Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Great Pyrenees is considered one of the oldest natural dog breeds of all times. Some people believe that it has first appeared around 3000 BC. The Great Pyrenees looks like a large white bear thanks to its size and protective double coat. Its native instincts make it both an excellent guard dog for sheep and a good companion. Also, it is one of children’s favorite pet because it has a patient and loving temperament. It is very eager to get attention from others and it quickly attaches to its owners. Leaving this dog type alone or chained is never a good idea.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Working Dogs
Height:Generally 2 feet, 1 inch to 2 feet, 8 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:Generally 85 to 160 pounds
Life Span:10 to 12 years

Like all mountain dogs, the Great Pyrenees descends from the Tibetan dog and was transported to Europe in the fifth century by no others than migratory people. It is believed that this dog breed is also related to other dog breeds from Europe, such as the Kuvasz and the Marenna. In addition, it is considered a relative of Saint Bernard and the Terranova too, which is also known as the Newfoundland. During the eighteenth century, it was very beloved by the French nobility.

The Great Pyrenees is a quiet, balanced, courageous and intelligent dog. Loyal and devoted to its owners, accepts and loves children. Protective and even territorially aggressive toward big dogs, it doesn’t have any problems with small dogs or other types of animals. This dog breed may sometimes be characterized by being difficult and stubborn. In addition, it tends to be nocturnal since its guarding services are mostly needed during the night.

This dog breed is weather resistant and feels good in the open. A place where it can move around a lot and don’t stay chained is ideal for it. This dog needs movement together with an active family. Left and forgotten in a yard, the Great Pyrenees doesn’t react well. Among others, it may begin to dig holes and forget to stop. It could adapt to the living conditions from a house, but the available space should be big enough and daily walks should occupy a generous part of its day.

The Great Pyrenees is an intimidating dog because of its size and its attitude. It is not very welcoming when it comes to strangers invading its territory. Some of these dogs tend to bark excessively if they are not trained to abstain.

Main Highlights
  • The Great Pyrenees is considered a noble relative of the Saint Bernard and the Newfoundland with which it was crossbred.
  • A large and imposing dog, the Pyrenees has a strong construction, but, at the same time, it is also athletic and somewhat elegant, as well as confident on its strengths. It is a gentle and intelligent dog.
  • The coat of this dog breed is totally white, but it may have gray, beige or brown spots on it. This breed’s standard requires the presence of 2 spurs on each hind leg.
  • This dog type needs a lot of exercise, especially if it is raised in the city. In the hot season it tends to become sedentary, so daily walks are essential for its health.
  • The Great Pyrenees likes to do different chores and is always ready for any type of work. When it is not used for anything in particular, its exercising needs increase.
  • These days, this dog breed is spread throughout Europe and the US, where it was used for the creation of other dog breeds.
Breed History

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog was developed in the Rocky Mountains of the Pyrenees and is considered to be a follower of the mastiff-type dogs. The Baltic and North Sea coasts are still populated by dogs belonging to this breed these days as well. It is also a descendant of the Hungarian dog called Kuvasz, the Saint Bernard and the Newfoundland.

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog, also known as the Great Pyrenees was originally used to guard sheep from bears and wolves. Of course, sheep were not the only livestock, but these dogs seemed to handle them well. Some of them were trained to pull sleds because they were strong enough and resistant enough to do so.

In the eighteenth century, the Great Pyrenees was very appreciated and loved by the French nobility. In 1675, this dog breed was declared by the Dauphin from King Louis XIV’s court, the Royal Dog of France even if not long ago it was owned just by peasants. After gaining this certification, this dog type became even more popular and has become increasingly sought by the nobles of France, who preferred them as guarding dogs for their mansions.

In time, the Great Pyrenees has spread from France to the US and then in England. It has become known and appreciated by most people. General Lafayette used to love this dog type so much, that is has publicly spoken about it in 1824. In 1933, most specifically in February, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club, which included it in the working dogs category.


The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is a large sized dog that is sometimes included in the giant dog category. The average height for a male dog is known to be between 27 to 32 inches, while for a female dog is estimated to somewhere between 25 to 29 inches. Females are much lighter than males, weighing between 85 and 115 pounds. The same cannot be said about males, which weigh between 100 and 160 pounds on average if they are properly fed.

Personality and Character

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog has a calm temperament. It is a very docile and friendly type of dog. Shyness, aggression and nervousness are not characteristic for this dog breed. Even so, it is still recommended for it to socialize as much as possible starting with its childhood.

The Great Pyrenees is very affectionate and attentive to its owners. When and if the situation calls for it, it takes things very seriously. Brave and devoted to its owners, this dog type really behaves like it’s man’s best friend. This dog is ideal for assisted therapies in orphanages and for the elderly.

Because this dog breed is so smart, it is actually used with handling things by itself. Especially when they are in dangerous situations, these dogs tend to find a solution to get out of it. This also means that they are independent, fact which may be inconvenient because it may cause stubbornness. Stubborn or not, the Great Pyrenees is a calm and loving guard dog.

This dog breed’s inclinations to be a good watchdog and to protect its family are instinctive. This is because it was initially created in order to be left alone with flocks of sheep up in the mountains. This job they had led to the development of a natural tendency to protect sheep and themselves no matter what. However, this can lead to various problems if the dog is kept indoors in an urban location and without proper training.

Like any other dog, this one also has social needs and it should be involved in numerous activities. The ideal owner of such dog should dedicate a precious amount of time to it and pay a lot of attention to it as well.

Health and Potential Problems

Among the diseases that the Great Pyrenees may develop are cardiomyopathy, gastric torsion, wet eczema, hip dysplasia, otitis, allergic dermatitis, cancer, deafness, epilepsy, entropion and others.

  • This is a disease of the heart and it occurs when the heart valves no longer function properly. Without treatment, this can cause heart failure.
  • Gastric torsion. This is a very common disease in dogs and it happens when their stomach is suddenly filled with air that cannot come out. Death may occur if the dogs don’t receive medical care immediately.
  • Hip dysplasia. Another common disease in dogs, this is hereditary and it refers to the hip joint that is not properly connecting the bones. This causes pain, inflammation and walking impairment.
  • Wet eczema. Among others, poor nutrition may lead to wet eczema in dogs.
  • A malformation of the eyelids, entropion may be corrected through surgery.
  • Otitis, allergic dermatitis, cancer, deafness, epilepsy and elbow dysplasia can also occur.
Care Features

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is suitable for rural life in a yard, where it has enough space for development and exploration. Although it likes to be outdoors, this dog breed quickly adapts to family life. If raised in an apartment or house, these dogs tend to become sedentary, fact which can lead to a lot of health problems. In addition, they prefer cooler climates.

As for training such dog, it should be noted that it is intelligent and it learns all the basic commands very fast. However, it gets bored just as fast, so the training should be diversified and fun. It has a very good memory and it is intuitive and well-mannered. Therefore, training it should not be a burden especially if the whole process begins when this dog is little.

Feeding Schedule

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is a type of dog that can change its diet from one season to the other. During the warm summer months it tends to remain inactive until the end of the day when the temperatures drop, so that’s when it should be fed less. On average, such large dog should eat between 4 to 6 cups of dry dog food daily, divided in 2 equal portions. Its menu should not lack fresh water.

It is good to know that in the first year of growth, this dog’s nutritional needs are very high. During the first 4 months, it should be fed 4 times per day. As it grows, its food amount should be recalculated on a regular basis.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Great Pyrenees has a double coat that is woolly. Its inner layer is thick and its outer layer consists of long, smooth and thick hair. It is slightly longer around its neck, where it forms a rich collar that confers it a beautiful and elegant look. The color of its coat may be plain white with gray, brown, tan or yellow portions.

These dogs don’t need a lot of care, but they do need to be washed several times per year and brushed 3 times per week. Brushing frequency increases when they shed. It is really important for their coat to be kept clean and untangled especially when they shed.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Great Pyrenees has a balanced temperament. Characterized by calm, braveness, intelligence, devotion and loyalty, this dog type is very protective and loving when it comes to children. However, at the same time, it is independent, proud, strong-willed and dominant and it does not like to be tethered. Because of their past and their instinct preserved in their genes, these dogs can become aggressive towards other large dogs,  but they don’t mind the presence of small dogs or other animals that are typically around a household.

The Great Pyrenees cannot be described in one word, but it can be said about it that is energetic. It is the type of dog that takes its work very seriously and would do anything to please its owner, along with its owner’s family. Cautious with strangers and possibly aggressive with other large dogs, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog is loving and wants to be near people that it’s familiar with and that don’t cross its territory. Occasionally it may be stubborn, but this is a habit that can be removed with constant and perseverant training. It doesn’t appreciate loneliness or being chained and forgotten in the yard.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.