Great Pyrenees

This Loving, Devoted Dog is an Excellent Family Pet

Great Pyrenees

This Loving, Devoted Dog is an Excellent Family Pet and Ideal Self-Motivated Worker

The Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog, also known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, is an ancient breed that comes from the Pyrenees Mountain region of northern Spain and southern France. The Basque people have used these dogs for centuries, with descriptions dating from 1407. In 1675, the Grand Dauphin of France adored the breed, and by the early 19th century, the dogs were popular in mountain towns. Their agility on steep mountainous slopes and fierce, protective ability to guard sheep made them very prized as working dogs.


Pyrenees puppies come from the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain and France, and have a natural talent to perform as shepherds or guard dogs, warding off predators like bears and wolves. They have a strong natural instinct to protect livestock and humans, as well. While it is believed that its lineage goes back to Asia, as many as 10,000 or 11,000 years ago, the dogs' arrival in Europe dates back to a relatively recent time, “only” 5000 years ago.

In Europe, the Great Pyrenees was the working dog for the working man. At that time, it was considered a "common" dog. Not only did it function beautifully as a shepherd and guard dog, but it was extremely loyal to family as well. Its physical characteristics and agility on steep slopes made it resilient to the elements and able to navigate rough terrain with ease.

Despite its working-class background, however, Pyrenees puppies became a favorite of the royals, specifically in the court of Louis XIV.

In the 1600s, its thick, lush coat and ability to withstand harsh winters made the Great Pyrenees a favorite in Newfoundland. As its natural predators were destroyed, the Great Pyrenees had less work to do, and they were also crossbred with other breeds. The result was that the pure Great Pyrenees became a rarity.

In England, breeders then worked to rescue and reestablish the breed. Subsequently, the Great Pyrenees was registered and shown there in 1885. France joined this quest around 1907 with breeders working diligently to seek out completely purebred Great Pyrenees. The first known pair of Great Pyrenees was supposedly brought to the United States by Gen. Lafayette for a friend in 1824. Great Pyrenees were recognized and established as a breed in America by the American Kennel Club in 1933. Today, the Great Pyrenees remains a popular dog, now more as a family guard dog and companion than as a livestock dog.


Statuesque and with a truly lush and often snow-white coat, this beautiful dog is elegant, aristocratic, and regal. The Great Pyrenees can have a purely white coat (most often), or can have markings of gray, tan, or red. This massive dog stands between 25 and 32 inches at the shoulder, weighing from 85 to more than 100 pounds. The coat is made up of long, thick, flat outer hair that is coarse, complemented by a thick undercoat that's fine, dense, and wool-like. The Pyrenees dog is perfectly suited for a harsh, cold, even bleak terrain. There is ruffled hair around the neck and feathering along the back of the thighs and along the front of the legs, with shorter, finer hair on the face and ears.

One of the things you'll notice about the Great Pyrenees is its expression. This calm, confident dog is extremely loving and devoted to those for whom it cares, which shows on his or her face. The expression is usually one of alert, calm, regal contentment—but also ready to spring into action at a moment's notice.


The Great Pyrenees are loving, affectionate dogs, the perfect choice for a family. However, this breed most certainly needs a firm hand and a patient owner. It must be remembered that the Great Pyrenees was bred specifically to work in harsh, desolate conditions, often alone and independently, and its job was to protect its livestock at all costs. Because it often worked alone and therefore had to make decisions on its own, the Great Pyrenees can appear to be stubborn because it doesn't seem to "listen" and "obey" its owner, always. If you understand that your pet has in its ancestral history the necessity to be a tough, self-motivated working dog, you'll understand where this temperament comes from and will not consider it a personality flaw. Instead, you can learn to work with these characteristics rather than against them.

Properly socialized, especially from puppyhood, your new pet will still be somewhat strong-willed and independent, but is very patient and can be extremely loyal and fearless. As long as you make sure to establish yourself as pack leader and set firm boundaries from puppyhood, you'll have a loving, devoted, and loyal pet for life. The Great Pyrenees makes an especially good guard dog, and is very gentle even with children. Your pet will seem to instinctively understand that children are small beings to be treated with gentle care, perhaps protected like the sheep of their past, even if they become rambunctious. Your pet will rarely be aggressive unless he or she feels you are in danger, but if so, intruders should watch out; he or she will protect without hesitation.

Proper Environment

Your pet was meant for the great outdoors. Therefore, he or she is not going to function well in small, enclosed spaces like apartments. Your "mountain dog" needs plenty of room to roam, and at least a spacious yard or something similar to experience its natural habitat. If you have your pet in an enclosed yard, make sure it's very well fenced, as Great Pyrenees are natural wanderers, used to patrolling a perimeter when they guard sheep or other livestock. This is one thing you may need to keep a close eye on, since a Great Pyrenees likely won't be truly inclined to stay put, even if you teach your pet to do so.


As with most large dogs, Pyrenees puppies are prone to bloat, which is an extremely dangerous, very often fatal condition. If your pet shows signs of discomfort, distress, depression, or any sort of abdominal bloating, get him or her to a vet immediately. Time is of the essence, as this condition can be fatal within an hour. You can often buy yourself some time to get your pet to the vet by giving him or her simethicone or another anti-gas agent at your vet's direction. This is not a cure, however.

Other than bloat, as with other large dogs, the Great Pyrenees can suffer from hip dysplasia, skin problems that come from allergies, fleas, or ticks, and so-called "hotspots" or moist dermatitis. They can also suffer from a condition called patellar luxation, similar to a dislocated kneecap, and may require surgery to correct it. Your pet will have an average lifespan of about 10 years.


As you might guess, the Great Pyrenees requires little grooming given its "rough-and-tumble" historic outdoor existence. Check for fleas and ticks, of course, to prevent problems, and make sure to protect your pet from these types of infestations. The Great Pyrenees is an average shedder unless it's shedding its thick undercoat, which happens yearly. Brush at least once weekly during most times of the year, but daily or even more often during times when your dog is shedding. Bathe rarely, and only if necessary.


AKC MEET THE BREEDS®: Great Pyrenees.

Retrieved July 2, 2012.


Retrieved July 2, 2012.

Great Pyrenees.

Retrieved July 2, 2012.

Great Pyrenees (Pyrenean Mountain Dog) (Chien de Montagne des Pyrenees) (Pyrenean dog) (Patou).

Retrieved July 2, 2012.

Great Pyrenees Dog.

Retrieved July 2, 2012.

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