A snow squall outside. A roaring fire within. And your large, fluffy canine companion rests close by, warming your feet—or perhaps your feet are being guarded? The Great Pyrenees breed was born to sit watchfully, waiting for predators to pounce. While there may be little danger lurking between your couch and TV, this Pyrenean mountain dog is still ready to serve courageously, no matter the task. Independent of mind yet gentle in soul, the Great Pyrenees dog is a beautiful, majestic creature with a coat to die for. You’ll never need another pair of slippers again.
Great Pyrenees are best for experienced pup parents who are willing to devote time to training and don't fear copious amounts of shedding. They're great with kids, need lots of land to roam and prefer cooler locales.
Great Pyrenees Traits
Great Pyrenees Temperament
The Great Pyrenees’ temperament exudes patience and affection. Aggression and biting aren’t hallmarks of the breed (even though they do have a powerful bite force). Instead, a Great Pyrenees dog is generally very friendly and well-suited to family life. Letting your Great Pyrenees play with kids is more than acceptable as long as the children aren’t too rough and rowdy. And as a former livestock guardian, a Pyr has a background of close contact with various farm animals, which means raising a Great Pyrenees with other dogs and even cats in the home is quite possible.
However, because this dog was bred as a flock guardian, the breed can be strong-willed, so early socialization and training are important. Even though the Great Pyr is known to be a gentle pet, they can be protective of their families if necessary.
Their characteristics also include a high level of competency thanks to their years of service as guard dogs atop snowy mountains. Neither cold weather nor extreme boredom phase a Pyr—this pup is quite used to the slow pace of watching over sheep for hours at a time.
Luckily for dog lovers, these serene Great Pyrenees traits transfer nicely to a quiet home life (maybe watching some reality TV or hunkering down with a good novel?). Of course, getting outside is part of the plan with dogs, so pet parents who can offer moderate exercise will please both the Great Pyrenees’ personality and physicality.
How to Care for a Great Pyrenees
Though generally calm and friendly, the Great Pyrenees is a high-maintenance breed.(They were pups of the French nobility; do you expect anything less?) While grooming a Pyr isn’t as overwhelming as you might think, there’s still a bit of work to be done to ensure this Pyrenean mountain dog looks handsome, stays healthy and is a well-behaved member of your family.
Great Pyrenees Health
Great Pyrenees have a life span of 10 to 12 years, and the breed does suffer from several health issues. But that shouldn’t stop you from bringing this loveable giant into your home. Armed with knowledge, regular vet visits and a healthy diet and exercise routine, you can help your pup live the longest life possible.
- Bloat: A genetic condition common to big dogs that may also have an environmental link, bloat causes the stomach to retain air then twist on itself. Immediate surgical care is necessary as bloat is life-threatening. You can prevent the occurrence of bloat by feeding your pup smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, using a slow feeder and waiting an hour on either side of mealtime before strenuous exercise.
- Eye Conditions: Canine multifocal retinopathy is a genetic eye disease that causes lesions to develop on the retina, usually in both eyes. It can start in a Great Pyrenees puppy and may progress slowly or even appear to heal, though it doesn’t affect the dog’s vision. While there is no treatment, breeders can screen for it. Cataracts may also affect this breed, which looks like an opaque lens in the eye and can cause blindness. Surgery can be performed to remove them.
- Deafness: Congenital deafness can appear in any breed but is more prevalent in dogs with white skin and fur, like the Great Pyrenees. While there’s no cure for this condition, the percentage of Pyrs who are deaf in both ears is very low. And if a dog does lose their hearing, dedicated families can still help the animal lead a normal life.
- Neurological Disorder: If you notice clumsiness, slipping or sliding in the hind legs, your pup may have neuronal degeneration. This inherited disease has no treatment, though steroids, vitamins B, C and E and exercise therapy, as well as sticking to an ideal lean weight, may slow the condition.
- Cancer: Various types of cancer may appear in this and many other breeds, including osteosarcoma, which is bone cancer affecting the ribs, skull, spine or pelvis that can lead to lameness. Chemo and/or radiation, as well as the removal of any mass or tumor, if possible, is the usual treatment. Cancer of the blood vessels’ lining, or hemangiosarcoma, can occur on the skin, spleen or heart and may be treated with surgery as well. And lymphoma, which causes swollen glands and/or vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and lethargy, is also treated with chemotherapy.
- Bleeding Disorder: Glanzmann thrombasthenia interferes with the platelets’ ability to clot, causing excessive bleeding (gums, nose, cuts, scrapes). No cure is available for this inherited condition, but blood products and surgery may be considered to control bleeding.
Great Pyrenees History
The Great Pyrenees’ history—and the breed’s name— has its roots in the Pyrenees mountains, a soaring range that straddles France and Spain. This powerful breed’s lineage is indeed ancient, as remains were recovered from as far back as the Bronze Age or 1800 to 1000 BC. It’s possible this dog traveled to the Pyrenees from Central Asia thousands of years ago.
Originally bred to work with peasant livestock herders, French royals and the noble class later took a shine to this giant dog and put them to work guarding castles in southwest France. King Louis XIV even bestowed the special moniker of “Royal Dog of France” upon the Great Pyrenees breed.
As a constant guardian, Pyrs are nocturnal by nature and worked alongside shepherds and herding dogs to protect sheep flocks at night from both animal predators (wolves, bears) and thieves. The Pyr has a high tendency to bark, in part because their job was to sound the alarm if anyone underhanded were to approach.
Queen Victoria of England also had a Pyr, and the breed was brought to the US in 1824 by the great French military officer the Marquis de Lafayette, who served alongside George Washington during the American Revolution. The Pyr breed continued their military service with heroism during World War II. Their job? Hauling artillery supplies over the Pyrenees mountains in frigid weather.
Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1933, today’s Pyr is a beloved family canine who’s equal parts guard dog and cozy companion. If you’d like to have this pretty (huge) pup, their price ranges from $1,750 to $2,500, and you can find reputable breeders at the AKC Marketplace. For that price, you’re likely getting a pup who’s been screened for health and temperament issues and may come with pedigree papers. If you’d like to adopt a dog, contact Great Pyrenees rescues or keep an eye out for the breed at your local animal shelter.
Are Great Pyrenees hypoallergenic?
No, Great Pyrenees are not hypoallergenic. This high-shedding breed has lots of fur and dander, making sensitive noses itch and scratch.
Do Great Pyrenees drool?
Yes, Great Pyrenees will drool a little, usually when eating or if they’ve been exercising. Pyr pups aren’t well-suited to warm weather, so they may pant (and drool) when overheated.
Are Great Pyrenees good with kids?
Yes, Great Pyrenees are good with kids. They’re an excellent family companion as they’re bred to protect and serve. A watchful flock guardian at heart and not known to bite, the Pyr can easily use this gentle nature to their advantage with small children.
Do Great Pyrenees like water?
Great Pyrenees like water—to drink (and lots of it). In general, the Great Pyrenees isn’t really a big swimmer, though some puppies can be introduced to water early and learn to love it. With such a heavy double coat and only moderate energy reserves, don’t expect your dog to paddle around the pool the way a Labrador will.
What are the most common Great Pyrenees mixes?
- Great Pyrenees-German Shepherd mix (Germanees)
- Great Pyrenees-Labrador mix (Pyrador)
- Great Pyrenees-Golden Retriever mix (Great Pytriever, Golden Pyrenees)
- Great Pyrenees-Australian Shepherd mix (Great Aussie Pyrenees, Aussie Pyrenees)
- Great Pyrenees-Husky mix (Pyrenees Husky)
- Great Pyrenees-Poodle mix (Pyredoodle)
Patient and kind, the Great Pyrenees breed probably isn’t for a city slicker who wears only dark clothing. But if you’re cool with copious shedding, are willing to patiently train them and you have some outdoor space for your Pyr to stroll, this dog is an excellent choice.
Expert input provided by veterinarian Jerry Klein, DVM and certified animal behaviorist, Dr. Mary Burch.
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Top Great Pyrenees Names
These are the top Great Pyrenees names as chosen by Chewy's pet parents!