Great Pyrenees

This gentle giant lives up to his reputation for beauty and a steady temperament.

Great Pyrenees Breed Photo

The Great Pyrenees dog breed's goal in life is to protect sheep, goats, livestock, people, children, grass, flowers, the moon, the lawn furniture, bird feeders, and any real or imaginary predators that may intrude on your personal space. Oh yeah, and to give, give, and give unconditional love. Anyone who has seen this stunning white dog becomes enamored. What's not to like? He has a strong build, a beautiful, thick coat, and he exudes elegance and majesty. One look and you can see the intelligence and steady temperament that many seek in a family dog.

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Breed Characteristics

    • Sometimes

      Adapt Well To Apartment Living

      Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
    • Not usually

      Good For Novice Owners

      Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
    • Moderate

      Sensitivity Level

      Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
    • Not particularly well

      Tolerates Being Alone

      Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
    • Very well

      Tolerates Cold Weather

      Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
    • Poorly

      Tolerates Hot Weather

      Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
    • Not usually

      Easy To Train

      Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
    • Medium

      Intelligence

      Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
    • Medium

      Potential For Mouthiness

      Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
    • High

      Prey Drive

      Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
    • High

      Tendency To Bark Or Howl

      Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
    • High

      Wanderlust Potential

      Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
    • A lot!

      Amount Of Shedding

      If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
    • High

      Drooling Potential

      Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
    • Somewhat

      Easy To Groom

      Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
    • Fair

      General Health

      Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
    • High

      Potential For Weight Gain

      Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
    • Extra Large

      Size

      Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
    • Extremely

      Affectionate With Family

      Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
    • Very

      Dog Friendly

      Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
    • Sometimes

      Friendly Toward Strangers

      Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
    • Very

      Kid Friendly

      Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
    • Low

      Energy Level

      High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
    • Low

      Exercise Needs

      Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
    • Moderate

      Intensity

      A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
    • Moderate

      Potential For Playfulness

      Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

Vital Stats

  • Dog Breed Group: Working Dogs
  • Height: Generally 2 feet, 1 inch to 2 feet, 8 inches tall at the shoulder
  • Weight: Generally 85 to 160 pounds
  • Life Span: 10 to 12 years

The Great Pyrenees was originally developed to guard flocks alongside shepherds. These days he usually works with people, often in therapy and rescue work. This is a dog who loves the sport of carting.

The Great Pyrenees is an intelligent dog who is used to working on his own and figuring things out for himself. This can be a wonderful trait, but having a mind of his own can also create some training challenges.

And you have to train this dog. If not, he will become completely uncontrollable — and at his full size of up to 160 pounds, you don't want that. Since training takes lots of consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement, the Great Pyrenees is not suitable for an owner who's reluctant to put in the necessary team.

He's worth the work, though. Calm inside the house, he somehow manages not to get underfoot, and has an amazing ability to determine friend from foe. A Pyr is courageous and devoted to his family, protecting those he loves with his life if needed.

Many folks feel safer with a Great Pyrenees in their home, but it's worth reemphasizing that he's a dog who requires lots of socialization, starting as early as possible. If he doesn't receive it, he can become aggressive or fearful, and he may not allow nonfamily members into your yard without (or even with) your permission. That may sound kind of cool until you stop receiving mail and your friends refuse to come over.

When brought up right, he's a social guy, and he likes to be active and to play with other dogs of any breed. He loves children, and it's best to give him as much exposure to them as you can. Once he's trained, you can take him to nursing homes as his size is perfect for those confined to wheelchairs. He loves going for rides in the car, but make sure the air-conditioner is on high. He's a big fan of cool weather.

Everyone who lives with a Pyr should have a set of ear plugs. He barks a lot, because that's his job. He'll vocalize — loudly — to ward off pesky intruders, and he's got a broad definition of intruders. He will bark even more at night because of his extraordinary senses of sight and sound, which enable him to detect coyotes, deer, wolves, raccoons, bear, and possum (all of which must be protected against). His vocal styling will definitely scare them away and keep the family and property safe.

A Pyr's hearing is so sensitive he can detect intruders even with all the windows closed in the house; the air-conditioner, TV, and dehumidifier running on high; and the iPod playing AC/DC at full blast. He really can hear that well, and he'll definitely let you know all about what he hears.

He'll let you know his emotions, too. Almost all Pyrs use a paw to let their people know how much they are loved. He'll paw on your shoulder while you're driving, on your lap while you're eating, on your leg when a yummy treat is near (even a not-so-yummy treat).

He has double dewclaws — not one dewclaw like most dogs, but two that are near each other. Don't even think of removing them, because he uses them to climb (part of your protection services). Keep the double dews trimmed, as they can easily get caught on fences and tear easily.

He'll make himself at home on any type of furniture, including couches, beds, and chairs, even if there's no chance he'll fit. Never mind that detail; he'll squeeze himself in one way or the other, even if it seems physically impossible. A Great Pyr will remind you that his comfort should be of the utmost importance to you. Who the heck do you think king-size beds are made for?

The Great Pyrenees is a wonderful breed who is affectionate and gentle, hardworking and independent. He can be a devoted family companion or a conscientious career dog. His pride is evident in the regal way he carries himself. Make no mistake — he has a job to do, and he loves to do it.