Beautiful and hardworking, the Great Pyrenees has a thick, weather-resistant coat that comes in white with markings of gray, badger, or tan. The double coat is long, thick, and flat, with a coarse and straight outer coat and a dense, woolly undercoat. The eyes are medium sized, dark brown, and almond shaped, and the ears are small to medium and shaped like Vs. Great Pyrenees dogs measure 25 to 32 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 85 to 115 pounds.
These dogs are devoted to family, eager to please, and gentle with little ones, but they need time to themselves and plenty of opportunity for physical activity.
Highly intelligent and possessing great scenting ability and superior sight, these dogs make great companions to shepherds. They are tolerant and affectionate, but they can be very territorial when it comes to family and property. These dogs make excellent companions for families, and are especially suited to those living in colder climates.
The Great Pyrenees has had success as an actor in French films and was once referred to as the royal dog of France. The breed's stunning coat has led to it being considered one of the most beautiful breeds in the world.
Gentle, affectionate, and confident, Great Pyrenees dogs get along well with the entire family, including children and other pets. They have a tendency to be protective and territorial, but they are generally calm and tolerant unless provoked. They are not your standard happy-go-lucky dogs, though; this breed has a very serious side, probably bred into them after years of patrolling and guarding livestock. This may show itself when unfamiliar people approach their home or family members.
These dogs are devoted to family, eager to please, and gentle with little ones, but they need time to themselves and plenty of opportunity for physical activity. They should not spend all their time outdoors, though. This breed needs to live inside with its human family members and enjoys cuddling, hanging out in living areas, and going for leisurely walks with loved ones.
Keeping these dogs healthy and happy involves a daily walk on a leash, access to a fenced-in yard for free play during cooler months, and a bit of snuggle time on the sofa. The breed's intolerance for heat means indoor exercise may be necessary during certain times of the year.
Great Pyrenees dogs are fairly healthy, but they are known to suffer from a few health conditions that put the length or quality of their life at risk. Congenital hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, OCD, otitis externa, entropion, skin problems, osteosarcoma, gastric torsion, panosteitis, persistent pupillary membranes, progressive retinal atrophy, and cataracts are all known to affect this breed. Additionally, heart problems, such as tricuspid valve dysplasia, are another concern.
Because these dogs were bred for cold weather, it is essential to their health to keep them indoors during hotter months in warmer climates. They should be offered plenty of shade and water to drink, and any signs of heat-related illness must be reported to a veterinarian right away. Failure to do so may result in severe injury or death.
A healthy Great Pyrenees can live 10 to 12 years, provided it receives routine veterinary care, timely vaccinations, proper nutrition, and plenty of exercise.
As a breed, the Great Pyrenees has a reputation for being tricky to train. Because they were bred to be independent, they often have difficulty following directions and are therefore not known as the most obedient dogs. Training these dogs is certainly possible, though, especially when training starts early in life.
These dogs have a sensitive side that responds best to positive reinforcement and praise. If presented with impatience, harsh criticism, or unfair training methods, this breed may ignore training and refuse to obey. Moreover, the most stubborn of these dogs may attempt to dominate an inexperienced handler. Only firm and experienced professionals should attempt to train these dogs.
Frequent socialization can prevent mistrustful or overly suspicious behavior, but exposure to a variety of sights, sounds, and people must begin very early in life to be effective. Additionally, it is important to keep these dogs engaged and entertained during training. This is an intelligent breed that bores quickly, which makes it crucial to keep training sessions short and varied.
Grooming the Great Pyrenees requires brushing the coat once or twice weekly for most of the year, and increasing the frequency of brushing to once daily during shedding season. Fortunately, the breed's coat tends to resist matting and tangling, which makes caring for it considerably easier. Still, the large amount of hair these dogs have means at least 30 minutes of grooming every week. This should be a consideration before purchasing or adopting one of these dogs.
Because these dogs drool and slobber more than most other breeds, it is wise to keep a small, absorbent towel near them at all times. Cleaning the face hair after drinking and eating is also beneficial. Full baths are rarely necessary and may only be needed if the Great Pyrenees becomes dirtied with something harmful or sticky.
The nails need clipping about once monthly to prevent snagging and tearing, and the teeth should be brushed daily to protect gum and tooth health. At least once weekly, the ears should be checked for excess wax and for signs of infection, such as redness, odor, and swelling.
The Great Pyrenees likely originated in Siberia or Central Asia before migrating into Europe. The breed takes its name from the mountain range on the border between Spain and France where it was once used as a guardian of flocks on steep slopes. The breed's sense of smell and intelligence served it well when working under such hazardous conditions.
These dogs were expected to work independently for days or weeks at a time, and they were depended on to protect herds of livestock from wolves and other predators. These roles required the breed to be strong-willed, brave, large, powerful, and wary. These same traits have contributed to the breed's reputation as difficult to train.
Today, the Great Pyrenees is kept mostly as a companion animal, especially in the United States. In some places, however, these dogs still work as guardians of livestock. Whatever their role, they put full effort into it and are beloved as a result.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Great Pyrenees in 1933.