You've seen these big, beautiful white dogs. You're impressed, naturally. You think you want one. This is understandable. But . . . is this the breed for you? They are not the ideal pet for everyone!
The mature, sedate Great Pyrenees which you have seen did not just materialize suddenly. It grew from a cuddly, lovable ball of fluff which at 8-12 weeks of age is most captivating. From puppyhood to adulthood is a great distance and a considerable time. As a breed they are remarkably healthy and long lived. They have few major genetic problems and usually live to be 10-12 years old.
Pyrs combine a great intelligence with a deep devotion to family and home, and a natural-born instinct to guard and protect. While trustworthy, affectionate, gentle and tractable, they can become, when and if the need arises, protective guardians of their family and their territory. Thus, they command respect as watch dogs as well as admiration as pets.
Adult Pyrs are placid by nature and calm in the house, enjoying quiet periods in which to rest and sleep. But they are a large breed and as such are not always suited to life in a small apartment or urban setting with little yard space and lots of activity around. They want their life to be consistent and predictable.
The addition of a dog to your family is a major decision and deserves a great deal of time and thought. A Great Pyrenees is placid by nature, so despite their size, they are excellent house dogs. Yes, an adult Pyr is a beautiful, calm dog, but there are other considerations-have you thought of these?
Does dog hair around the house bother you? If so, forget the Pyrenees. While with routine grooming they are not much different than any other breed, they do shed and there are white hairs in Pyr homes and on Pyr people.
A Pyr needs love and attention on a daily basis. Are you and your family able to provide this? A lonesome Pyr is a bored dog, and a bored dog can become destructive. Great Pyrenees are at heart guard dogs and members of the great family of livestock guardian dogs. As such, they share with them certain strong characteristics. Pyrs were bred to be left alone with the sheep up in the mountain valleys. They are a guard dog by instinct, not by training. Their basic personality isdifferent from most breeds, since most breeds were bred to take commands from people, while Pyrs were bred to work on their own.
A Great Pyrenees is an intelligent, sometimes willful animal. They have minds of their own and are not easily obedience trained. Things that you consider important may not be the same things your Pyrenees considers important. Many are almost cat-like, in their independence.
Do you have room for a Pyr? They are large and must be confined in a well fenced area, or they will exercise their powerful instinct to establish and patrol a large territory. When out of the fence they must be kept on lead at all times. If you require a dog who will be a great "off-leash" companion for your outdoor activities, if you want a dog who will follow your every command, or if you want a competition obedience dog, the Pyrenees is probably not for you.
Like all livestock guardian breeds, Great Pyrenees are barkers, especially at night. The amount of barking varies from individual to individual, but the instinct is there and in some cases can cause major problems. Most Great Pyrenees in urban or suburban settings must be kept indoors at night.
The Great Pyrenees is a guard dog and as such cannot be expected to welcome uninvited intrusions onto your property. They will accept anyone whom you invite into your home. They are not "attack" dogs, but can be very intimidating to the surprised visitor. It is an owner's obligation to maintain a Great Pyrenees so that his guarding instincts can be exercised in a responsible way. These are things to think about. If you find you've answered them honestly and still want a Pyr, here are some suggestions as to how you should choose your puppy.
Ask to see the parents of the puppy you are interested in. Ask to see a copy of the OFA or GDC certificate that shows the parents are both free of hip dysplasia. Make sure the surroundings are clean and that the puppy is healthy. Look for the happy, outgoing puppy. You don't want a shy, emaciated or sickly-appearing pup. Make sure the coat carries a glossy shine, a sign of good health. There should be no discharge from eyes or nose, and a pup should stand up on strong legs and good feet.
Inquire about a breeder-buyer contract which explains what is expected of you, the buyer, and of the breeder. Your pup should come from registered parents, who have proof of freedom from hip dysplasia, should have a pedigree from the breeder, a health record showing when and what had been given in the way of inoculations and medication, and care and feeding instructions.
If you're buying a puppy, it should be at least 8 weeks old; 9 to 12 weeks is a good time for a pup to leave its litter. But don't overlook an older pup, provided it is outgoing, happy to see people and in good health. Many responsible breeders are concerned that their pups go to excellent homes and are willing to keep apup longer until that home comes along.. Carefully bred and cared for Great Pyrenees puppies are not inexpensive. While prices may vary, people who sell pups for much less than the average for your area probably have not put as much time or care into the breeding or rearing of their pups.
Male or female? This is a personal choice. The male is larger, and carries more coat, but they both show the same affection for, and protection of, their family. The bitch, unless spayed will come into season every six months, the first season is usually around a year of age. The decision as to which sex is yours. If the animal is to be a companion, and not for breeding, have it spayed or neutered at 6-8 months of age. Some reputable breeders are offering pups who have already been neutered at 8 weeks. This indicates a caring breeder who is concerned about this pup and all who might otherwise descend from it. All dogs not intended for showing and breeding should be neutered. This does not make a Pyr fat or lazy and does not interfere with its natural protectiveness. It does insure freedom from several kinds of cancer. In a national survey, neutered Pyrs were found to have a slightly longer life span that unaltered dogs. Neutered Pyrs are easier to manage as pets, will make a happier and healthier pet, and will probably live longer.
Adapted from a publication of the Great Pyrenees Club of America, rev. 1992.
Contacts for the Breed: