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Pyrenean Mountain Dog
Pyrenean Mountain Dog 

[Image: HB_Sheep.jpe]

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog, known as the Great Pyrenees in the United States, is a large, majestic breed of dog that was used traditionally for protecting livestock (especially sheep) in pasture.

It is a very old breed, and has been used for millennia by the Basque people, who inhabit parts of the region in and around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France. More recently, it served as the official dog of the royal French court (whose prominence began circa the Middle Ages, and lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century). During World War II the dogs were used to haul artillery over the Pyreneean Mountain range to and from Spain and France.

Males weigh in at about 100-160 pounds (45-73 kilograms), while females are approximately 85-115 pounds (39-52 kilograms). Their fur is often white with shades of grey or tan around the face, ears and sometimes on the body; these dogs are called "blaireau". Only one in four will have a pure white coat. However, most dogs of this breed, when young, are colored gray with tan spots.

The Great Pyrenees is readily identifiable by a double dewclaw on each of its hind legs. These are considered breed standard, more than two dewclaws is not a fault just undesirable and should not be removed by veterinarians.

Temperament and Qualities
Loyal and protective of its territory, the Great Pyrenees makes for a great family dog. However, there are several reasons owning a dog of this breed may be ill-advised, including the following: 
  • A fenced yard is a must with this breed. Unfenced, they will roam. A typical area for a Pyr to consider his domain is anywhere from 5 to 15 square miles. 

  • Owners can expect copious amounts of white fur — down hair and coat — in their homes and on their dark clothing. Seasonal "blowing of coat" — in which the Pyr sheds vast amount of undercoat — occur at least twice a year. Weekly grooming is a must to avoid mats, and nails — particularly the dewclaws — must be regularly trimmed. Actual bathing is seldom needed because the undercoat sheds out when dirty so all that is needed is a quick weekly brushing. 

  • Neighbours may be annoyed and complain about the deep, booming bark — if the dog is left outside continuously or left inside without a companion too long. These dogs also have a tendency to bark when they sense a predator nearby. A predator to a Pyr can range from another dog to coyotes, bears, foxes, weasels, mountain lions, etc. 
They cannot be trusted off-leash, as their guardian dog nature will cause them to investigate anything and everything they find interesting, and to not trust their owners to make the final decisions. Great Pyrenees were bred to guard without instruction from humans and will decide for you what is in your best interest. 
A mature Great Pyrenees may be somewhat standoffish and wary of strangers. They are extremely protective of their family members - human or animal - and will never trust or like anyone who they think is a potential danger or threat to their family. Some will show discomfort by pushing against the stranger,or by nudging the owner. That said, they do warm up to friendly and kind people, especially children and women, fairly quickly. 

Interested owners should be wary of comparing the temperament of Golden Retrievers with this breed of dog. Prospective owners are advised to familiarize themselves with characteristics of Livestock guardian dogs (LGD) — which are known for their independent nature. While the Pyr will defend its owner to the death, it will see no reason to slavishly obey commands. They can be trained, but they will quickly become bored with repetition of commands. They do respond well to positive reinforcement. 

Best suited for those living on property with a large yard, as it enjoys walks and attention — especially from children and other animals. 

Obedience training and socialization at a young age are a must, as this breed grows large and strong very quickly and is best suited for someone capable of handling a large dog. Bad habits, such as jumping, pulling on lead and table surfing should be nipped in the bud - any bad puppy habits will be ten times worse when the dog weighs 100 pounds! 

Pyrs readily take to crate training, which should be started during puppyhood, but if they will be mostly outside it is unnecessary. 
The Pyr is an excellent guardian — large enough to be a deterrent to smaller predators, such as coyotes and foxes, and a match for larger wildlife, such as cougars and bears, in fact a single male Pyr is supposed to be able to hold off a bear long enough to allow a shepherd to move the herd away. 
Pyrs also have a strange tendency to have their mouths open frequently.

The Great Pyrenees is a large and strong dog that is probably the most powerful of all dog breeds. The Pyrenees or Pyr is a very handsome dog that is almost irresistible as a puppy. The Pyr has a double coat with an abundant undercoat of fine hairs and a medium to long, thick and coarse outer coat with longer hair on the neck, tail, and hind legs. The Pyrenees are almost all white, with or without grey, badger grey, pale yellow or tan markings on the body. Pyr males stand about 27 to 32 inches tall and females about 25 to 29 inches tall at shoulder height. Pyrenees weigh from 85 to 125 pounds. 

Pyrenees are also known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog and were used in the Pyrenees Mountains, between France and Spain, to guard sheep flocks against wolves and bears. Pyrs are probably descended from the Tibetan Mastiff and were used by Louis XIV to guard the Louvre. Pyrenees were ranked 57th out of 154 dog breeds in 2005 AKC registrations.

The Pyr is a good-natured, gentle, loyal, affectionate, brave and intelligent dog. The Pyrenees will guard and aggressively defend its family against any threats. This large breed has a tendency to act independently and can also be somewhat stubborn. This means you must control your Pyrenees through extensive socialization and continuous obedience training while he is a puppy and adolescent. Get professional assistance by taking your Pyr to obedience training classes during the first few years of his life. Pyrenees are very good family dogs and are loving and very patient with children. Toddlers must be supervised because the potential for toddler knockdown is high with any young dog of this size. After the Pyrs mature, they become much calmer and will even turn into indoor couch-potatoes. Mature Pyrs can adapt to being left alone during the day if they are given lots of exercise and attention in the morning and evening. Pyrenees do best in the country but can adapt to large city yards. Yards should be well-fenced as Pyrs have a tendency to roam. Pyrenees like to be outdoors in cold weather. Pyrs will defend their territory and will be aggressive towards other large dogs but are fairly friendly with strangers. This breed does best with an experienced owner.

The Pyrenees need regular daily exercise. Don’t exercise young dogs too vigorously while they are growing. After the Pyr matures, it has a tendency to become somewhat sedate and you should continue the long daily walks. Pyrs don’t like to play fetching games but give them a cart or sleigh to pull and they are happy.

This breed must be brushed and combed two or three times a week to keep its coat in good condition. However the Pyrenees is a heavy shedder and will need daily or twice daily brushing during shedding.

Health Issues: 
Great Pyrenees have a lifespan of 8 to 12 years. This is a fairly healthy breed with a few common health problems such as entropion (eyelid disorders), congenital deafness, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy and bloat. Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and patella luxation is present in the breed but not too widespread. Information on many of these genetic diseases can be found in our article Hereditary Diseases in Dogs. Prospective buyers should ask for the breeding parents Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) test results for hip dysplasia and also the Canine Eye Registry (CERF) recent ophthalmologists report for eye disorders.
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