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Great Pyrenees

Nicole Cosgrove

June 21, 2021
Image Credit: jathomas, Pixabay

The Great Pyrenees is a large to giant purebred with talents that include sledding, carting and guarding. Bred to guard livestock it has strong protective instincts and can also make a great family dog or companion. It is a very attractive breed with a steady temperament and ready to defend anything it deems needs defending!

Here is the Great Pyrenees at a Glance
Name Great Pyrenees
Other Names Patou, Chien Des Pyr̩n̩es, Chien De Montagne Des Pyr̩n̩es, Monta̱̩s Del Pirineo, and Gos De Muntanya Dels Pirineus, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Pyrenean dogDog
Nicknames Pyr
Origin France and Spain
Average size Large to giant
Average weight 85 to 120 pounds
Average height 25 to 32 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Long, dense, thick
Hypoallergenic No
Color Red, white, grey, brown
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 67th by the AKC
Intelligence Fair to average
Tolerance to heat Good but cannot handle very hot or extremes
Tolerance to cold Excellent can handle even extreme cold temperatures
Shedding Frequent, heavy and seasonal
Drooling Moderate to average – there might be some more so when exercising
Obesity Quite high – can be prone to putting on weight so watch its food and exercise
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush once a week at least
Barking Frequent – training will be needed to control the barking
Exercise needs Very active – will need a daily exercise at least twice a day
Trainability Difficult – experience will help
Friendliness Very good – social breed
Good first dog Low – needs strong willed owners with experience
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Moderate to good with socialization – has high prey drive
Good with strangers Good but needs socialization
Good apartment dog Low – needs a larger home and a yard
Handles alone time well Good – can be left alone for short periods of time without issues
Health issues Not the healthiest of breeds – issues include bone problems, bloat, joint dysplasia and eye problems
Medical expenses $485 a year for pet insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $$270 a year or more for good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $655 a year or more for toys, grooming, license, miscellaneous items and training
Average annual expense $1410 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $750
Rescue organizations Attacks doing bodily harm: 4 Maimings: 2 Child victims: 1 Deaths: 1

The Great Pyrenees’ Beginnings

The Great Pyrenees comes from the Pyrenees Mountains on the border between Spain and France. In the UK and the rest of Europe it is called the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. It is thought its ancestors date as far back as 11,000 years, and were dogs from Asia or Siberia and came to the mountains around 3000BC. It was then developed into a dog that was used by peasants and shepherds to guard flocks, pull heavy carts and so on. There was a difference in appearance too in those from the eastern side and those from the western.

By the late 17th century the Pyrenean Mountain Dog was declared a Royal Dog of France. This lead to the nobility adopting the breed as a guard dog for their estates. It has also been used in other roles over the years, as a war dog, an avalanche rescue dog, sled dog and family companion. During the 1800s its popularity spread to other parts of Europe, the UK and to Canada. In 1824 it was a General Lafayette that introduced the breed to the US.

It was used in a breeding program to reestablish the St.Bernard breed but back where in the Pyrenees because of very poor breeding the breed began to deteriorate. In Europe it was also affected dramatically by both the first and second world wars. These were times of hardship when food was rationed so feeding large dogs was a tall order. Breeding of many breeds was negatively impacted.

New Lease on Life

The breed was given official recognition by the AKC in 1933. After the second world war using dogs that survived, breeders worked hard to restore it. Over the last two decades though its popularity in the US has waned somewhat. In the year 2000 it was ranked 45th most popular registered breed, today it is ranked 67th.

The Dog You See Today

This is a large to giant dog weighing 85 to 120 pounds and standing 25 to 32 inches tall. It is a little more long than it is tall and its back is level. It has a broad chest and a plumed tail that can hang low or then raise high when the dog is alert. On the front legs there are single dewclaws and on the back legs it has double. Its coat is double with a dense, wooly, fine under coat and a thick, long, coarse outer coat. The outer coat is straight or slightly wavy. Common colors are white, grey, red, yellow and brown. It is also weather-resistant. It has a mane around the neck and shoulders which is thicker in males. On the back of the legs and on the tail there is feathering.

Its head is a wedge shape with a slight rounding at the top. It has black lips, eye rims and nose and eyes that are slanted, almond shaped, medium in size and dark brown in color. Its v shaped ears are set low and are close to its head, at around eye level with tips that are rounded. Its face hair is shorter than the rest of its coat and more fine.

The Inner Great Pyrenees


The Great Pyrenees is a very loyal and alert dog. It is a great watchdog and will bark to let you know of an intruder, and will also act to defend you and the family as it has a strong protective side. It is best though with owners who have experience with strong willed and large dogs. This is a dog with very strong guardian instincts, it has an independent side but with training and socialization is gentle, quiet and affectionate.

It is devoted to its family and if it does not have a flock to guard it will guard you all instead! When provoked it is courageous to the point where it will sacrifice itself for you. It needs an owner who is not meek as it will dominate you and then become hard to deal with and territorial. It is a serious dog for the most part but will play with close family, it also does not mature until 2 years old.

Living with a Pyr means being willing to deal with some drool and a lot of barking. Training will be needed to control it especially since it tends to be a nocturnal dog. It is a fair to averagely intelligent breed, wary of strangers, attentive and composed. It prefers to be around people but can handle being left alone for short periods of time without issues with behavior.

Living with a Great Pyrenees

What will training look like?

The Pyr is not an easy dog to train, in fact training is difficult which is partly why this is a dog for experienced owners who can handle dominant dogs. Be prepared to have to be patient and persevere through it. Be consistent and very firm, do not let any rules get broken or bent as it will take that as a sign your dominance is not complete and it can choose which ones to obey. Stay calm and be very confident using positive methods like praise, encouragement and rewards. Treats can also be a great motivator. Negative techniques can cause it to become too fearful and timid. Using professional schools or trainers may also be a good idea. Crate training may help for housebreaking and when you need to leave for longer periods. Make sure you also include leash training as at their largest they could just pull you around when out walking otherwise. Training to control the barking is also a good idea.

Early socialization is important just as it is with any dog. It needs to have a chance to learn how to respond to different places, situations, people, animals and dogs. With the right kind of socialization you will be able to have confidence when you take it out, or away, or when others approach it. Because of its strong guarding instincts if it is not well socialized it can be too aggressive and is unable to recognize a real threat from something else.

How active is the Great Pyrenees?

This is a fairly active dog and that along with its size and need for a yard means it is not best suited to apartment living. It should be given at least a couple of brisk walks a day, each of around 20 to 30 minutes. Indoors it tends to be more quiet and calm but outside it likes to have a romp around, can pull carts for you, carry a doggy backpack on a hike and so on. It should be given a chance to go somewhere off leash safely like a dog park and that would also give it time for socializing and playing doggy games with you.

Pyrs are great in snowy climates and are quite happy to play in the snow but should be looked after in climates that are too warm as it can overheat. The yard should be well fenced as they do like to wander off and if they see a way out to go explore or chase after something they will. Leash training is important so it does not drag you around or pull you over.

Caring for the Great Pyrenees

Grooming needs

A Pyr will need a moderate amount of grooming and care. Its coat does shed a lot and a fair amount, and it also has heavier seasonal shedding that happens. Brush it once a week at least. It will need occasional trimming at a professional groomers and keep a look out for burrs and such that get stuck in its coat, especially in the summer. While some owners opt to have clipped short in the hot months to keep it cool in fact you should avoid doing this as it can get serious sunburn. Only give it a bath when it needs one to avoid drying out its skin. You can do dry shampoos in between if needed. If you do not have the room for bathing it in your home check out the local groomers, some have bathing stations for all sizes of dogs that you can use.

Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week to avoid tooth decay and bad breath. Its ears need to be cleaned using a dog ear cleanser once a week but not by inserting anything inside it. Just give it a wipe and look for sign s of infection like redness, inflammation and discharge. Its nails need to be clipped if they get too long, if you do not know how to do this have someone do it for you. It is important not to cut too far down as it will hurt them and cause bleeding.

Feeding Time

A dog of this size is likely to need about 4 to 6 cups of a high quality dry dog food each day, split into at least two meals to avoid having problems with bloat. How much exactly it will need will vary from one Pyr to the next depending on its rate of activity, age, metabolism, health and size.

How is the Great Pyrenees with children and other animals?

With the right raising the Pyr is very friendly with children, gentle, devoted, steadfast, patient and protective. Without that socialization though it can be overly protective and unable to distinguish between real and non real threats to them. For example if friends come over and the kids are playing rough and tumble or sword fighting with their light sabers the Pyr that is not well raised may see that as its children under attack and respond inappropriately.

It is accepting of other pets especially if it has been raised with them, but is likely to see strange cats or other animals as prey to be driven away. Its background is one of making independent decisions about friends and foe and what puts its flock under threat so it is likely without previous experience and socialization it will makes those choices itself. It is usually very good with other dogs unless they threaten it, or its charges or owner.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Pyr should live for between 10 to 12 years but there are some health issues it is prone to and it is not the healthiest of breeds. Those issues include bloat, patellar luxation, cancer, bone problems, joint dysplasia, skin problems, Addison’s disease and eye problems. They can also be affected by anesthesia sensitivity which is something you should remind the vet in case it ever needs surgery.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people in Canada and the US over the last 34 years that did bodily harm, the Pyr is mentioned in 4 incidents. 2 of those were classed as maimings where the victims was left with permanent scarring disagreement or loss of limb. 1 of the 4 victims was a child and one of the 4 attacks led to the victim’s death. This gives an average of 1 attack every 8 years or so. This means the Pyr is very unlikely to attack a person and as already discussed it would only do so if it perceived a threat.

The key is to make sure it recognizes real threat, make sure it is well socialized and trained, raised and exercised and given the attention it needs. This will lessen the chances of any incident, though nothing can eliminate it, sometimes dogs react in a way we do not predict.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Great Pyrenees puppy from a good breeder of pet standards will cost around $750. This will mean you can ask for parental health clearances, have information on its line, and have some initial medical needs taken care of. From a top breeder of show standard dogs that cost is a lot higher, up into the several thousands in fact. There are a couple of ways you can get a cheaper dog but one is not recommended. The first one is fine and even encouraged, adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue. The dog is less likely to be a puppy but you get some medical procedures done for you and the joy of giving a dog a second chance. The other option is to use a pet store, back yard breeder or a random ad. Most of these places use puppy mills or those kind of practices in their breeding and this is not something you should be giving your money towards.

Once a puppy is chosen you will want to have somethings in place at home ready for it. A crate, collar and leash, bowls, bedding and so on. These initial costs will be about $200 or so. Then when you have the puppy you should take it to a vet for an exam, blood tests, deworming, shots, micro chipping and neutering or spaying if any of those things were not already taken care of. These will cost another $300 or so.

Annual costs should be considered too. Part of your role as a responsible pet owner is to be able to pay for things it needs and to offer it medical care when needed. Food and treats for example will be about $270 a year. Pet insurance along with basic medical care like check ups, shots, tick and flea prevention will cost about $485 a year. Miscellaneous items and costs like training, grooming, toys and license are another $655 a year. This gives a starting figure for the Pyr of $1410 a year.


Looking for a Great Pyrenees Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

Prospective owners of a Great Pyrenees need to be ready for a lot of shedding, barking, strong protective instincts, independence and some drool. You also need to be prepared for a hard time when it comes to training so make sure you are the determined and patient type with experience with this kind of dog. Early socialization is essential to control those guarding tendencies so it does not overreact at times.

If you are prepared for all of that this dog will bring a strong devotion, a lot of affectionate, a protector and a best friend. This is a more serious and steady dog rather than one that is silly or clownish. It will want to rest against you when it is relaxation time at the end of the day.

Popular Great Pyrenees Mixes

Great Pyrenees and Poodle Mix
General Information
Size Large
Height 15 and 32 inches
Weight 85 to 100 pounds
Life span 10 to 12 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Easy to train
Great family dog
occasional Stubborn


Can be

Saint Pyrenees
Saint Pyrenees
Saint Bernard, Great Pyrenees Mix
General Information
Size Giant
Height 25 to 32 inches
Weight 120 – 180 pounds
Life span 8 to 12 years
Touchiness Somewhat sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Relaxed and Playful
Loves to play
Happy to relax
Tolerance to Cold
Good Family Pet



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Image Credit: jathomas, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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