become an excuse for a sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise is crucial to keep them at a healthy weight and prevent potential health issues.

Dog Sports

When it comes to dog competitions, the Great Pyrenees can definitely hold their own. Whether it’s obedience, agility, or even weight-pulling competitions, these dogs have the ability to excel, especially with the right training and socialization.

great pyrenees in the field
Photo: -RoMy-/Getty Images

Training

Training a Great Pyrenees can be an adventure, filled with moments of joy, challenge, and the occasional surprise. These gentle giants are intelligent and independent, a combination that makes them both fascinating and sometimes tricky to train.

The key to training a Pyr lies in understanding their unique temperament. Bred as livestock guardians, they’re programmed to make decisions on their own. This means they might not always see the point in following commands just for the sake of it. But don’t worry – with patience, persistence, and a lot of positive reinforcement, you can successfully train your Great Pyrenees.

Start training early, when your Pyr is still a puppy. This is the time when they’re most receptive to learning new things. Basic obedience training – commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘come’, and ‘leave it’ – is a great starting point. Remember, short, regular training sessions work best to keep them engaged without overwhelming them.

Socialization is another essential part of their training. Expose your Pyr to different people, environments, and experiences to help them grow into a well-rounded adult. This will also help temper their natural wariness of strangers, making them more comfortable in various social situations.

Remember, consistency is key. Be clear and consistent with your commands and expectations. Also, it’s important to be patient. Training a Pyr can take time, but the end result – a well-behaved, confident, and happy dog – is definitely worth the effort.

great pyrenees walking in the snow
Photo: rpbirdman/Getty Images Signature

Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding a Great Pyrenees can feel a bit like catering to royalty. These gentle giants have specific dietary needs that must be met to keep them healthy and happy.

What to Feed & How Much

To start with, it’s crucial to choose high-quality dog food that is appropriate for their life stage (puppy, adult, or senior) and follows the guidelines set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Whether you opt for dry kibble, wet food, or a raw diet, make sure it’s packed with the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Despite their size, Great Pyrenees are not heavy eaters. In fact, they’re known for their relatively modest appetites. Adult Pyrs typically require about 3 to 4 cups of good-quality dry food per day, divided into two meals. However, this amount can vary depending on their age, activity level, and metabolism. Puppies and more active dogs will need more food, while older or less active dogs may need less.

Treats

Treats can play a pivotal role in training your Pyr, but it’s important to use them sparingly. Treats should make up no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake to prevent weight gain. Opt for healthy options like carrot sticks or apple slices instead of calorie-laden commercial treats.

Water

Hydration is another key aspect of their diet. Ensure your Pyr has access to fresh water at all times, especially during the hotter months when they are prone to overheating due to their thick double coats.

Additional Feeding Tips

It’s also worth mentioning that, like other large breeds, Great Pyrenees can be prone to bloat, a serious condition that can be triggered by eating too quickly or exercising immediately after eating. To prevent this, consider using a slow-feed bowl and avoid strenuous exercise around meal times.

great pyrenees walking on a road
Photo: HPCPHOTO/Getty Images Signature

Health

The Great Pyrenees, with their snow-white coats and gentle demeanor, are truly a joy to behold. However, like all breeds, they do have certain health considerations that prospective pet parents should be aware of.

On average, a healthy Great Pyrenees can live between 10 to 12 years. This lifespan can be maximized with proper diet, regular exercise, and timely veterinary care.

Here are common health issues often associated with this breed:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit together as it should, leading to discomfort and potential mobility issues.

Addison’s Disease: This is a hormonal disorder that affects the adrenal glands, impacting the body’s ability to regulate sugar and maintain blood pressure.

Bloat: Also known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), this is a serious condition where the stomach twists, preventing gas from escaping.

Entropion: This is an eye condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing irritation and potential damage to the eye.

Osteosarcoma: This is a type of bone cancer that commonly affects large-breed dogs.

While this list might seem daunting, remember that not all Pyrs will suffer from these conditions. Regular veterinary check-ups can help catch any potential issues early, greatly improving the prognosis.

A balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs can also go a long way in maintaining their overall health. Look for high-quality dog food that follows AAFCO guidelines and is suitable for large breeds.

Lastly, don’t forget about vaccinations! They’re essential in protecting your Pyr from various infectious diseases. Your vet can provide a vaccination schedule tailored to your dog’s specific needs.

two great pyrenees relaxing in a park
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

History

The roots of the Great Pyrenees trace back to Asia around 10,000 to 11,000 years ago. The ancestors of these dogs were likely white mountain flock guard dogs, bred for their strength, endurance, and protective instincts. Over time, these dogs migrated westward, eventually reaching the Pyrenees Mountains that straddle modern-day France and Spain.

In the rugged terrain of the Pyrenees, these dogs found their true calling. They were tasked with the important job of protecting livestock from predators such as wolves and bears. Their thick double coats protected them from the harsh mountain weather, while their keen senses and natural vigilance made them exceptional guardians.

Over the centuries, the Great Pyrenees became an integral part of life in the Pyrenees region. They were so esteemed that by the 17th century, they were declared the Royal Dog of France by King Louis XIV. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the breed began to gain recognition outside their native mountains.

In the late 1800s, the Pyr made its way across the Atlantic to the United States. In 1933, the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), marking a significant milestone in their history.

In popular culture, the Great Pyrenees has been portrayed in various forms of media, from books to movies. One notable example is the book and film “Belle and Sebastian,” where a young boy named Sebastian befriends a Pyr named Belle. The story showcases the breed’s loyalty, bravery, and protective nature.

Despite their rise in popularity, the Great Pyrenees has remained true to its roots. These dogs may no longer be required to guard flocks on mountain slopes, but their protective instincts, patience, and gentle nature remain intact. Today, they are cherished as loving family pets who offer companionship, joy, and a sense of calm to their human families.

Parent Club

The parent club for the Great Pyrenees dog breed in the United States is the Great Pyrenees Club of America (GPCA). GPCA was recognized as the parent club for the Great Pyrenees by the American Kennel Club in 1935. For more detailed information about the club and their activities, you can visit the website.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Great Pyrenees’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

two great pyrenees puppies playing outdoor
Photo: Philippe Lebeaux/Getty Images

Acquiring

Bringing a Great Pyrenees into your home is a big decision, and it’s important to be well-prepared. Consider space requirements, exercise needs, and grooming demands of this large breed.

If you decide to buy, always choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes health and temperament over appearances. Ask to meet the puppy’s parents and see health clearances to ensure you’re getting a healthy pup.

However, consider opening your heart to a rescue Pyr. There are many wonderful dogs waiting for their forever homes. The Great Pyrenees Club of America and the American Kennel Club can help connect you with rescue organizations.

Whether you choose to buy or rescue, remember that bringing a dog home is a lifelong commitment. With love, patience, and proper care, a Great Pyrenees will reward you with loyalty and companionship like no other.

FAQs

Is the Great Pyrenees a good family dog?

Absolutely! The Great Pyrenees is known for its gentle and patient nature, making it an excellent choice for families. They are protective of their family members and get along well with children.

Is the Great Pyrenees bigger than a wolf?

Yes, in most cases a Great Pyrenees is larger than a wolf. Adult male Pyrs can weigh up to 160 pounds and stand 27-32 inches tall at the shoulder, while wolves typically weigh up to 120 pounds and stand 26-32 inches tall.

Why are Great Pyrenees dogs so gentle?

It’s in their nature. Bred as livestock guardians, they needed to be gentle with the animals they protected but also strong and courageous enough to fend off predators. This combination of traits has resulted in a breed that is both powerful and incredibly gentle.

Do Great Pyrenees bark a lot?

Great Pyrenees are known to be vocal. They were bred to guard livestock, and their barking was a way of scaring off predators and alerting shepherds. In a home environment, they may bark to alert you of anything unusual.

Are Great Pyrenees easy to train?

Training a Great Pyrenees requires patience and consistency due to their independent nature. They respond best to positive reinforcement methods. Early socialization and obedience training are crucial for this breed.

How much exercise does a Great Pyrenees need?

Despite their size, Great Pyrenees don’t require extensive exercise. A few short walks and some playtime each day should suffice. They’re also known to enjoy hiking and snow activities.

What health issues are common in Great Pyrenees?

Some common health issues include hip dysplasia, Addison’s Disease, bloat, entropion, and osteosarcoma. Regular vet check-ups and a healthy diet can help maintain their overall health.

Table of Contents