Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Questions about Pyrenees

Recently a reader named Jennifer had some detailed questions about Great Pyrenees dogs, like our Lydia. She wanted to know if this breed would be a good fit for her family. While I don’t pretend to know everything about the breed, I might be able to offer some suggestions.

Jennifer is married with three children (ages 10, 8, and 4). She lives on a half-acre unfenced lot, with neighbors on two sides, also on half-acre lots.

A brief history. Great Pyrenees were bred as livestock guardians in the Pyrenees Mountains which straddle France and Spain. They are magnificent dogs but vicious fighters. That’s their job, after all: to fight off (or kill) whatever threatens their flock. This can include coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, bears, and other such threats. Usually livestock guardians are paired up (often male and female) because they work well cooperatively.

Kids. I can state unequivocally that Pyrenees make wonderful family dogs. Rather than guarding sheep or goats, these dogs will guard their family, which becomes their “flock.” A Pyrenees would literally guard children with his or her life. They’re wonderfully playful, affectionate, and tolerant. Lydia makes us start every day with a smile because of her enthusiastic greetings for all family members whenever we get up.

Chewing. If Lydia is any example, Pyrs don’t chew. Even as a puppy, our shoes and socks and other items normally residing on the floor were safe. Pyrenees are “visual” dogs as opposed to “mouth” dogs (like labs), so their inclination to chew is far less.

Prior pet experience. Jennifer has no prior canine experience. Her husband has had Golden Retrievers in the past. In this instance, I’m not sure a Pyr would be a good fit. Not only are they enormous (especially the males, which can top 150 lbs.) but they are extremely strong-willed. A Golden Retriever is a wonderful dog for obedience; they learn and obey commands very readily. Pyrs are intelligent and bred to be independent thinkers. They have to be – often they’re alone guarding their flock, and must make snap decisions on their own about whether to chase off vs. kill an intruder among their herd. A Pyr will rarely come when called. This is not necessarily a fault of the breed. They’re not bred for docile obedience. They’re bred to be ruler of the fields.

Getting a Pyr to obey can be tough, but they don’t “disobey” out of vindictiveness or mean-spiritedness. It’s just their nature to be independent, not submissive. Nonetheless, they can be a handful if you have no prior experience with strong-willed dogs. Before getting Lydia, I had an Alaskan Malamute and a Pyrenees/Irish Wolfhound cross, in addition to Labrador Retrievers. In other words, I had experience with large strong-willed dogs and felt equal to the task of handling a Pyrenees.

Size. I just happen to like big dogs. A Pyr could easily double a Golden Retriever in weight and even height (especially the males). Not everyone is prepared to handle a dog that can outweigh them. Pyrs don’t throw their weight around in terms of being aggressive with family members; but if you’re trying to break up a dog fight, you’d better have the strength to do so.

Aggression. Pyrs can be territorial and aggressive with other dogs in the house. Lydia conflicts with Major, our lab/hound mix, while indoors; however they get along fine out in the yard (neutral territory). I don’t know if this is true of all Pyrs, but Lydia is definitely the Numero Uno canine in our house. If you plan to keep a Pyr as an indoor dog, don’t have another dog or you’ll have constant misery and dog fights.

Room and Roaming. How much room does a Pyr need? Not a whole lot… sort of. Jennifer has a half-acre lot, and this is more than fine... IF the property is fenced.

Pyrs can and will roam. Once again, this is their nature. It’s what they do – beat the boundaries, patrol their territory, guard their flock. To a Pyr, “territory” doesn’t necessarily mean the legal boundaries of your property. “Territory” means whatever the Pyr wants it to mean. And believe me, if a Pyr wants to go somewhere, he will. An electric fence will NOT stop him. Neither will a barbed wire fence. Better fence your land with field fence with sturdy poles, or other solid means of keeping him within your boundaries.

Jennifer suggested she could keep a Pyr on a leash while walking it outside to answer the call of nature. In a word, NO. Pyrs are not indoor dogs. At best, they are indoor/outdoor dogs. But a Pyr’s instinct is to guard its flock (family), and it knows the only way to do that is to get outside by any means possible and bark at whatever is making noise/passing by/sneezing in the distance.

Barking. Never ever ever underestimate how much and how loud a Pyrenees will bark. They will bark at the drop of a hat. They will bark if they hear a strange noise. They will bark and bark and bark, AND YOU CAN’T STOP THEM.

Pyrs bark because this is their fist line of defense against any threat to their flock. They’d rather chase something away by barking than attacking. So they bark and bark and bark.

This, more than anything else, will probably prevent someone from getting a Pyr – namely, neighbors. There’s only so much barking close neighbors will want to put up with. You can’t stop a Pyr from barking, it’s in their nature.

Dominance. Since Pyrs are strong-willed, dominant animals, their owners must be stronger willed and more dominant. Don’t mistake “dominant” with “mean” because they’re not the same thing. But with Pyrs, you have to let them know who’s the boss.

Acutely aware of this, when Lydia was a puppy we made a point of doing belly rolls with her – gently pushing her down on her back with her belly exposed, then making a lot of cheerful fuss over her. Clearly it was no hardship to coo and fuss over a puppy, but it taught her an important lesson. In canine language, having a belly exposed is a position of submission because it means he’s vulnerable. Canines instinctively understand this and reserve belly rolls only around dominant animals (namely, us).

We still do belly rolls with her. It's fun, she loves the attention, and it reinforces our status as dominant members of her flock.

Once or twice during her “teen” stage, Lydia growled at us (not the girls, but at Don or me). Let me tell you, she caught holy hell for that! We made a huge stink on the rare times she growled: grabbing her by the collar, forcing her on the floor onto her back (belly up), yelling in her face. We had to do this even though we wanted to laugh at her stricken expression. We kept her on the floor (submissive) for at least a minute, which sounds short but is actually a long time. We didn’t yell that whole time, we just glared and kept our hand at her throat. This is dog language and she GOT THE MESSAGE. She has never challenged us once she grew out of her snarky teenage phase.

We did this because we're experienced in handling large and independent dogs. If you're only experience is with gentle and obedient Golden Retrievers, get ready for a change in personality!

Walks. Don't let a Pyrenees off-lead if you're not on your fenced property! Remember, you’ll never be able to keep a Pyr under perfect voice command, so if a Pyr decides to take off chasing a deer or squirrel, the dog will quickly disappear. (We always keep a collar with ID tag on Lydia for this very reason!)

We have one of those 20-foot retractable leads which works very well. I attended doggie obedience class with Lydia when she was half-grown (about six months old) and she learned to walk very nicely on a lead, but God help me if she ever got OFF the leash.

Fur. Pyrenees are, needless to say, long-haired. They shed in the spring and fall, and need brushing once in awhile. Personally I like brushing Lydia and she doesn’t mind it either (except, oddly, on her back legs under her tail – yanks too much hair, I guess). It’s best to get a Pyr used to being brushed as a puppy. She’s a bit less tolerant of brushing in the spring when she’s shedding her winter fur, probably because the brush pulls out too much hair at a time and it must sting or something. But you’ll have to expect a lot of white hair on the floor.

Guardianship. Pyrenees are a breed that needs their flock (family) around them as much as possible. Their duty, their function, their purpose in life is to guard their family. If both parents work and the children are in school – in other words, if the "flock" is away from home for most of the day – then a Pyrenees most assuredly is NOT the breed for you. They will feel like miserable failures because they haven’t been able to keep their “flock” under their personal guardianship. I don’t know how much Jennifer’s family is at home, but this is an issue which must be considered.

A Pyrenees is a good match for us because we’re almost always at home – we homeschool and we work at home, so Lydia’s “flock” is always under her guardianship, which makes for a happy Pyr.

But woe betide when someone’s missing! Last year I took my annual week-long business trip to Portland, and my family reported that Lydia when into a decline in my absence. When I got home, she was all over me – it was literally like I’d come back from the dead and she was ecstatic with relief. She does this whenever any one of us is missing for any length of time. Again, that’s just a Pyrenees nature!

Dewclaws. Just as a matter of interest, Pyrs have huge dewclaws on their back legs. You know how sometimes mutts are born with lots of “extra” claws back there? Vets often offer to remove them. Well, such excessive claws are normal for Pyrs and should not be removed – they are an integral part of a Pyrenees' fighting arsenal.

Anyway, in conclusion from Jennifer’s email, I would say that a Great Pyrenees is not the breed for them, for two reasons: close neighbors, and no fencing. I wish I could offer better advice, but there are Great Pyrenees rescues all over the place because families couldn’t handle the size, the roaming, and the barking of these magnificent dogs.

Jennifer may want to try another large breed such as a Newfoundland. From the Newfies I’ve met, they seem to be a quieter breed (less barking), they’re a touch larger than Pyrenees (they’re working dogs), and they may not be as subject to roaming (but don’t hold me to this, I’m not as familiar with the breed). I do know that Newfoundlands are family-friendly dogs and excellent with children.

I hope Jennifer and her family aren’t too disappointed with this recommendation, but I feel it’s necessary to be very honest about the advantages and disadvantages of Pyrenees in order to prevent a mismatch.


  1. Excellent advise Patrice, not a word out of place. Lydia is a very lucky girl, she owns a family that loves and respects her. Probably brags about how good her flock is around the watering hole! My next (and last) dog will finally be another "big" guy. I haven't had a big dog in awhile, so after my Chew Dog is gone I've decided on a Tibetan Mastiff as my final pup. They are similar in temper and attitude to your Pyr, should be fun! I hope Chew Dog lives forever, but I've dug too many holes in my time and know that won't happen. Chew Dog is an Australian Keeshonese and just a darn good dog...

    1. Brian (funny I work with a Brian Keith at Alpine Access- we are both newbies!) anyway from the research I have done on Pyrenees (we are the breeders who bred Lydia) all Pyrs, Newfies and St. Bernards descend from the magestic Tibetan Mastiff. Just FYI.

  2. I agree so much with this. We have a male and female and can't imagine how they would do on such a small lot that is NOT fenced. Although we love our dogs, they are also tools for the farm and we got them to protect the animals we have.

    The only difference is that ours chew. NOT household items but we will watch them go to the wood pile and collect an uncut log and then haul it somewhere and gnaw on it.

    And our male is a climber. He climbs the tree we have as well as the hay and the fencing. I had no idea, but now as we have had him for a while I am no longer surprised.

    I am so glad you took the time to share your thoughts as our pounds are overloaded with cute breeds that have no place being in the homes they end up in, therefore are dumped off at the pound. This is not a judgment on the people, but animals need as much thought and consideration as a child.

  3. Thanks so much for this! My daughter is begging for a dog and I was thinking of trying to find a Pyrenees. Now I'm not so sure. I'm wanting an outdoor dog that would be a good playmate for my young children and that would also keep varmints off our property. We're on 5 unfenced acres and do have a neighbor pretty close to our property line.

    1. I would try a lab. Or if you are wanting bigger or fluffier, a Newfie. We had a Newfie and I still miss her. She was just an awesome dog.

  4. Thank you for offering such an honest assessment of Pyrenees - it is very sad to watch discouraged families and frustrated pets struggle or part ways because they just weren't a good match for each other.

    We have a border collie and, although we wouldn't trade him for the world, we too often find ourselves explaining to people that it's a breed not appropriate for everyone. BC's need a task and they need stimulation - if they get bored, they get destructive!

    I don't know if Jennifer has considered smaller breeds, but a shih tzu, maltese or terrier mix would do extremely well in an unfenced yard and with kids - my parents and several friends swear by them. :)

  5. I agree with most everything and enjoyed this informative piece... except from the dog training stand point... I completely, and respectfully disagree with how you force your dog into submission during her teen years. You are very very very lucky that you did not get attacked/mauled. I understand the concept in which you have used in "teaching" your dog who is "boss" but there are tons and tons and tons of other ways to teach your dog that you are the boss that are not nearly as threatening or dangerous to you or the dog. I do NOT recommend that anyone try this technique with their own dogs. IT IS VERY DANGEROUS. A dog should never be forced into a submissive position in such a manner. I know many people have seen this on TV from a certain "whisperer" but I can assure you as a dog trainer I have seen many repercussions from this sort of "training". In wolves you will see that this behavior is GIVEN, not demanded. We are not wolves and dogs do not see us as wolves. Dogs do see us as leaders but our relationship with the domestic dog has changed the dogs behavior and the dogs ability to understand us. Some very VERY practical & good ways to teach your dog that you are 'above' them are simple and non threatening. Example, you can hand feed your dog. I highly recommend this because it teaches the dog that you are the source of food, and everything good. This teaches the dog to be gentle with you. Dog is to rough, no food. It teaches the dog that you are the source of all things good and if the dog wants good stuff it has to please you. I start this at day 1 with my dogs. You can also do things like your dog goes last through any doorway and must get permission to come through... you first. Anyway, I could go on forever, but I wont. I really enjoy your blog and read it faithfully, but this is the first Ive truly disagreed and felt the need to interject. I have been training dogs for 7 years now, all breeds and types. I just caution those readers out there... please do NOT try this 'training' at home. I own 3 dogs (with 2 babies in the house) including a 2yr old Beauceron (go ahead, look them up). I am no world renowned expert, but I know what I have seen.

    1. There are dog experts, and there are dog "experts," if you know what I mean. Our closest neighbor considers himself an expert at dog training. He specializes in Weimaraners, but has also owned several Jack Russel terriers and I don't know what all else. Two of his Weimaraners either ran off, were stolen or were eaten by coyotes. Whatever, they just disappeared. We hear him yelling at his dogs almost daily, because they don't come when he calls them. And yet you can't give him any advice or refer him to books by Paul Loeb or Ceser Millan. By the way, Mr. Millan has taken dogs that many so-called dog training "experts" gave up on and turned them into great, well-minded pets. Even dogs that were recommended to be killed! He has trained literally thousands of dogs, as has Paul Loeb. THEY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT.

    2. Agree with first poster. And by the way love the certain "whisperer" advice in the main. But dogs do not force their subordinates to roll belly-up - the subcervient dog OFFERS their belly as a sign of submission. The writer of the advice here - which I admire greatly - is able to do the so called alpha roll because they started it in puppyhood. Your average adult dog just might rip your arm off for trying it.The alpha roll IS dangerous and ineffective in the case of 99% of dog owners.

    3. With all due respect to the dog trainers' comments, Patrice is following the advice of Great Pyrenees experts, not dog training experts. Great Pyrenees are not a "normal" breed and cannot be raised or treated or trained the same way. I'm not saying your advice isn't sage to those who have other breeds however.

  6. Some recommendations are to read "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell, & http://www.4pawsu.com/DebunkingDomMyth.pdf (very informative). Just so you know... you can create even more fear in a dog by rolling it or make it reactive. An alpha roll is a threat on the dogs life, period. By doing so you are giving the dog a very good reason to loose trust and faith in you as 'leader'.

    Ok. I swear... Im off my soapbox.

  7. Well, I've just been lurking and reading comments, and didn't plan on weighing in on the dialog. But in light of Anon's comments about NOT using the submission training/methods you used with Lydia, I just have to say I heartily disagree ...with Anon, not with you, Patrice.

    I raised and competed with Old English Sheepdogs (80 lbs and up) and Shelties (20-30 lbs) in Obedience for almost ten years ...but worked at a training facility with many breeds, including Pyrs. Your method for early submission training gives a pup a great start. Even with the small dogs, carrying a pup on its back (like cradling a baby) is a good first step to building trust in you, their leader. No, dogs are not stupid enough to think WE are wolves or dogs ...but they are pack animals and pack animals need a leader. If you don't become the leader in their eyes, they will attempt to fill the void and assume a leadership role in their relationship with you themselves. It's just their nature.

    NOT doing what you did with Lydia when she was a pup and an adolescent would have resulted in a 100 pound dog that thinks she's in charge. THAT would put you and your family at risk. Just my two cents.

    1. Just curious, do you have a beautiful Great Dane, by the name of Tobi (I think)?

      sidetracksusie (I can't get signed in for some reason)

    2. Agreed again - the aplha roll in this cae is effective and works because it was taught in puppyhood. You MUST establish yourself as pack leader with a Pyr - other wise the Pyr in particular believes his pack has NO leader and believes he must assume the spot for the safety of his family. Once at the top, many Pyrs are NOT benevolent aplha leaders. I just disagree with the alpha roll for inexperienced dog owners, or ones who adopt an adult dog of any breed.

  8. Three comments:

    1. Big dog = big poop. And lots of it.
    2. Newfies slobber like nobody's business, but they're gentle and sweet.
    3. As a teen I assisted a groomer once who was working with a Great Pyrenees that did not appreciate being groomed. This dog's way of handling it was to take my (entire) arm in her mouth, very gently, and then freeze and look at me out of the corner of her eye. It was very much a "See what I could do if I wanted?" thing.

    1. I see where you are coming from my female does not like being brushed and when i come to her as if to brush her she sits and looks as threating as possible until i put the comb away.

  9. Oh, and 4:

    4. Save that fur and make sweaters!

    1. Let me add that Newfies fur has a tendency to smell bad because they produce oil to keep their fur waterproof. No getting around it...plus if kids are in the water splashing around the Newfie will try to rescue them whether they need it or not. It's in their DNA.

    2. It's true about the kids and water although you can work with them to reassure them. My kids were mean and would go under and hold their breath to make Dutchess jump in after them. I reminded them of the boy who cried wolf.

  10. To the trainer: I have had different dogs in my time and have never had a biter until my latest adoption. This is a heeler mix that was badly treated and not properly socialized with other dogs or other animals. He attacked my chickens and my barn cats, gave my other dogs the stink eye to goad them into fighting, and even bit me three different times (yes, blood flowed). I tried different types of discipline to find what worked with him and finally found that timeouts followed by requiring submission - on the back with hand on throat - worked. He is loving and affectionate now and knows his place in the family. He has learned cats and chickens are not to be attacked by receiving that discipline when he transgressed, as well as the usual desensitization treatments. Eventually, I hope to be able to allow him off the tie out and let him run with the other dogs, once we have reached that point. He does come happily to me now when called, so I hope he will be ready this spring.

    When bringing in a new dog, dynamics in the family change - it is important for that dog to understand who the ultimate boss is and that must be the human, and also where he stands in the pack order. Requiring that type of submission is one tool that works for some dogs, from what I have seen and experienced. I never have had to use it on any other dog I have adopted before, but this one requires it. He understands it, and it reestablishes his place in the group. He also no longer bites me, which I am VERY glad of. I tried EVERYTHING, and was worried I would have to have him put down - but the submission ceremony has saved him and he is a loved addition to my family. So I would have to respectfully disagree with you on your assertion. Sometimes, submission ceremonies are the only thing that a dog understands. It depends on the dog and its breed.

    For Jennifer, I have a breed suggestion. My dominant dog is a smooth collie (less fur than a Lassie-type rough collie). Collies are a wonderful breed - smart, trainable, talkers - (mine groans in appreciation when I pet him which is really endearing) - and generally good with kids. Very affectionate, barkers but not excessively so, great watchdogs as well as great herding dogs. Mine patrols the perimeter I established with him when he first came to me - he accepts MY boundaries as his. Our property is not fenced but he stays on it and away from the nearby road - I just had to "bark" my displeasure a couple times when he ventured too near to it. He does argue with me sometimes, but if I am adamant (get to the house!) he complies. He alerts me when someone drives up or the goats get out, which is very useful. We are working on him NOT alerting on cats or chickens sighted in the yard, however, LOL!

    They get along well with other dogs, like people, are amazingly fast at a run, can turn on a dime, and have a great sense of humor. They are happy lounging on the couch, or running about outside - they can be left alone while you work out, and will guard your house while you are gone as they understand that as their job. They are a larger breed, not like Pyrs but the boys get to be upwards of 80 pounds. Oh, and they have fur on the bottoms of their feet, so they are very comfortable in snow. They are a very handsome breed with beguiling eyes. I got mine when he was just at the end of puppyhood, and his then-people didn't want him anymore. I did lose a pair of leather flats to his last burst of chewing, and I am still wearing the workboots that have the one shorter tongue due to his trimming them for me... but as a full adult, he doesn't chew anything except toys and rawhides and pig ears given to him for that purpose. AND - as a sensitive breed, just using a strong tone is all that is required for discipline.

    They do have to be brushed, but the undercoat is wonderful for spinning and I have a project underway with his. Speaking of spinning undercoats - have you considered spinning your Pyrs'? If I had those great glorious pure white handfuls, I couldn't resist at least trying.

  11. Patrice, Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. This has been very informative. While I am a bit disappointed, I am grateful to be informed now, before we get a dog, as opposed to getting a dog that was not the right fit for our family. Inviting a dog into our life will be a wonderful addition to our family and it would be terrible if it was not a good fit for our lifestyle. I'm glad I asked the questions I did and feel much more informed. Thank you to everyone else for offering us other possible breeds. I will be sure to read up on them and see if they will be a good match. Feeling grateful to you all...-Jennifer

    1. We have a Bernese Mountain Dog who is very laid back and sweet if you are into the giant breeds. He is very lazy, and only has very short bursts of energy if you egg him on. We have a Pyrenees pup, and we can already tell he is trying to dominate the Berner, so if you want a dog that isn't so dominant, that's a good one. They do shed about as much as the Pyr, however. He only barks in excitement when we come home from work, but is otherwise a pretty quiet dog.

  12. anon. trainer is someone who just cannot accept the fact that there are exceptions. patrice..your article on the pyrennes is fabulous...you could have been describing my two chinese sharpeis except for their grooming needs of course. a sharpei is a "guardian" dog and excellent around family and children..they are easily trained to do their job and mind their manners. they must have a fence and boundaries because they love the hunt and chase. they are loyal to their owner and will fight to the death to protect him/her.and they have this uncanny sense of when they are needed for comfort and company too. anon. from miss.

  13. We adopted Opal last year from our local Pyr rescue group. She is a "house" dog and I am on my second vaccum cleaner-shedding isn't close to describing the tremendous amounts of fur we collect everyday. We had a Golden but I grieved so much after she died I wanted to try another breed. I will go back to a golden when the time comes. Baby never left our yard and always came when called. Opal will go until she drops, she can climb most fences. She rarely comes when called. She loves our cats and the grandbabies can crawl all over her. She stands with her head in my husbands lap. We love her so much but she is definietly high maitenance.She only barks at night but if the deer are running it sounds like the world is going to end. We also have a dalmation male mix. It took two good knock down drag outs and he is now under her finger and knows "the rules."They sleep curled up next to each other. I was hoping she would be a good companion for my husband who has early dementia. He loves her but I have to keep an eye on them when he is walking her. We have our vet board her when we can't take her with us(rarely.) She is comfortable and very familiar as our vet is our friend and is at the house often. Opal is an old soul and her eyes are so expressive. I would never give her up but I can honestly say I wouldn't recommend this breed for someone who didn't have a very high fence or acers where she could be doing a job like gaurding a flock. I have had 3 golden's in my life. All 3 were just outstanding and each time we said good bye I thought I would never get over it. I would not hesitate to adopt a golden. I would recommend checking out the rescue groups as they do a good job mataching the dog to families. Puppies are wonderful but so much work, especially if you have small kids. Opal came crate and house trained and walks well on a leash. She was heart worm tested and neutered. Sure was nice. She does not chew and does not each very much. She loves water and we have to keep a towel under the bowl. She only drools when scard or very upset-rare now that she has adopted us. She is snow white but we have to stay on top of her grooming. Lydia is a great color-doesn't show smiudges as bad:>

  14. Good article Patrice and very thorough. I have to disagree with anon about the submission. When we got our Pyr she was 6 months old and had only been with goats. Free ranging chickens were new to her and very very exciting. What stopped her chasing chickens was me tackling and rolling her into submission while growling MINE. She got the message and is now a better guardian of Mom's chickens than she is the goats. Pyrs are definitely not a dog for a first time dog owner. Blessings, Kat

  15. I have little to add tonight, as I don't have a dog, and am not a dog person....I have pud-cats. I love dogs, but I don't have the right personality to actually own one. My kitties earn their keep.

    Anyway...the part about Lydia not liking to be brushed below her "waist" caught my attention.

    Pud-cats don't like that either. I once received a fairly mean bite - with what I perceived as no warning - from one of my kitties after spending a little too much time trying to brush out a knot at the base of her tail.

    I got a lot better at perceiving a possible warning!

    Just Me

  16. Good info! We bought a Pyr from a local rancher about 3 years ago. He was 5 months old, and had only ever been with goats and his family (parents and siblings). The rancher had to trap him. He was scared to death for about a week, and refused to come out of the pen we had him in. He is an outside dog, as I don't allow dogs in the house. We have bred and raised Rotts for 20 years, so it has been very disconcerting that Bo (our Pyr) has not been very trainable. He will respond to my husband, but not me, if he thinks he is in trouble. He enjoys being loved on, and is very vocal (talking) and affectionate. He is a ROAMER. We have 10 acres and it is all fenced. He can go the entire length of the property in SECONDS, and be UNDER the fence in a heartbeat. Those huge paws are like steam shovels, and we are constantly filling in holes. He cannot be contained, unless we tie him. He LOVES to chase the coyotes. He has wandered and been gone for DAYS. Again, thanks for some more insight onto how Pyrs work. I was thinking we were doing something wrong, but no, it's just Bo ;-) I guess I need to look for a female Pyr when our female Rott (Bo's current girlfriend) passes on. He LOVES to take her off wandering, and she isn't really a wanderer, she goes reluctantly. She prefers to sleep and stay put. She used to be in charge, but now Bo is..it's kind of funny watching the dynamics work.

  17. Lydia is a magnificent creature. After reading this post I realize again what a blessing it is for folks to choose pets according to their experience, dedication and abilities. When I was looking for a dog I had very specific criteria. I wanted a medium sized companion dog who I would never have to worry about with babies and young children as we were preparing to start a family.

    I paid an arm and a leg for our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, but he has been everything I wanted in a dog and more. He's spoiled, but his demeanor is suited to it. I have yet to find anyone who's disenchanted with him. Not mailmen, not our friend who's terrified of dogs, not babies/toddlers, not my uncle who detests dogs... He sleeps at the foot of our bed, where we decided he belonged after crate training him not to sleep there. He adjusted pretty quickly. :o)

    Blessings to you and Lydia and all the responsible dog owners out there.

  18. we have a rottweiller. large dog, good with livestock,except dogs. loves all people. comes when called (mostly) loves lounging on sofa. wonderful dog all round. She is 5yrs old and we got her as a non intentional rescue at 11 weeks. She is the best dog imaginable. would suggest this breed from a suitable breeder as an all round pet.BUT make sure early training so the dog knows its place is done. Since they have a bad reputation it also helps keep unwelcome visitors away....ours are in danger of being loved to death. Our plot is un fenced but she has learnt boundaries all the while you watch her. as a puppy she was not a chewer or a biter but even now weighting as much as our 13yrold she wants to sit on our laps.

  19. My confession: I have a pyr and I shouldn't. I got her when she was 1, and she is now 13. I live on 1/5 acre. I got her at a pound, as her 3rd owner. She was originally a puppy mill puppy, then brought to a ranch. It didn't work out; she was abused, malnourished, and became pregnant. When she fought with their other dogs, they took her to the pound. Some guys in an apartment adopted her. Obviously she landed back at the pound. The I adopted her. I had a standard suburban yard, and was gone much of the day. They let me adopt her without knowing a single thing about the breed. Though I love her, I'm sorry now, and would only adopt a pyr if I had at least 10 acres, animals (a job for her), and was there more.

    The good:
    - She is a sweet, goofy, fun dog, or was in her younger years. There is nothing more joyful than a bouncy pyr doing play postures.
    - She is loyal to a fault.
    - She's pretty. You get a lot of attention when she's out on leash. A pretty dog helps in that your neighbors don't call the police as readily about the threatening barking dog.
    - She doesn't eat much. Really. She's a small pyr (90 lbs), and two cups of dog food a day is all it takes. Then again, I shouldn't have a pyr. She lives the life of a couch potato dog.
    - Her fur sheds dirt better than you'd think. We only bathe her quarterly.
    - She's great with kids, cats, and other animals with just a little training.
    - She is wary of strangers on her territory. Simply holding out a biscuit will not make you her friend. I consider this a good thing, that she is not easily "bribed". I don't know if this is a pyr trait.
    - She is friendly with strangers outside her territory.
    - Almost no issues of chewing, even when left alone a good part of the day.
    - Pyrs live longer and healthier than the other giant breeds.
    - Unlike most, my pyr is not a wanderer. She has "her territory", and is happy to stay within it, even if the gate is standing wide open. It might due to the shamefully small amount of space I have for her.

    The bad:
    - She barks. and barks. and barks. She's gotten us in a lot of trouble. And it is LOUD and percussive. You can't stop it, as Patrice said. We keep her strictly indoors from 9pm to 8am except for supervised pees. Sad. I shouldn't have a pyr.
    - Fur. EVERYWHERE. Really, you have no idea the volumes of fur. She hates brushing and I don't have the time or wrist strength for it (but you have to).
    - She's not terribly smart. However, this may be attributed to malnutrition as a puppy before I got her.
    - She's a bit neurotic. Pyrs do NOT like change, and are prone to weird phobias. They like routine, and can be upset when their routines are broken. Moving, dog sitters, etc, are traumatic for her. Walking a different direction around the block is a crisis.
    - She digs and dust wallows. Our yard looks like an artillery range. She has dug through a couple carpets as well.
    - She does her best to "patrol" our little yard and makes sure to bark at anything - ANYTHING - that happens on "her territory". "Her territory" is anywhere she can see from our back deck, including the nearby sidewalk and road.
    - She has to be the alpha dog, and, while she can be trusted on neutral territory like at a park, no friend can bring their dog to our house.
    - She's somewhat clumsy, and just bashes her way through things like baby gates, garden fences, etc.

    Well, there's probably more, but that's my experience. If I had 10+ acres and some goats/sheep, I would have another pyr or two in a heartbeat. But pyrs are working dogs. They become bored and neurotic in suburbia, and their barking is very difficult to cope with. They can be great "family" dogs if they *also* have real work to do on a sizable territory.

  20. You did your reader such a service by giving your full attention and advice to this topic. We had considered getting a Pyr for our near 10 acres of land, but after we met with a woman in charge of a Pyr rescue operation in Houston, Tx., we saw how difficult it is to keep them on your property, as you said, unless you have sturdy fencing. About the "A" dog stance you took with your 6 mth puppy...I agree with using this method. We've had several large dogs in our family and they ALL do the belly roll and usually require your type of intervention/pro-active parenting at that "teenage" time-frame of the dog testing their boundaries. If you have a dog who doesn't learn to submit by this stage, then you're going to probably be in trouble one day. I agree with the other commentator who mentioned that dogs are pack animals, yes, they are and they recognize pack attributes. They don't recognize "people" because you become a part of their pack. Therefore, you must be "A" dog in the pack to retain control. We can't put a politcally correct spin on this angle because it stands as it is. In fact, there is nothing wrong with understanding this concept.

    With a large, determined breed, this is imperative. Since your dog was still a puppy during this challenge, this was an excellent chance to stand your ground and teach the lesson on who is ultimate ruler. I'd agree that doing this with a full grown dog is very risky, but a puppy will likely be impressed and more likely to back down. If you don't do it then, you could end up with a fully grown dog who has learned that you are too afraid to stand your ground. Not a good scenario. And, coming from a family with a police officer and lots of K-9 trainer friends, I have been told flat out by all these officers, "If you want to have a big dog, you can't be afraid of being bit during training." Training can have its risks, that's why it is so imperative to stand your ground when they are puppies so they will have the lesson learned by the time they are full grown dogs.

    I have an Australian Shepherd who wanted to duel with me over a dirty dish in the dishwasher at about 6 mths of age as well. I was loading dirty dishes, he began smelling the loaded plates and wanted me to stay away from his delicious find. I immediately put on the roar, put him into belly submission and the lesson was well learned, he never, ever has tried a growl or foul approach with me again (he's nearly 3 years old).

    I believe in using treats for training, I don't think I'd withhold food from my dog because it would seem logical that this approach could possibly create more aggression in the long run, but we do hand-feed daily; we do take our dogs from puppy stage and vigorously rub their ears, tails, face while playing so that any child who might be poking around in these areas will not be nipped; we also let our dogs be dogs, understanding the pack mentality of a dog...they don't reason as we humans reason, but many breeds are very intelligent. We have ALWAYS selected our puppies, in part, by their willingness to be held on their back in our arms, full submission. For large dogs, this is pretty important.

    It was very interesting to read your blog. I love reading about all kinds of dogs, especially by a blog writer who is living with that kind of breed on a regular basis --- love it.

    And I think the comments are always a bonus.


  21. Thank you very much for this assessment of Lydia's breed. We will wait until we can be a one dog family before purchasing a Great Pyr. They sound like wonderful dogs but we have two house dogs now so we don't want the worry of constant fighting.

  22. We have a ten acre farm and a small, border collie mix. When we were considering adding another dog to our family, we took a Newfoundland mix on trial. Ended up we were glad we'd only agreed to a trial basis. Initially the dog seemed very laid back and it seemed as though the arrangement would work well but after the dog had been on our farm three days I guess he got comfortable enough that he thought he would begin to assert his leadership. He snarled at me when I went to take a stick from him then later bit my arm when I pushed him back from trying to bully his way into the house. Later he bit a 12 year old boy who had come to visit. It turns out he had been king-of-the-hill for five years with his previous owners. They had let him rule their family and he thought he was in charge. We have two children and frequent visitors, there was no way we could keep him around and we did not have the time or desire to do remedial training with a five year old, 130 pound dog. We had to send him back.

    It's so very important to let the dogs know early in life that they're NOT in charge! Since then we've gotten a five month old German Shep/black lab mix and have begun to work with him by regularly taking his toys from him (and then giving them back when he sits), elbowing him out of the way and "eating" his food, making him sit and wait for treats and wait until we've gone through the door before he's allowed through, etc. If you have a large dog, especially, they have to know their place in the family. We hope the Newfie finds another home but he'd been ruined because they let him run their household.

  23. Thank you for the information Patrice! Except for the barking (which would serve my neighbors with the 4 beagles right - kidding I wouldn't do that to a dog) Lydia sounds like a wonderful dog.

    We're working on fencing our 0.6 acres, and I hope one day to have a good protective dog for my kids. I have a 13 year old high functioning autistic son and a 11 yr old girl. Our sweet pound dog (cocker spaniel/dachshund mix) is getting up there in age. She always lets us know when someone is even thinking about setting foot on our property, but I wish I was able to train her to alert when my son leaves.

  24. We have a 17 month old female Great Pyrenees, Cheyenne. We researched the breed for two years before buying her from a breeder in MO. We messed up though and bought the "farm dog" before the farm. When adopted her as a 6 week old puppy (way too early) and then moved onto our 12 acre farm when she was 11 months old. We do not have a fence yet and are very, very protective of her. We homeschool as well, so we are with her most of the day. Our 10 year old daughter (Cheyenne's "girl") walks her faithfully 3 times a day...rain or shine..snow or ice. We have bought materials to fence and are waiting until all the young men we know can come out and help us. We have a huge concern that she'll not stay in the fence. We have a dog pack up the road and the leader has beckoned her to follow him while she's on the leash with my daughter. I'm sure she would if she had the chance. Not sure she'll ever get off the 20' retractable leash, even when we have a fence...which is sad. We'd like to set up multiple fenced areas, so at least she'd have to get through a couple of layers before escaping. She sleeps in our home and is very attached to her family. She sheds a lot...barks a lot and is a little stubborn in obedience. She has an extremely weird phobia where she is deathly afraid of new western boots that come into the house. Whether they're attached to her family or not. It takes her about two weeks to get use to the new boot smell. This has happened every time a new pair comes into the house. We have chickens...she's great with the chickens, but I have to scold her immensely to not eat the chicken poo! Not sure why she's attracted to this gross stuff. If you have any suggestions there, it would be greatly appreciated. She's on a high quality food and doggy vitamins...no scraps.
    Well, thanks for sharing. Your assessment is right on as far as this breed. We love our Pry dearly, but they are definitely not for everyone.
    MO Family

  25. Beckybeq,

    I have a high-functioning austistic son as well. It would be wonderful to have a dog trained to alert us when James takes off. I wonder how a person would train for that?


  26. Hey we have resuce 4 Hungarian Kuvasz. This last
    one is the best of the lot because she was a
    show dog before we took her in. And to tell you
    the truth I cannot to this day tell the difference between the Kuvasz and the great Pry.
    We have 5 arces of no fenced yard. So they are
    always on lead if we take them out. No ifs ands and buts about it.But this one doesn't bark unless some one is in the yard. Or up on the road.The kuvasz seems to get alone with our black lab.And they have to be really pushed before they will bite. and they will growl a warning several times before they bite.And you have to head those warnings.So I am assuming if you get a puppy in one of these breeds I would almost make a show dog out of to socialize it better. Like I said this one seems to know much
    more on how to handle people.
    But any way blessings

  27. Our GP doesn't bark excessively, that I can tell. There are nights when he goes on and on, though, and I can see how that would be bad if you had neighbors. I usually figure he is doing his job, protecting the farm. A bear got pretty close to our house a little while back as evidenced by two piles of bear poop in my husband's tree stand about 200 yards from the barn. He must have treed that poor bear and hld him there for a while. I feel very secure having him guarding our flock of birds, rabbits and milk cow. even the cats take notice when he barks. We got him at 5 years old, and although he isn't obedient, as you said, he is very intuitive, and figures out pretty quickly what you want to happen and works for it. But he definitely doesn't follow commands. I thought this was just because he had only been raised with goats and other dogs and hadn't been trained. I hadn't realized this was a Pyr trait.

    Sadly we have just found out that he has bone cancer and won't be with us much longer, and we are preparing for getting a new dog. You article has been very helpful to me, and timely.

  28. Sorry Patrice - slight hijack occurring. :o)

    Hi Birdy! How old is your son? Apparently the right dog can be trained to alert, follow or search for a wandering child. I remember reading that, for a child who wanders (thank goodness not my son anymore!) the proper dog was smart enough to follow the rules unless they needed to break the rules. For example, following the autistic child rather than "stay". Here's some articles on autism service dogs:




    And a very interesting one which explained how they trained the dog for "hide and seek" to find a wanderer.


    "One of the first puppies we placed at North Star (named, appropriately enough, Star) went to two brothers on the autism spectrum. The younger brother, David, was a wanderer. This was alarming, as this family lived on the edge of dozens of acres of woods. In creating this placement we incorporated games such as hide and seek into this puppy's training in preparation for the day that Star's search and rescue skills might need to be tapped. So far, this has not happened, but twice Star has alerted the family to David's wanderings by barking frantically and circling him. We did not train this dog to do this; I believe by growing up with David and his family, Star learned the importance of keeping David within sight. Surprising benefits accrue and dovetail when a service dog grows up in his or her permanent home, with access to the particular child's needs."

    When Matt was younger, we had a few times (in coyote infested, and sometimes mountain lion, territories) where my son decided to bike in the driveway at midnight. Having an alert (he could get around a door lock/door chain/alarm) would have been helpful!

    Sorry Patrice! Hijack complete...

  29. When we lived in Houston we were interested in owning a Pyr and I called a breeder in another state. She asked what we wanted/needed in a dog. I told her about our 1/3 acre in the suburban neighborhood, the house full of kids, the home saw lots of children coming and going. She told me that she felt that yr were NOT the dogs for us. 1)barking makes for less than ideal neighbor situations 2)strange neighborhood children bursting through the door could create a bad situation for a territorial dog, toss in kid scuffles and instincts to protect could be aroused. With several small children I needed a dog that was more compliant with less hours spent in training. I was so thankful that the breeder was brutally honest with us then and so thankful that we now live in a situation where we have four of these great dogs plus one Anatolian/Pyr cross.

  30. Patrice- as usual your information is spot on. I agree with everything you said wholeheartedly and have nothing to add. You have learned the breed well and now understand as well as any breeder does the pros and cons to the Great Pyrenees breed. Bless you for giving blunt advice to those who would choose such a wonderful, loving, independent breed and this.

  31. I enjoyed reading all of these comments. Am always interested in hearing others experiences with this breed. I have had dogs my whole life but only the last 3 years have been introduced to the Pyr. In that time I've fostered one and adopted another. While they are unlike any other breed ve encountered (the rescue I fostered for had a 'support' group for us!) I have a somewhat different experience. Ours is a 120lb male Pyr/Anatolian mix -our vet says same difference! He is a house dog along with our other 3 dogs (2 GSD's and a shih tzu) though he has constant availability via doggie door to our securely fenced medium sized yard. He was an alpha and we were told he would be best as an only dog in the household. I've heard that a lot about this breed and while I thnk that my dog is singularly special I doubt that he is that much of an anomaly! A few supervised days and posturing with our dogs and they figured it out. They all get along great, he goes to the dog park and gets along with about 99% of dogs.... While he is a lonfee and would be fine on his own I'm glad he doesn't have to be. we've made a concerted effort to keep our dogs well socialized with people and pets so dog parks/ outdoor cares and bars and Lowes visits are always on our schedule! He is an eye
    catcher and people respond to him! He loves all people and children adore him.
    In my experience these dogs don't require a lot of space... They are more couch potato than my other guys and is happy guarding the front door or the back gate. He always gravitates to one of those places depending on where we are and would be distraught if he weren't allowed to do his job. He does guard food/toy/water etc... Anything he may decide is his. we can take it but the dogs cannot and they know it and don't even try. This would be my only cation with kids... We don't have any so it's never an issue. I've never seen him dig inside or out so another anomaly perhaps. Shedding in enormous proportions - adores getting brushed and we only bathe about twice a year. Our vet says he's the cleanest Pyr they've ever had in their office. I actually find them to be fairly low maintenance if you understand their needs and adjust your expectations. They do their own thing and kinda march to their own drummer! Definitely stubborn, but trainable on their own terms. They are not a German shepherd who wants to please and waits for your command. They are very sensitive and will recognize if you're upset, if there is yelling he becomes very worried. Great dogs but so different than a 'normal' dog.... Nothing like those eyes looking into your soul though and a truer friend was never had...

  32. I'm hoping for some help regarding the behavior of my 7 month old Pyr. His name is Ollie, and we've had him since he was 2 months old. He came from a sheep farm, and has been absolutely wonderful with my children (10 & 2) and 3 cats. His is very playful, but extremely gentle, affectionate and has never showed anything but patience with my 2 yr old. We live on a 500 acre family farm, and he is the only dog at our home (There are several other dogs about a 1/4 mile down the road). He has done quite a bit of destruction through chewing on shoes and anything left in his path, though! We have given him a wide assortment of his own toys, and he does play with those, too, but still grabs up what he can. My question is this: Is it likely that a 7 month old male Pyr would kill and chew to pieces a newborn deer? To my horror, I was woke up this morning by an irate father(who is also my neighbor) and told to get outside. The head and one part of a leg of very newborn deer had been brought to my porch, and my father found it. He hates dogs that kill deer and said if he really thought Ollie had actually killed the baby deer, he would put him down. I am hoping that possibly the deer was already dead and/or dismembered before he drug the parts up, but I really don't know if this is something Pyr's may be prone to do. I checked him out, and he didn't have any blood on his white fur. Information and Advice Please!

    1. Anon 10:56, I forwarded your question to the breeder from whom we got our Lydia. I've asked if she could post her response here, so please stand by.

      - Patrice

    2. Anon, here is what the breeder replied. Please understand these folks are intimately familiar with Pyrenees and have bred and shown them for many years. They've also handled rescue Pyrs.

      - Patrice

      We'll answer from our experience:

      First of all, one CANNOT assume the Pyr did this. It's counterintuitive! The fact that the Pyr didn't have any blood on his white fur tells you that he had nothing to do with it. He likely didn't even bring it home. Pyrs are not scavengers. They are guardians by nature, not killers or fighters (unless protecting their livestock). We have never experienced our Pyrs ever retrieving anything or mutilating anything or killing anything. On the contrary, when one of our ewes gave birth to a lamb who passed away, the Pyrs stood guard over the dead lamb, they could have eaten it if that was their wish, but they didn't. They guarded it.

      A 7 month old Pyr is not mature enough to be responsible for guarding a herd but does have innate skills for guarding that cannot be taught. It is highly unlikely that there could be a genetic mutation so extreme as to cause a dog whose instinct it is to protect into one whose instinct is to kill and mutilate. It is not possible. Plus the fact that the writer says Ollie is gentle with the kids says he is 100% Pyr.

      Since the writer did not say whether he/she knew how the baby deer got there our guess is there are coyotes or wolves or owls or other predators in the area and it's one of them who did the dirty deed.

      On a separate note, the reason the Pyr chews is he is teething. When Esther (Elijah's sister) was young she would steal Jim's work gloves if he took them off and left them on the ground and she would chew them. You have to be diligent about not leaving things you don't want chewed in harms way when they are puppies. And not all puppies chew things. Elijah didn't but his sister Esther did.

      Like we told you Patrice, the Pyr parent HAS to be the alpha. If that puppy thinks he is in charge, he is. The chewing could be a power grab. Tell them to watch him and find out if it's a bad habit or truly teething.

  33. Thank you for the detailed description and all of the great comments here. I just adopted a 5 year old Pyr (who I think is mixed with Golden Retriever based on his coat color) from our local shelter. He was 'returned' to the shelter by his previous family of 1 year when they had to move but I have no history before that....though the shelter says "he's great with everybody, look at how calm he is"
    Here's what I've learned in the week we've been together:
    1. A 120 lb dog is a lot of dog.

    2. A 120 lb dog can still break through a fence when he wants. I literally watched him tear apart my wooden fence to get to the yappy dog next door. I was able to chase him and grab him but he cannot be in our suburban backyard alone.

    3. This big bear is fine with other dogs. The shelter was concerned with his socialization with other dogs so we brought our heeler back to the shelter before adopting...both dogs are fine together and actually demonstrate better leash behaviors as a pair rather than individually. The heeler fits under him (literally put her head under him while peeing on the first walk..she learned not to do that after that) but they seem to be fine at tolerating without barking at each other or growling. This breed is good with a medium sized dog for a companion (I would not go tiny based on him wanting to get at the tiny dog next door).

    4. Not all dogs love cats. The Pyr desperately wants to protect us from our 3 indoor cats. Cats have been contained to a separate room and he still wants to destroy them. Literally, bark, pound himself at door, search for ways around, etc without much response to redirection. We tried calming, walking, positive reinforcement for tolerating to no avail. Even leashed in the house, cats are prey to him and he will choke to try to go after them. Truthfully, I wish the shelter had been more honest about this as he will be going back ONLY on this factor...I could handle everything else with him. I am heartbroken, but pretty sure he would kill them if given a chance.

    5. He is fantastic to walk...he follows right at his person and everyone who sees him stops to comment on his beauty. He's kind of quick to tire and doesn't understand the water fountain concept yet, but he'll learn.

    6. He is super with kids. You can tell he has a purpose to watch over his flock. I would not put 120 lbs with a toddler just for knock down factor, but I would trust this dog with my kids life...and this bond was probably within the first hour. In a week, kids have layed on him, hugged on him, straddled him...and he loves it all. Our heeler is still sensitive to some touch and has never allowed hugs so this guy is a love bucket.

    7. Fleas...as a shelter dog, I figured fleas would come with him so we did a Frontline treatment as soon as he got here. I think the treatment only made more fleas in the end. His thick double coat makes it easy for these critters to set up camp that they will never leave. These dogs need to be treated for fleas regularly and I would consider Advantage instead of Frontline based on the poor reaction we got (Advantage is usually what works for our other animals but Frontline is what I could buy right away for his size).

    Anyway, thanks again for your info. I wish I had read it ahead of time but do believe that most of these factors are ones we could have worked on. The cat prey instinct is the deal-breaker on this guy and it breaks my heart.

  34. I found your site via google when I heard people were breeding/training Pyrs as service dogs. I grew up with both Pyrs and Newfoundlands (and currently have a Newfie). My problem was knowing Pyrs, having them as service dogs seemed counter to their natural instincts. It just seems strange, but maybe it works. But people are trying to treat them as they would Golden Retrievers and that raises every red flag for me.

    Last year there was a Pyr rescue group at a mall here in MN and I stopped to pet one of them with my daughter. The rescue folks were trying to do the hard sell on a few other folks who had stopped to pet. But I couldn't stay quiet. They were trying to pass off Pyrs as something similar to a lab. It's ridiculous. I told the other folks about what Pyrs were bred to do and how that is counter intuitive to city life. I told them to expect roaming and night barking. That there was a reason why I went with a Newfie, knowing that there are so many kids running in and out of our house playing.

    I loved our Pyrs and bonded so closely with one that I still think about him 20 years later. Our Pyr went through a sliding glass door to stop a person with a knife trying to break into our house. My brother and I were kids and the only ones at home. He cornered and barked at the person in the backyard until he tried to attack our Pyr with his knife. Our Pyr bit him once and continued to keep him cornered until the police came a 1/2 hour later. Amazing restraint. Smart dog. And he definitely saved both my brother and I (even the police were impressed).

    And though the rescue group accused me of bad-mouthing the breed, I took the time to explain to them it was because I adored but respected Pyrs so much. Hence the reason why I'm taking the time to write a comment.

    I hope those considering a Pyr run across your site via their google search about the breed. Your information is spot on and will hopefully help those looking make a more informed decision.

    They are fantastic dogs and that deserve the right homes.

  35. I could not possibly read the give and take from 44 pages of posts.
    Nonetheless, I came to this site from a google search regarding Pyrenees family fighting. I have had these dogs for over 30 years as flock/ property guardians. In fact my first puppy was raised by such a breeder as we could not even go into the kennel much less pet the puppy as he believed it would ruin the puppy;s commitment to it's final master.

    I have never had the constant fighting I do now. Fther son who have never been separated and mother is in the mix. Jr. was raised in the house with parents still outside. Jr. is 3. The fights are getting moreoften and deadly every week. They start when one has attention from us and the other doesnt.
    I have been to the ER 30 miles away twice from inyervening. I have learned to get help and use tails rather than trying to grab both by the scruff as that is where they will put their teeth when they struggle free. And yes the culprits are VERY sorry and whine and grovel by my bed that night.
    Today wa the last straw. They will have to be separated into guard areas. The GENTLE GIANTS ARE GENTLE among their family and i have seen them i action disposing of intruders. I saw our female jump a % ft fence into our poultry yard and grab a possum break its back and toss it in the air wherein he mate caught it and tossed it back.
    The meter reader must have a sandwiched escort as the male will circle to the front and distract him while the female belly crawls right behind him in an effort to hamstring him.
    G-d help a stray human on their turf; they do not have an off switch. it is my opinion these lovable devoted dogs should only be with those of us that are isolated from the usual suburbia OR those that take a gentle giant into a home as strictly a pet and NEVER allow that dog around a situation involving ALPHA type males or even females
    Mine all coexist with chihuahuas and pomerainas but not one another
    Sharon Red Deer

  36. I need some insight. Our Pyr, Sophie is 7 months old and I think she's hit the "horrible teen years" I hear everyone talk about. We've had her since she was 8 weeks old. She's developed a routine of sorts over the past few weeks that's driving me nuts. She stays out all night patrolling our 3/4 acre fenced in yard, with our dairy goats, chickens, and ducks all in their respective barns with enclosed runs so she doesn't have direct access to them. She's fine with the goats when I'm out there with her, but she thinks the poultry are chew toys. She's never killed one, but I've found more than one soaked with her slobber, so we now keep them all in covered runs. She comes in the house around 7am everyday, sleeps for several hours on the living room floor, wakes up, eats, I take her out on the leash to pee and then she comes back in. She then just hangs out with us, resting a little more and demanding attention off and on from me and my boys, usually belly rubs. Up to here, we're fine. What I'm having a problem with is she seems to be stalking in the house when I'm in the kitchen too long. We have a double wide modular home so it's not like she can't see me. The living room, dining room and kitchen are all open to one another. She moves from the living room into the dining room about half way toward the kitchen with her head down and her eyes looking up. If I come out of the kitchen and ask her whats wrong and head for the living room, she backs up and follows me, sits down in front of me and wants petted or buries her head in my lap and wants petted. If I don't come out of the kitchen, sometimes she'll just lay on the runner in the dining room until I do, but sometimes she'll give a really low grumble until I do. She doesn't have the Pyr smile I hear everyone talk about either, but then again, I'm not sure what it's suppose to look like either. She never has. Ever since she was 8 weeks old she has always had a somber look about her. Unless, she hits the randy, ornery, hyper part of the day that's driving me nuts! Somewhere between 2 and 4 in the afternoon she starts with the "I want out" "No I don't" part of the day. She'll go to the door and want out, but only to sit at the front of the house and scope out the back yard for several minutes and then pulls me back to the front door. We have to take her out the front door and down the side yard to the gate in the fence to let her out. She'll do this 3 or 4 times before I can get her to go back out into the yard. Then, if you go into the yard with her she's all hyper and jumpy and "play with me or I'll run circles around you until you do" kinda thing. Her stubborness seems to have blossomed overnight and with a vengence! Any insight into this behavoir would be much appreciated along with any suggestions.



  37. Very interesting read. We live on 40 acres outside of a small town. Our Pyr, Babe, is a pet rather than a working dog. She's mostly outside, but does like to come inside in the evenings to be with us. She's a loving, friendly dog who loves to cuddle -- basically a 90-lb. lap dog -- but she definitely shows the protective instinct. I was interested in Patrice's comments about barking. I guess everybody's experience is different. Our first Pyr never barked. He was very good at imitating emergency vehicle sirens, which was hilarious, but that was about it. Babe rarely barks, except at our cats, and that's usually when she's confined to her dog run and can't get out to play with them. When we've been out of town and our daughter (who lives in town) has kept her, when dogs in adjacent yards bark at Babe, she rarely barks back. We wish she would bark, at least to alert us to when visitors drive up our lane, but she's the strong, silent type. The biggest problem we have with her is that she digs, especially if she gets bored.

    As for the rear dew claws. we had Babe's removed because our vet stressed the danger of more catastrophic injuries if the claws got caught on fencing or something and tore. Other vets that we talked to gave us the same advice. My in-laws were similarly warned by their vet to have their Sheltie's rear dew claws removed. I've read a lot of conflicting advice about that since, but all I can say is that we trust our vet and followed her counsel.

    I came across this site because Babe has puppies we're trying to find homes for, and I received an inquiry from someone who was interested in one of the pups to train as a service dog. From my experience with Pyrs, I know they are not a good breed for that purpose, but I was looking around to see what other owners had to say before I wrote a response to her. (I also saw the articles about disreputable companies selling Pyrs that were supposedly trained for this purpose.) There's lots of good information here, and it's nice to read comments from people who love Pyrs as much as we do.



  38. I have a great pyrenes that is 11 yrs old and all the sudden he started wondering to the neighbors house and defecating on they're porch and sidewalk and does it to ours to why do they do this is it him claiming territory? Anyone know this one

  39. I have raised a variety of breeds from Bichon Frise to Dobermans and several other breeds from various groups of dogs. Right now I have a 4 year old male purebred Pyrenees. We adopted him from a farmer who bred them strictly as sheep/goat guardians for several generations. We should have known when he said'' why would you want that in your house'' but he was an adorable ball of fluff at 12 weeks of age and we didn't know better. This dog was a smart pup, his entire life he had two urine accidents in the home, never once feces indoors. He willingly accepted his crate from night one without a peep. We thought he had a problem with his voice box because although I knew little of his breed I knew they loved to bark. He was 7 months of age before he barked the first time. I knew dogs of this calibre need much socialization from an early age and daily. I am guessing he got walked a minimum of 6 to 7 twenty minute walks per day and met many other dogs and people. Samson showed his first sign of aggression towards me at 13 weeks of age, he went at my hand viciously while growling with all teeth exposed, because I was moving his food bowl off to the side. However, he had mastered all basic commands like sit, stay, down, come, crawl, speak, etc. He was scolded for that aggressive event and it never happened again till 16 months which is sexual maturity, he was challenging everyone in the family accept me because I was the one who fed him and walked him I'm guessing. So we neutered him and it slowed him down temporarily. For maybe 2 months. He's been vet checked and has no health cause. Something changed at some point and he decided his one person loyalty would be taken from me and given to my boyfriend. From there on the dog didn't need or want anybody but him. He growls and barks at everyone who comes in the yard and even worse when they come in the house. He goes after all of us including my boyfriend, luckily the only thing the dog respects is the baby gate that blocks the doorway, otherwise it would not be pretty. We are presently seeking a vet to put him down sad to say. People that recommend rehabilitating him don't understand that his vet even new she should back away while trying to hear his lungs. You don't get a warning a lot of times there is no bark or growl no body or head posture change no teeth or lips up, he will let you get close enough for him to take a sniff then lunges. The one and only sign I see that is sure fire accurate every time is that he exposes the whites of his eyes above the eyeball. I love this dog but DO NOT recommend this breed for most people, its just too much dog for the inexperienced, too dominant of a breed, and 12 weeks of age is too late for proper socialization for this breed, and if they come from a bloodline of working guardians and not family pets should be a major red flag as a house pet. You may get lucky but that definitely won't be the status quo. So all we can put together from what we know is that he was born outdoors in a barn with probably minimum human contact by the time we got him, he was delivered to us in the back of a truck full of straw, and dirty, not how I would present a puppy. The second clue was asking why we would put that in our house.the third was an oozing eye infection from inverted eyelids, common to pyrs but definitely not the way you sell a pup. People, please research research research everything you can about any breed before purchasing a dog. See both parents if possible, other pups from the litter, read up on the breed, talk to others that own the breed, because of my own ignorance and a breeder that didn't socialize properly I have to put down my beloved Samson.

  40. I know this is an old post but it has stuck in my mind. We are about to close on a 15 acre property and I was thinking that a Great Pyrenees might be a good dog for us. In rereading this, I think maybe it would be more than we could handle as we've never had a dog before. Do you know of any other breeds that are great with children but would also make a good guard dog? I don't think a lab would fit the bill for the guard dog part, lol.

    1. Anon 7:24, I'm going to put this up as a separate blog post since I think it's a question that would benefit from reader input.

      - Patrice

  41. I have a pyr who is a little over 2 our behavior has become concerning. She was once very social but now is afraid leaving the house. she lost A pack mate recently to cancer and she has begun to walk like an old dog. She she recently began to have accidents in the house even though we have a doggie door. She doesn't want to go on car rides anymore and is terrified of the vet. She has what I believe is something mental or physical going on she appears confused, grits her teeth, and is afraid of the wood floors. She was fine 6 months ago however she has good days and bad but more bad than good. The vets are stumped and so am I my husband seems to think it is due to the breed and that she should just be left outside I wholeheartedly disagree. Is there any advice that anyone could offer I am at my wits end. Please help. Thanks, Jennifer

    1. I am not an expert on Pyrs, but I can assure you this is NOT standard Pyr behavior -- or for that matter, standard behavior for any dog. My thoughts are leaving her outside would destroy her.. To be honest, it almost sounds like she has a brain disorder, though whether it's cancer or a chemical imbalance (do dogs get mental illnesses?), I couldn't say. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.

      - Patrice

  42. I'm late to the game here but we rescued our gorgeous Pyr girl, Bailey, from a shelter at the age of 9mns who'll be 6yrs this Christmas. We live in town with no fenced-in yard but she gets walked 2-3x's a day on a leash and goes to the dogpark or doggie daycare twice a week as well. I also think it helps that most of our neighbors are old so probably hard of hearing! HA! I agree with all of Patrice's comments about her Pyr as they match our Pyr to a tee. Only difference we have experienced, is our girl is fine if we leave for work. My husband is now retired though so he stays home with her all day and of course she's supper thrilled when I get home. But we taught her early on that we are coming back and she gets a treat when we leave. So sometimes, when we are getting ready to leave, she's sitting pretty waiting for us to hurry out the door so she can get her treat! She can be a lot of work to handle at times but we respect her breed and she's definitely worked her way into our hearts and family and wouldn't have it any other way!

  43. I've had many canine companions over the years but my 7 month old GP Sasha is already very special to me. I own a 5 acre baby farm completely pastured with 5 bottle fed Angus heifers hence my getting a GP. Though I've kept her in the house with us except when I frequently let her out to roam our large chain link fenced & gated lawn. My home & fenced lawn are surrounded by my fenced pastures so she can always see the cows. Still she's adopted us as her flock. I've consistently shown her that I am the Alpha boss by putting her on her back & holding her by the throat & a glare on the occasion that she's growled at me over food or attacked my Jack Russell Terrier over food. My question is that I saw your pics of your GP holding/gripping someone's forearm & wrist. Can you tell me why they do this as my Sasha always wants to do the same to us. Never in an aggressive manner but when cuddling & playing she wants to grab hold chew our arm's & I've wondered why as she seems completely compelled to do so.

  44. I need help please... we bought a pyr 3 yes ago... almost rescue.. bad pets tore felt bad couldn't leave him.. trained him very well. No dominating issues?!?!? I think.... he pees on my 5 yr Olds room when ever he gets in.. we have gates there bow.. not our room, Living room, just her room... and recently we bought a house so now I am no longer a stay at home mom.. my daughter has always been in daycare/school.. and I usually was out doing errands.. so he's not use to home ALL the time but more then I am now..
    He's become seriously aggressive to passers-bys walking... friends coming into our yard..he growls and gets a blank stare, and goes at them through our fence.... we fear his aggression will get seriously worse. With buying our first home costly dog training is out..especially since he's very well trained sit stay come no down quiet ect.. is there anything else??? What should we do..

  45. Please help.. we've had our male fixed pyr for 3yrs... indoor family member.. trained Very well for a pyr especially with COME.. OFF LEASH ROAMING... he's awesome. . Downfall.. we recently purchased our first home and in turn I have gone from being home half the day to being gone for three quarters of the day. My daughter who is now five has always been in daycare or school and my husband has always been at work every day our dog is always happy to see us when we come home we are always very happy to see him we also have a Shar-Pei that he gets along great with and a cat. Over the past year he's gotten more and more aggressive towards friends that come over the house and now he's starting with family that comes over the house. He pees in my daughtersroom, constantly when he can get in there. . not marking, like a full gallon of full grown great pyr pee. We have replaced the rugs twice since moving into her home the smell is so disgusting. We have taken him to the vet he has no medical problems. I understand that me going to work a little bit longer than what he's normally used to maybe a reason! But why would he get so seriously aggressive to people even when he's been socialized since a puppy I cannot even take him to the pet store anymore :-(. My neighbor came by yesterday and he got a Blank Stare, eyes glossed over almost as if he blacked out and he lunged at the fence after my neighbor who was talking normal to me. We have a cat ourselves we've also had ferrets and birds and he's always been super good with all animals and he started to get aggressive towards my cat and now the neighbor cat and I don't know what to do. Repeating myself, as buying our first home and having to go to work because money is not tight, costly aggro training is not in the budget... we've already spent hundreds of dollars on medical exams and tests to ensure he was not sick, in which he is not. He will not eat no matter how many times we changed his food it's almost as if he's in a depressed state. Please help I fear for my 5 year olds safety as his aggression towards even family members has become more and more... I can't even have friends over the house.
    What could this be a sign of what home remedies can I try to repair this issue I love my baby he sleeps in our bedroom we don't crate him, only my daughter's room so we have no access to it. He gets his own bones his own toys and he gladly shares with My Shar-Pei he loves her... inside the house he's great with the cat. But once outside, the flock is seemingly becoming the emeny.. WHY? ?????

    1. Lauren, these issues go WAY beyond my experience. I'm not an expert, and I think you need to consult someone who is a dog behavioral specialist. Please do this, as I'd hate for these problems to get worse.

      - Patrice

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  47. I need help. I have two male Anatolian Shepherd/Great Pyrenees brothers. We got them a few months old, they are about 5 years old now and have started viciously fighting with each other. They have been fighting at night and end up blooding each other. They are sweet, gentle dogs, I know they are fierce with predators but until a few weeks ago never fought with each other. I don't know what to do. Can anyone help?

    1. I hate to say it, but you're going to have to separate them. They're being territorial. If they're outdoor dogs, they'll have to work separate pastures.

      If they're not neutered, you might have to do that as well.

      - Patrice

  48. I agree with Patrice lewis.. neuter and seperate. Unless you're breeding no need to keep intact. And if anger still emits... they MUST be separated for their safety and health. As well as yours God forbid they fight while ur close and u get in the middle

  49. Love the article, thanks! We just got our first LGD (a now 18 weeks great pyr). He's been indoors with us since we brought him home, but my gut says he needs to start getting transitioned outdoors; at least for what I want him to do (protect chickens and also getting goats soon). We wanted him to bond with our family first as our guardian for the family, but we also want him to be a good LGD. Any tips on transitioning them outdoors?