Harper Jefcoat
Harper Jefcoat

Great Pyrenees Dog Breed - Complete Profile, Traits, and Facts

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15 min read

Great Pyrenees

On This Page

  • Breed Origins - Where did the Great Pyrenees Originate?
  • Size and General Appearance of the Great Pyrenees Dog
  • Personality and Temperament of the Breed
  • Overall Health Condition of the Great Pyrenees Dog
  • Nutrition - What is the Recommended Daily Amount of Food?
  • Grooming - How much Grooming Does Great Pyrenees Need?
  • Exercise and Training Needs - Tips to Train your Great Pyrenees

If you are looking for a massive and beautiful dog that is great at protecting your household then the Great Pyrenees is definitely one of such dogs. These dogs were originally bred to guard and protect the livestock and as time passed and roles changed, this quality persisted.

Now, these dogs are one of such dog breeds that are great at being companions while protecting their owners. Instinctively, they just love to protect everything including people, kids, the house, the lawn, grass, flowers, and pretty much anything that comes in their territory.

About 53% of the Americans have dogs as their house animals while 35% of the households have cats. Besides being great guardians, these dogs also make excellent pets and emotional support animals also.

Though they are large, imposing, and strong, they have a patient and loving nature that makes them ideal dogs for households. Many people confuse them with the Pyrenean .

Mastiff, which is a cross between a Mastiff and a Great Pyrenees dog

Breed Origins - Where did the Great Pyrenees Originate?

The Great Pyrenees is a very old breed that was bred to protect the livestock and work in the harsh cold weather. Since these dogs have a white coat, they could blend in with the sheep easily and protect them against wolves and other predators.

The breed originated in the Pyrenees mountains. The said mountains form a natural border between Spain and France.

The dog has other names also; Great Pyrenees in Canada and the United States and the Pyrenean Mountain Dog in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.

The ancestors of the breed were believed to be around for ten to eleven thousand years, making them one of the oldest living dog breeds. It originated in Asia Minor and they must have come to the Pyrenees Mountains around 3000 B.C.

The main aim of breeding this breed was to come up with a dog that could assist and help the shepherds in guarding the sheep and other livestock.

The dog belongs to the working group of the dogs’ categories and at first, it was considered as a dog for shepherds only. Later in 1675, the Dauphin Louis XIV declared the breed as the ‘Royal Dog of France’. The French nobility was great admirers of these dogs and used them to protect their estates.

With time, the dog eventually disappeared from the court but remained in its native mountains.

The dog fanciers import the puppies to other parts of the world. The first dog, imported to North America, went to Newfoundland in Canada. Therefore, the breed was used to create the large and powerful Landseer Newfoundland dog breed. The said dog is a cross between the Great Pyrenees and Newfoundland, both large dogs.

The breed suffered the consequences of the two World Wars but, luckily, with the breeders’ efforts, the breed restored its position. Today, the breed enjoys the reputation of being one of the best dogs to protect and guard livestock, pull sleds, and be excellent companion dogs.

Size and General Appearance of the Great Pyrenees Dog

The Great Pyrenees is a massive breed with males towering over 27 to 32 inches and females between 25 to 29 inches. They weigh between 100 to 160 pounds and given their striking looks and size, they make great dogs for a number of reasons.

Following is the standard size of the breed as per the AKC standard.

Head - the head is evenly proportioned according to the size of the dog. It has a wedge shape and a somewhat rounded crown.

It has an intelligent, calculating, and elegant expression that speaks of the dog’s glory. The eyes are almond-shaped and medium in size. They are of rich and beautiful brown color and they are set in a bit of an oblique position.

The ears are medium in size and they are set at eyes level. They are V in shape, lowly set, and are close to the head. There is a distinct line that runs along the outer corner of the eyes to the base of the ear.

The muzzle and skull are equal in length and the skull’s height and width are equal to that of the muzzle. The cheeks are flat with a bit of furrow between the eyes and a good amount of fill under the eyes.

Body - the neck is elegantly and strongly muscled, with a medium length and minimal dewlap. The top line of the body is perfectly leveled with the chest being medium broad in stature.

The ribcage is well-developed, has an oval shape, and a good amount of depth that reaches to the elbows. The back and loin are fairly broad and with a tuck-up. The tail is set just below the edge of the back.

The tail has strong and sufficient tailbones that reach down the hock. It has a good amount of plume and is lowly set. When walking, the tail may stay over or lower than the back.

Coat - the dog has a weather-resistant double coat that helps in protecting him from harsh weather. The outer coat is long, flat, and thick with coarse hair while the undercoat is dense, wholly, and finely made. In males, the ruff is more pronounced than in the females.

The back of the front legs has feathers and the same feathers along the thighs give a ‘pantaloon’ effect. The hair on the face and ears are shorter and finer in texture.

Color - the dog is available in pure white color with, sometimes, reddish-brown, gray, and tan colored markings. These marks can appear on the ears, eyes, tail, head, and some other parts of the body. The undercoat could either be white or slightly shaded.

The coat should be straight or slightly waving. If the outer coat has excessive markings then it is a fault.

Forequarters - the shoulders are laid back with ample muscles and they stay close to the body. The upper arm of the body joins with the shoulder blade at a right angle and it angles backward from the shoulder to the elbow. The length of both the upper arm and the shoulder is almost the same.

The height of the dog, measured from the ground to the elbow, is equal to the height when measured from the elbow to the withers. The forelegs are sufficiently muscled and capable of providing the needed balance to the dog.

The elbows are set close to the body and they point towards the rear when the dog is standing or walking. The front pasterns are strong and flexible.

Hindquarters - the hindquarters also have the same angles as the forequarters. The thighs are strong and sufficiently muscled with the upper thighs angling at the right angle and extending from the pelvis. The upper thigh is also of the same length.

The rear pastern is medium in length and perpendicular to the ground. This results in a medium angulation in the hock joint. The hindquarters are straight from the hip to the rear pastern. Each rear leg has double dewclaws and a tendency to toe out a bit.

Gait - the gait is smooth and elegant. They walk straight ahead, which denotes power, agility, and elegance. The stride is strong and well-balanced.

The legs move forward to a centerline with the increase in speed. When noticing, the movement and gait are effortless and with ease.

Personality and Temperament of the Breed

‘What is the temperament of the Great Pyrenees dog?’ These dogs are known for their calm, gentle, and docile nature and personality. However, this also does not mean that the dog should be overly shy or aggressive towards humans.

Since these dogs were bred to be left on their own in the mountains, to look over the sheep, they have a strong independent streak. They are used to doing things their way and do not hesitate to take decisions on their own.

When at home and with their human family, these dogs tend to be somewhat lazy and laid back. However, they do not hesitate to protect their loved ones from any possible danger. They are not as funny and cheerful as a Golden Retriever and have a serious expression and nature. It is mainly because they were bred to be fierce protectors and this trait remains with them.

They are very devoted and courageous and make an excellent friend for the people who do not mind an independent and stubborn companion. These dogs are extremely intelligent, which also makes them independent and free thinkers.

Due to this, these dogs need ample socialization and training from a young age. If you try to train a grownup Great Pyrenees then prepare to fail.

Like any other dog, they also need early socialization and exposure to different people, sounds, sights, and other experiences. An excellent way of doing it is to enroll him in a puppy kindergarten class.

Overall Health Condition of the Great Pyrenees Dog

Like other dogs, the Great Pyrenees is also prone to a number of health issues and diseases. They are not one of the healthiest dog breeds, it can get a number of diseases.

Below are some diseases that could affect these dogs.

Bone Pains - since these dogs are large, they are prone to multiple pains related to bones. Their bones tend to grow fast and this is why they may have growing pains. This could be uncomfortable for your dog.

Gastric Torsion - this is also called bloat and for dogs, this could be a serious and life-threatening condition. This is especially common among dogs that have deep and large chests.

To avoid it, feed your dog small meals throughout the day and train him to eat slowly. Moreover, avoid any rigorous activity before and after the meals.

Hip Dysplasia - this is a genetic disorder that happens when the thighbone does not fit properly into the hip joint. This is common in large breed dogs because of the massive bone structure.

Ask the breeder if any of the puppy’s parents have this disease. Dogs with hip dysplasia must not breed since the faulty genes travel.

Elbow Dysplasia - like hip dysplasia, this disorder is also genetic and is caused due to improper growth of the elbow bones. The disease could be severe and cause arthritis in the dog. Weight management, surgery, and anti-inflammatory medicines are some of the solutions.

Patellar Luxation - this disorder is also known as slipped stifles and it could affect both small and large dogs. It happens when the kneecap slips out of its position and could cripple the dog.

Addison’s Disease - this is a dangerous disease that is caused when the adrenal gland does not produce a sufficient amount of adrenal hormones. It could affect the appetite of your dog and lead to vomiting and severe lethargy.

Cataracts - this disease affects the opacity of the lens of the eyes and affects the vision of your dog. Generally, it happens in old age and the eyes appear cloudy when inflicted by it.

Entropion - the eyelids of the dog rolls inward and may also injure the eyeball. It happens with dogs who are six months of age and it could be rectified through surgery.

Anesthesia Sensitivity - this happens with the dogs who have a low metabolism and, unfortunately, your Great Pyrenees do have it. Remember to inform the veterinarian about it in case of any surgical procedures.

When buying a puppy, it is better that you find a good and trustworthy breeder that could show you the health clearances of the puppy and his parents. It is important if you do not want to have a genetically afflicted dog on your hands.

For more information and to rescue or adopt one for yourself, you can check the official Great Pyrenees Club of America website.

Nutrition - What is the Recommended Daily Amount of Food?

The recommended amount of food for a Great Pyrenees dog is 4 to 6 cups of high-quality dry dog food. Do not give all the food in one go but divide these cups into two meals.

Measure the amount of food and do not overfeed him. The amount also depends on the size and activity level of your dog. If your dog is very active then he will need more food than if your dog is moderate to less active.

When choosing the food, make sure that you choose high-quality or vet recommended dog food for your canine.

Below are some top options for your Great Pyr dog.

  • Nom Nom Fresh Pet Food Delivery
  • Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Recipe
  • American Journey Large Breed Salmon & Brown Rice
  • True Acre Foods Beef & Vegetable Recipe
  • Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
  • Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Large Breed Recipe
  • Nutro Puppy Tender Beef, Pea & Carrot Recipe
  • Instinct Raw Boost Large Breed
  • Solid Gold Young At Heart Senior Recipe
  • Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Senior Formula

All of these food brands are top of the line and they offer good options of dog food for canines. To make sure that your dog stays on a healthy weight, it is important that you keep an eye on its weight gain and growth.

Grooming - How much Grooming Does Great Pyrenees Need?

‘How much grooming does my Great Pyr lovely need?’ Luckily, not much.

However, this does not mean that these do not shed. They shed A LOT and you will likely have white fur everywhere in your house. How to avoid it? A weekly and regular brushing and grooming session will be enough to keep your canine in a top position.

Luckily, you will not have to bathe your dog frequently to keep him clean. But you must know how to groom your dog properly to do it at home.

He is one of those dogs that are thickly coated and blessed with a coat that cleans itself and is dirt, tangle, and mat resistant. Still, this does not mean that they do not need careful and timely grooming

You will need to brush the coat with a wire card brush to remove and collect loose hair. This will avoid them ending up on your bedding and furniture.

For grooming, follow the below steps.

  • Check the eyes first and make sure that they are clear and of beautiful dark brown color.
  • Examine the ears. They should be clean and without any odor. In case there is a black discharge or a foul smell, in case of any such thing, take him to the vet.
  • Trim the hair of the whiskers and the eyebrows.
  • Keep the nails and dewclaws trimmed but do not remove them completely.
  • Brush along the whole length of the dog’s body and cut the mats, if any.
  • Use good quality dog shampoo to bathe your dog and this will help the shedding coat also.
  • Besides bathing, you can also dry clean your dog by using some products like baby powder, corn starch, boric acid powder, calcium carbonate, and baking soda.

For cleaner dogs use baking soda combined with any of the other mentioned products.

Exercise and Training Needs - Tips to Train your Great Pyrenees

These dogs are not very active and they are perfectly happy to stay at home and on the couch. Since they are guard dogs that were bred to guard the livestock and wait patiently at the same place, this trait remains with them.

Besides, there are a number of other guard dog breeds that are excellent to protect your household.

Moderate exercise like daily walks will be enough to keep them happy and healthy. Besides, they are also fond of mind games like obedience training and dog puzzles.

Training these canines could be a bit difficult. They are extremely intelligent and they were bred to manage things on their own, and without human assistance.

To train your Great Pyr, take care of the following things.

  • Be patient and consistent while training this dog.
  • Be confident and do not let him overpower or dictate you.
  • Be gentle and positive because these dogs are very sensitive and harsh behavior will not help any of you.
  • Create a great bond with your dog so that he trusts you and wants to work with you.
  • Things could get difficult but maintain a good sense of humor to make it easy for both of you.
  • Keep the training sessions slow; no more than 10 minutes for adults and 5 minutes for the puppies. They get bored easily and will not respond well to the training if the sessions are too long.
  • Try to practice everywhere and see how well he responds to different situations. This will also help you know about your canine’s weaknesses.
  • Use proper tools like good quality harnesses and collars to control and manage your dog. Martingale collars are a great choice for this matter.
  • Prepare to know something new about your dog when he is an adult. Do not stop training to keep him disciplined and under control.
  • Research and study the breed as much as you can. These lovelies are different from the usual dogs and you must understand their nature and mind to train them better.

Besides great livestock guardians and pets, these dogs make great emotional support animals also. They are intelligent, independent, and one of the most affectionate dog breeds, which makes them an ideal choice for it.

To get one as your ESA, fill our online questionnaire to see if you qualify for it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do the Great Pyrenees make good family dogs?

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Yes, Great Pyrenees makes excellent family dogs. These canines are affectionate, fiercely loyal, trustworthy, and calm. They are great with kids and they do not mind another dog or cat in the house.

What is the average lifespan of this breed?

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The average life expectancy of a Great Pyrenees is 10 to 12 years. It is a large dog breed and this is why they do not have a long lifespan.

What is the price of the Great Pyrenees?

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The average price of a Great Pyrenees is $600. However, the price varies and if you are buying a puppy with breeding rights or the one having show quality then you will have to pay a premium price for it. Prepare to pay anywhere between $1,400 to $5,500.

What is the bite force of the Great Pyrenees?

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There is no definite answer or calculation of this but it is expected that given his size and the size of his head, the bite force could be anywhere between 400 to 600 pounds. And this is a lot if the dog attacks a human.

Are these dogs lazy?

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At home, these dogs are quite lazy and do not keep on racing up and down the place. They are happy to make themselves comfortable on a couch and stay there unless there is a danger looming nearby.

When faced with danger or an intruder, they could be dangerous.

Why do the Great Pyrenees escape from the house?

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This is mainly because these dogs are extremely intelligent and they get bored easily. They escape usually because they are bored and do not have anything to do. To keep your dog engaged and happy at home, interact with your dog a lot and keep him engaged.

Why do they raise their paw to you?

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This is to get your attention. It is the same as when a child raises his hand in the class to get the teacher’s attention. By doing this, he tells you that he needs something. Moreover, when he raises his paw, you cannot ignore it easily.

Harper Jefcoat


Harper Jefcoat

Harper Jefcoat is a dedicated pet enthusiast and expert author at the RealESALetter.com. With a deep-seated passion for animals, Harper brings a wealth of knowledge and personal experience to his writings. Specializing in canine behavior and wellness, he aims to help pet owners understand and care for their furry friends better.

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