The Great Pyrenees dog: The protector with a heart of gold

The patient, calm, and incredibly smart Great Pyrenees is a sight to behold. They’re large, in charge, and have two goals in life: protecting your property and loving you unconditionally.

They are also known as the Pyrs, Pyrenean dog, Patou, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Le Grande Chien des Montagnes, Le Chien des Pyrenees and the Chien de Montagne des Pyrenees.

Adorable outdoor portrait of Great Pyrenees
Image source

Read below to see why this breed is so loveable!

Where are the Great Pyrenees originally from? 

Up in the Pyrenees Mountains that rests on the border between Spain and France, this large dog became a show stopper as working dogs.

Known by many names, Europe prefers to call them the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, while North American calls this breed the Great Pyrenees.

Don’t get confused – the Great Pyrenees and the Pyrenean Mastiff are different breeds!

Both breeds are similar in many ways and come from the same location, but the Mastiff is much larger, more intelligent, and isn’t as independent as the Great Pyrenees.

The first Great Pyrenees dates back to ancient times. It was 10 to 11 thousand years ago that these gentle giants came from Asia Minor.

Their ancestors were likely brought down from the Pyrenees Mountains in 3000 B.C. during the bronze age to help shepherds and herding dogs.

The Libro de Los Secretos de la Agricultura, published in 1617, spoke about the Great Pyrenees and its impact on farming.

Since the Pyrs has white fur, sheep preferred working with them, and their lightweight, sturdy and robust frame allowed them to guard livestock against wolves.

Smiling Great Pyrenees dog relaxing on the grass

Pyrenean dogs weren’t just famous with the peasants. In 1675 King Louis XIV declared this dog breed the Royal Dog of France.

After this, many French nobles adopted this breed to serve as guardian dogs for their homes, estates, and castles.

Eventually, the Patou came to Newfoundland, Canada, and remained livestock guardians for years.

Thanks to this immigration, the Landseer Newfoundland was born after the Newfoundland breed crossed with the Great Pyrenees.

The Patou exploded in popularity during the 17th century in Europe, England, and the United States.

During that time, they were useful for many purposes. Many owners started to adopt them as companion dogs instead of workers.

The Great Pyrenees breed and St. Bernard crossbred during the Switzerland breeding program to replace the dogs at the Great St. Bernard Hospice.

But this diluted that St. Bernard and made their coat freeze, which prevented them from rescuing civilians.

During the Switzerland program, the Great Pyrenees began to deteriorate due to bad breeding practices.

Incorrect breeding continued into the World Wars, but breeders in the United States made an effort to restore their original greatness. They are still a beloved breed to this day.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) gave the Pyrs recognition in 1933, and the Great Pyrenees Club of America devoted themselves to this Pyrenees beauty a year after in 1934.

The AKC places this breed in the Working Group because of their ability to assist mankind.

The six-toed elegant Great Pyrenees

Recently groomed Great Pyrenees dog
Image source

The Pyrenean dog represents elegance and beauty. They don’t lose an inch of their regal movements or majesty despite their large size.

The Pyrs intelligence shows in their kind and unflinching expression, and their uniqueness is a testament to their corrective breeding.

They’re balanced dogs in the front and the rear, with their withers being slightly less than the length of the body measured from shoulder to their upper thighs.

The Great Pyrenees head is light compared to the rest of their frame and is round at the crown but otherwise a wedge.

Their almond-shaped, medium-sized dark brown eyes and black nose pop against their light fur.

The Great Pyrenees has V-shaped small to medium-sized ears with round tips that hang down to eye level and form a base from their nose to the upper skull.

A muscular neck dips into the Great Pyrenees’ topline and into their back, while their chest stays broad, with ribs protruding.

The Pyrs tail reaches the hock, the bone located below the knee joint. The tail is fluffy and long and sometimes makes its way onto this breed’s back.

The shoulders are strong and muscular. This muscular build travels from their forequarters to hindquarters, including their legs.

The Great Pyrennes’ back legs are bowed slightly in a similar way to the German Shepherd.

The Great Pyrenees is famous for their double dewclaws. These dewclaws are breed standard and offer more grip and leverage while navigating terrain.

Removing this appendage will disqualify your pup from dog shows, and sometimes removing them will cause this breed pain.

As a large breed, they have a commanding presence, but their overall size and structure remain perfect for their work as guard dogs, workers, and companions.

Size: How big does the Great Pyrenees get?

Great Pyrenees dog standing on the grass
The Great Pyrenees is always a giant dog breed, so expect them to take over any space they’re in.

Since they’re built to dominate predators and climb snowy mountaintops, you can bet that they’ll have a large body that fits the job description.

This purebred dog won’t tower over you at 25-32 inches (63.5-81.2 cms) while standing on all fours.

But they will topple over most humans on two paws, especially with 85 pounds (38.5 kgs) or more leaning on you!

Female Pyrs will weigh 15 pounds (6.8 kgs) less than males, and their height will vary 3 inches (7.6 cms) on average. Regardless of their difference in size, they are both enormous.

Great Pyrenees reach adulthood at 1 year, but they can take up to 2 years to mature.

In the first 12 months, these pups will experience significant growing pain because they’ll gain a whopping 65 pounds (29.4 kgs) in the short period!.

Do not get this dog if you don’t have a lot of space. Apartment living is out of the question, and most homes will be too small for them.

The Pyrenean dog can be an inside dog, but they thrive as outside pups that have a job to do.

Do the Great Pyrenees have a double coat?

Patous have a medium length, thick and straight double coat. Their outer coats are long, flat, and coarse, but their undercoat stays dense and wooly underneath.

Scruffing their hair is a lot of fun, but you’ll probably come out looking whiter than you did before.

Not all Great Pyrenees have pure white coats. Many of them will have marks all over their body and face.

Great Pyrenees puppies are almost always born with markings that may or may not white-out throughout their lives.

You may have seen a black Pyrs on the Internet, but a purebred Pyrenees cannot have a coat other than white (except for markings).

It’s likely a breeder mixed them with a black Labrador or another giant dog breed like a Giant Schnauzer. 

Along with their solid color, Great Pyrenees will likely have badger markings, which show as stripes that start from the ears and stop at the nose – like a badger!

Grey, reddish brown, and tan markings are also common in this breed.

Temperament: Are Great Pyrenees aggressive or kind?

Two cheerful Great Pyrenees dogs relaxing on the grass

Without a doubt, the Great Pyrenees is gentle, calm, and docile, which makes them the perfect guardians for the shy sheeps this breed helps to keep safe.

Their gentleness shouldn’t be mistaken for weakness because these courageous protectors will stay devoted to you.

While they are avid workers, guard dogs, and shepherds, they are more known today as man’s best friend that will fawn over your family from the moment you wake up.

They may intimidate young children and small pets, but they know their strength and won’t overpower them.

You’ll always know when a stranger approaches your door because they’ll produce the most impressive booming bark that will send most predators running.

However, they don’t attack dogs unless the situation is dire, so it’s doubtful they’ll bite unfamiliar people or dogs.

Pyrs are great house pets, and their caring spirit can be a surprise considering their breeding profile.

Overall they are friendly dogs and don’t require much socialization to warm up to people. They are cuddly, big lap dogs that will float over you like a blanket.

The only thing Pyrs enjoy more than the company of people is the company of other dogs.

The ideal placement for these pups is 2 of the same breed because they may start to shepherd your cats, and most cats don’t warm up to this idea.

These dogs have a serious streak; they take their job seriously. As mentioned, they aren’t attack dogs and aren’t aggressive.

The Great Pyrenees is a smart breed that can balance work and play like an expert, and this personality switch will occur to match the mood.

Close-up portrait of Great Pyrenees dog lying on the grass

The Great Pyrenees love to play but have low energy needs. They will run, swim, walk, jog, and play dog sports with you.

You’ll know he wants your full attention if he puts their paw on you, which is a common reaction in this breed to let you know they’re here!

If given enough physical and mental stimulation, they can be alone for up to 8 hours a day despite how clingy this breed can be.

Buy another animal to keep them company if you have long work hours, or they could develop separation anxiety.

Female Great Pyrenees have a strong will and can be stubborn while training, but males tend to have a more laid back personality.

Both are fiercely independent thinkers. Teach them while they’re a puppy to listen to you, or you may get some sassy barks when you tell them no.

Give your Great Pyrenees positive reinforcement. With a memory like an elephant and smarts that could rival a 3-year-old child, you’ll need to stay firm and kind.

Pyrs are challenging to train, so only attempt their personality after years of experience in obedience training.

Is the Great Pyrenees high-maintenance?

Despite their large shedding coats, the Pyrs isn’t a high-maintenance pup. Their fur doesn’t need a lot of work, which stays consistent with their days roughing it with livestock.

However, they love to eat and exercise – just not as much as you think.

Thanks to the Great Pyrenees’ weather resistant double coat, they stay comfortable in cold weather. Trim your pups’ fur in the summer, so they don’t overheat.

Exercising your Great Pyrenees

It’s common for giant breeds to need a lot of exercise, but the Great Pyrenees doesn’t even require an hour a day.

While they love to play, participate in sports, and have a lot of energy, you won’t need to travel across the country to make use they’re tired at the end of the day!

Cheerful Great Pyrenees dog enjoying the nature
Image source

Regardless of how you work your pup out, they will only need 20 to 30 minutes a day. The Pyrs love cold weather and prefer to participate in hikes while the snow falls around them.

If you need them to carry your backpack, they are happy to do so.

This intelligent breed can get bored very easily, so provide them proper stimulation with plenty of toys and lots of off-leash playtime to avoid destructive behavior.

Keep them inside during hot weather if possible, because they may start to pant and become uncomfortable.

Does the Great Pyrenees shed a lot?

The Great Pyrenees is an average to heavy shedder. You can expect your rugs and floors to have a bunch of white fur piled on top after a day or two.

You’ll find hair in your furniture, clothes, car, and toothbrush, so be prepared to vacuum frequently.

Due to their constant shedding, they aren’t hypoallergenic. It’s common to pull out their shedding fur in clumps, and it gets worse during the summer and winter months.

To reduce the amount your family pet sheds, brush them regularly.

For heavy shedding, brushing them every day will prevent your floors from looking like a pile of snow. Average shedders can get away with brushing once or twice per week.

While petting them, lace your fingers in their fur to pull out any loose hairs.

Great Pyrenees dog fur is the perfect insulator, and birds will use their loose hairs to build their nests. Instead of throwing it away in the garbage, keep it for the wildlife in your backyard.

On average, you’ll spend 30 minutes per week grooming them. If their hair gets dirty from mud or drool, quickly comb out the mess or use cornstarch to crystalize the area, then rinse it out.

During the summer months, it is tempting to shave or clip their hair short, but they are more likely to get sunburns because of their white skin. The Pyrs coat helps to keep them cool.

Plus, when their hair grows back, it will lose its luster. Keep it long and flowing no matter the weather.

For a sneak peek on how to properly remove the Pyrs undercoat, watch the video below:

Other than brushing, the Great Pyrenees coat requires little care. Only bathe them every couple of months because their coats shed the dirt themselves.

Always use high-quality dog shampoo to avoid collecting unwanted oils on their skin.

Trim their whiskers, ear hair, hock hair, feet, eyebrows, and forelegs every 3 months, so they don’t interfere with your pups’ daily activities.

Cut your Great Pyrenees nails twice a month, and brush their teeth two to three times a week. 

It’s unnecessary to remove your Great Pyrenees’s dewclaw unless it’s causing them pain. As mentioned, removing this appendage disqualifies them from the show ring.

Many dog owners compare removing the dewclaw to declawing a cat, so keep them attached if possible.

The Pyres ears require special focus because their flopped ears block air circulation.

Check their ears often for potential ear infections, and clean them once a week with a cotton ball soaked in a cleaning solution – just don’t stick the Q-tip directly into the ear canal!

How much do Great Pyrenees’ eat?

It’s unlikely your Great Pyrenees dog will develop obesity through improper feeding because meeting their daily requirements is already expensive.

If you go above the recommended daily amount, you’ll probably put yourself and your dog in the poor house!

To meet your Pyrs recommended daily kibble intake, feed them 4 to 6 cups of high-quality dog food per day, divided into two meals.

Due to this breed’s giant size, it’s better to speak to a veterinarian to feed your pup a more accurate diet based on their height and weight.

Behaved Great Pyrenees dog eagerly waiting for its treat
Image source

For a more specific meal plan that changes based on your Pyrs size, give them 3 ¾ cups of an 8 O.Z. measuring cup per day, two times a day if they weigh between 85-89 lbs (38.5-40.3 kgs).

Add another ½ cup for every 10 extra pounds (4.5 kgs).

Great Pyrenees puppies do a lot of growing during their first few years of life, so it’s essential to meet their nutrition needs as they age.

On average, your pup will grow 70 pounds from 3-16 months, so make friends with your vet and adjust their intake every month. 

Keep them on a puppy formulated diet until they reach their first year, but only transition to an adult dry and wet food when your vet says so. Adjusting too soon could stunt their growth.

Avoid chocolate, onions, uncooked meat, grapes, nuts because most dogs could become very sick if they’re consumed.

You can give your Great Pyrenees plenty of treats while training because they have a lot of room in their stomachs.

What health problems does the Great Pyrenees have?

Unfortunately, the Great Pyrenees can suffer from multiple health conditions throughout their lifespan.

For this reason, it’s important to health screen your pups while they’re puppies and ask for health records from a breeder you wish to purchase from.

Adorable Great Pyrenees dog posing seriously

Pyrs grow incredibly fast in their first years of puppyhood, so they may whine or bark during this time because of growing pains.

If you notice your dog is in a lot of pain, go to the vet and ask if there are medications or lifestyle changes that will make them more comfortable.

Bloat or Gastric Torsion is a disease that affects most large breeds, especially if they eat fast, are only fed one large meal a day, drink too much water, or exercise immediately after eating.

If your Pyrs can’t burp out the excess air, it will sit around their heart.

Without immediate medical attention, your dog could die. Feel your Pyrs abdomen to ensure it isn’t descending from bloat, and check that they aren’t drooling excessively.

Pyrs will also become depressed, restless, weak, and lethargic as their heart rate drops.

Both elbow and hip dysplasia affect large dogs disproportionately. This inherited condition will either affect the hip or elbow joints.

You’ll notice lameness on their rear legs, and all pups with this health problem will show signs of general discomfort.

Your Great Pyrenees could develop arthritis in both locations without proper treatment. Surgery, medical management, weight management, and anti-inflammatory medication can help alleviate the pain.

However, some malformities will always cause your dog pain.

Patellar luxation or slipped stifles is a deformity in the patella or the kneecap. Large dogs that have this issue will have knee joints that will slide in and out of place.

This disease can cripple dogs, but most pups will lead normal lives with this health condition.

Finally, Addison’s Disease can occur in your Great Pyrenees at any age.

Also known as hypoadrenocorticism, this occurs when the adrenal gland doesn’t produce enough hormones that regulate potassium and salt levels in the body.

Dogs that have this disease will suffer from vomiting, lethargy, and a poor appetite.

Veterinarians will prescribe a treatment of corticosteroids or fludrocortisone acetate, but surgery may occur if your pup goes into shock and can’t keep their food down.

Other health issues related to the Great Pyrenees include:

  • Orthopedic problems
    • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)
    • Panosteitis
  • Cancers 
    • Osteosarcoma
  • Eye disorders
    • Cataracts
    • Entropion
  • Chondrodysplasia (Dwarfism)
  • Anesthesia sensitivity
  • Neurological disorders
  • Immune-Mediated disorders
  • Skin problems
  • Otitis externa
  • Spinal muscular atrophy

To health screen your Great Pyrenees, take them to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animal (OFA) for elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, von Willebrand’s disease, and patellar luxation.

If you can’t make the trip, most veterinarians can screen instead.

For thrombopathia, Auburn University will help you out, but take your pup to the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) to check their eyes.

Canines can suffer from blindness early on in their lives, so keep them on a diet that supplements fish oil.

The Great Pyrenees has an average life expectancy of 10-12 years, which is consistent for a giant breed. If your Pyrs doesn’t develop many health issues, they could live long, healthy lives. 

How much does it cost to own a Great Pyrenees?

Cute Great Pyrenees dog puppy
Image source

The Great Pyrenees is still popular as a working dog, guard dog, and companion.

They maintain employment as sheepherders, and many breeders will continue a line of farm dog parents to keep many of these breeds positive qualities intact for multiple generations.

You’ll be able to find plenty of Great Pyrenees puppies in shelters, local rescues, and from quality breeders in the United States.

Pyrs have kept their popularity in North America, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to own these pups for yourselves.

Great Pyrenees puppies will cost between $600 and $1000 for a companion dog, but quality guard dogs and farmhands could bring the price up to thousands of dollars more.

It’s possible to find these pups for over $5000. 

A purebred dog with a superior lineage or a show quality dog will always cost you more than one that is primarily a companion.

If you’re interested in a worker or showpiece, focus on finding breeders recommended by the AKC.

There are other things you need to consider while shopping for your new Great Pyrenees, like kennel popularity, the breeders’ location, shipping fees, as well as the parents’ bloodline.

Older Pyrs drop in price significantly because they’re more difficult to train.

The Great Pyrenees have large litters of 7-10 puppies, but they can get as high as 15.

Great Pyrenees breeders in the United States

There are plenty of fantastic Great Pyrenees breeders available throughout the United States that specialize in either working breeds, guard dogs, show dogs, or companions.

Choose which function you want your Pyrs to serve before buying one to ensure you meet their needs.

Ask the breeder for genetic testing results to take the necessary preventative measures against this breed’s multiple health concerns.

If possible, ask your breeder for papers and veterinarian records for both your new puppy’s parents. 

Always visit their kennel and see where they keep their puppies to know if the environment is clean and loving.

All giant breeds need a lot of room to run around to stay healthy and happy, so a large house or yard is a good sign they’re receiving enough love and attention.

Active Great Pyrenees dog playing with the leaves
Image source

It’s a massive red flag if a breeder refuses to provide health records or show off their kennel. Never adopt from puppy mills or from anyone you feel is suspicious.

You can find Great Pyrenees puppies for sale at these locations:

Where can I adopt or rescue a Great Pyrenees?

You won’t have an issue finding a Great Pyrenees dog in a shelter because owners will give them up due to their size.

The Pyrs are often too large for most homes, and some owners will have difficulty navigating their temperament during training.

There are plenty of Great Pyrenees adults that need a warm, loving home, and this breed will likely adapt quickly to your lifestyle. 

While we would never discourage anyone from adopting any dog, it’s essential to understand that a rescue pup could pose a challenge.

Since Pyrs have a fantastic memory, they may be shy or scared of their new owners if their past owners were abusive and could start barking at a moment’s notice.

As another negative, you won’t be able to properly screen your puppy or adult Great Pyrenees before adoption.

Most reputable Great Pyrenees rescues will have the health records for the adopted pet, but it’s rare to have documentation of their parents.

Still, you will have a perfect companion for life, if you have the right personality and diligence to retrain this breed out of bad habits.

And if you’re not concerned that this breed could suffer from significant health issues without proper screening.

You can try to find Great Pyrenees puppies with these locator websites:

Great Pyrenees VS other breeds

Both the Pyrenean Mastiff and Pyrenean Shepherd are similar to the Great Pyrenees in many ways, but what sets them apart is what makes them unique.

Let’s take a look at two breeds more in-depth.

Pyrenean Mastiff vs. Great Pyrenees

The Pyrenean Mastiff is a big breed with a lot of spunk, but they’re less vocal than the Great Pyrenees.

Mastiffs are less likely to develop hip and elbow dysplasia because they aren’t bred to excess because they’re rare.

Active Pyrenean Mastiff playing in the garden
Meet Kurt, a Pyrenean Mastiff – Image source

Pyrenean Mastiffs have a longer life expectancy of 12-14 years, they are less likely to develop behavioral problems, and are less stubborn on average.

For these reasons, they are easier to train because you can take more time and patience while teaching.

Just like the Great Pyrenees, the Mastiff loves people, animals, and children. If you’re looking for a calmer dog breed with high trainability, choose the Mastiff instead.

Pyrenean Shepherd vs. Great Pyrenees

Cheerful Pyrenean Shepherd enjoying the flowery grass
Meet Fuego, a Pyrenean Shepherd – Image source

The Pyrenean Shepherd is much smaller than the Great Pyrenees and sits in the small breed category.

Shepherds have a much longer lifespan and can often live for 17 or more years. Unlike the Great Pyrenees, the Shepherd is in the herding group who shepherded sheep.

Affectionate, active, and enthusiastic, the Pyrenean Shepherd is energetic and requires a lot of exercise to stay healthy.

They’re whip-smart and pick up training quickly and easily, but they can be shy around strangers without proper socialization.

The Pyrenean Shepherd is perfect for small apartments and joggers. They are also a healthier breed on average and often stay lean and lively all their lives. 

Curious About Great Pyrenees Mixes?

Is the Great Pyrenees not right for you?

There are plenty of other mixes that may fit your family better, like the Golden Pyrenees, the Great Pyrenees Lab mix, and the Great Pyrenees German Shepherd Lab mix.

  • Golden Pyrenees
  • Great Pyrenees Lab mix
  • Great Pyrenees German Shepherd Lab mix
  • Great Pyrenees mixes

Should you take on this lovable giant breed?

Great Pyrenees dog relaxing on the lawn

The Great Pyrenees is a smart, patient, calm, and loving dog that will protect you and your property against all foreign threats.

Even though they intimidate strangers, they have a big heart and will spread their joy with other dogs, cats, children, and especially their favorite person: you.

However, Pyrs are a lot of work and require significant socialization and training to keep them engaged.

The Great Pyrenees has a stubborn streak and loves their independence, plus their large frame makes them incompatible with most apartments and homes.

First-time dog owners should pass this breed up for another. You’ll need a lot of experience with tough to handle pups that need a strong leader and a lot of attention.

Are you a supporter of the Great Pyrenees? Do you love their hard-working spirit and beautiful white fur? If you have a Pyrs, comment below and show them off!

Further Reading: Similar breeds to the Great Pyrenees

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