Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some Pyrenees questions

As you all know, we have a Great Pyrenees named Lydia whom we love dearly. Lydia came to us courtesy of some wonderful breeders who used to live a couple hours away, Jim and Carol of Agape Ranch.

Pyrenees were historically bred as livestock guard dog in the Pyrenees Mountains that straddle France and Spain. They are an ancient lineage and fierce defenders against predators, but gentle as lambs with their flocks. Since Lydia guards us, we have become her flock.

Pyrenees aren't for everyone, as I explained in this post. We are fortunate in that our rural location as well as our previous experience with large dogs qualified us to get a beastie as wonderful as Lydia.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I received a blog comment from a reader named Geralyn as follows:

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. Thanks.

Figuring I'd turn this over the the experts, I directed the comment to Carol at Agape Ranch. She not only responded, but also had other Pyr owners address the questions on a Pyrenees Facebook page.

Here is Carol's response:

It seems to me Sophie is restless because she is a livestock guardian dog and she feels the need to be with those she has the job to protect. The fact that she spends nights outside and days inside may be confusing her. Also she should not have to be supervised with ANY livestock. If she is slobbering on the chickens, then she does not understand that she needs to be guarding them. She has not associated them with protection, only prey.

Here's what other Pyrenees owners said:

Jen: I am a first pyr owner and what you have stated seems pretty typical of the breed. Mine is 5 months old and is so good during the day but around 6ish at night he turns into a wild man for about a few hours and then he settles down again. Mine has always had that "sad" look to him, we call him eeyore. lol I'm not sure about the poultry issue since I have no farm animals, but I do know when I visited my brother law mine was very excited/interested in his chickens. I think its just a time and patience thing unfortunately...just be consistent and she will out grow it. I once read a great Pyrenees is a labor of love and I do believe that is true especially for at least the first year...then you get the sweet, calm, gentle giant, lol. But I will say this too, the breed has won my heart over and I'll have at least one from this point on...to tell you the truth I want to get another soon, lol. Hope this might help some!

Brenna: All normal puppy behavior for the most part. I would caution about letting her get near the chickens without supervision. From what I have read, most dogs should be be near fowl until they are at least 2 years old and even then some dogs just are not good with them. My pyrs get hyper two or three times a day, more so if it is cold outside and they really want us to play with them so we do. They aren't in to fetching so much so we run with them and toss their toys so we can all chase them. With the going out behavior, she is just gonna have to put her foot down. Either the pup goes out or she doesn't.

Carolyn: This is very typical puppy behaviour. Our last two pups had mad hour between and 9:30 in the evening. We used plastic lemonade bottles and they would run and play with those. Pyrs do not do the fetch game like a gun dog would do. Remember they are natural guard dogs and will guard all night! I wouldn't let them near the chickens but then ours are not working dogs. Hope this helps.

Becky: She sounds like she wants to play or have an activity where you go out and play with her. We take walks, hikes, or play a couple times a day and that seems to satisfy Bear. Bear is 2 and he is still quite demanding but exercise and play helps a lot! She is still quite a puppy even though she is probably big. I have also heard sometimes it just doesn't work out with pyrs and chickens.....it takes much supervised time, training and patience.
about an hour ago.

Lisa: Typical Pyr puppy. She will grow out of a lot of those behaviors (but second the "keep her separated from poultry" folks).

Francesca: Our two 5.5 month old puppies have what we call the "zoomies" at least twice a day..mid morning and again in the evening...pretty typical for puppies.

Geralyn, I hope this helps as far as understanding your Pyr's behavior. Thanks for asking!


  1. LOL. My kids and I have had a good laugh this morning reading this post. Our Pyrenees, Bruce, did the same thing to our chickens. If we left him alone in the chicken yard, he would catch a chicken and then slobber it almost to death (never has killed one). When we would catch him doing it we would scold him for it but that didn't seem to help. One night I walked out to close the chicken coup and he had one stuffed under his body (it was not hurt). My boys had left a Star Wars light saber on the ground in the coup and I picked it up, turned it on and chased him with it. He has never bothered a chicken since!! We love this breed. We will always have a
    Pyrenees. He loves my kids and now protects our chickens.

    They do need a consistent routine and they must know their boundaries. The problem we have had with ours started because of a neighbor who start letting him in her house and calling him out of our yard to take him on walks. He got very confused and stopped doing his job. So friends and neighbors need to understand that this is a working breed.

    Blessings from Tennessee

  2. Had a Pyr for 13 years. BEST DOG we ever had. Gave her away once as we moved to town. We moved back to the country a year later and I got her back because she started killing chickens. Sad to say, I was glad...because I got her back. Strong willed dogs that NEED a job. We will get another one.

  3. As a Great Pyr owner I agree with many of the thoughts shared. Although I get why folks bring the dog inside, we never have because we have them for the stock. They patrol daily, nightly, and in the middle of the day. I cannot imagine not allowing access to the pens where the animals are. Ours eat hay, mesquite beans, and feed with the animals they protect...as well as eating homemade dogfood that we make. Here's my recipe http://doublenickelfarm.blogspot.com/2011/05/home-made-dog-food-results.html


  4. Looks like your Lydia is at the top of the chicken tolerance list Patrice! Happy New Year to The Lewis Family

  5. I got my Great Pyr from a rescue group who said she failed gaurdian and was to be a pet only. She is older now and we have moved to a 40 acre farm. She patrols and every morning barks for an hour in all directions to make sure everyone knows she is on the job. She has helped me when the chickens got out by walking quietly behind them with her head down. The cats walk under her and the grands climb all over her. On full moon nights I know to get her in early or she won't come in at all and barks all night-even out here in the mountains the neighbors will complain.She loves my husband who is now in a nursing home. She would stand with her head in his lap for long periods of time. I feel safe with her now that I am alone out here. Great Pyrs are special and need strong owners who understnd the bred.

    1. Dannie, I'm so sorry to hear about your husband. Glad you have your Pyr.

      - Patrice

  6. I do believe the pup is bored, or seeking direction. Dogs don't typically reach a social maturity until 2 years of age. Reassure and gently train her, she's craving both. You'll be amazed at how smart your pup is once she understands what you want and expect her to do. Remember, instinct is a fantastic thing but dogs don't understand English. Patient instruction and generous praise will hone instinct into a keen intellect. Rub her belly for me!

  7. Hey first of all I am glad that I rescue the older dogs. I have a
    Kuvaz. Which is acousin to the great Pry. Last week it was funny.
    I let my chickens out and I have one chicken with a personality.She wanted the dog bone to peck at. The dog got up and moved, 3 times. Finally she growled at the chicken, but would not hurt it. My kuvaz is older. About 9 years old. She sleeps
    all the time. She guards the house, not the anamials

  8. We don"t have a Great Pyr but we have 2 Anatolian Shepherds, both female and sisters. They are 2 years old now and are excellent guardian dogs but they are very different in their personalities. One is extremely mellow, great with all our livestock, including the chickens. The other has killed several chickens, but is great with all the other livestock. We have them patrol different areas during the day and together at night when the chickens are in their coop. I think, that like people, they all have different personalities. I agree with the previous writers who stated they are working dogs and "need" to always be on the job. This includes all parts of your house as well as the property to the fence line. It is just how they are wired. Be patient, you have a protector in training.

  9. I have a Tibetan Mastiff, another of the LGD breeds (most commonly used in areas with larger predators that the Pyrs aren't up to). We don't have livestock, he's our property guardian, but I agree with the statement that he's confused by the back and forth of inside-outside. If you want him to guard the flocks at night don't pull him into the house in daytime. If you want him closer to the house during the day move the flock instead, he'll come with it!

    And yes, he's also being a bratty "teenager"!