The Great Pyrenees or Pyrenean Mountain Dog is a breed of working dog that originated in the mountain regions of France and Spain, and was first described at least 600 years ago. Because they are large, loyal, and natural born guardians, these dogs are a great choice for families who live on a small farm or ranch.
How Big is a Great Pyrenees?
Great Pyrenees dogs are among the larger domestic dog breeds. When fully grown, adults measure between 25 and 32 inches high at the shoulder. For comparison, think of the well-known Golden Retriever. The absolute biggest male Golden Retrievers are only 24 inches high, which is still shorter than the smallest Great Pyrenees! In terms of weight, male Great Pyrenees dogs can weigh up to 140 pounds; females get up to 110. Again for the sake of comparison, the heaviest Golden Retrievers weigh under 80 pounds. Needless to say, the Great Pyrenees will not be happy in a small apartment or cooped up in an urban home.
A Great Mountain Dog
Great Pyrenees dogs are known for their majestic figure and beautiful coat. They are usually white, with tones ranging from gray to beige. Puppies often start out a little darker in color, and their coat becomes whiter as they mature. This thick white coat makes them ideally suited to cold climates, and they are known to love playing in the snow. Additionally, Great Pyrenees dogs have particularly thick fur around their necks. This is said to help protect them from predators like wolves, who would bite on the neck. Although they are well suited to cold climates, they adapt reasonably well to milder areas.
Independent, but a Great Family Pet
Because the Great Pyrenees breed is both highly intelligent and independent, they make very versatile pets. If left mostly to themselves to roam on a large piece of land or protect a flock of sheep or goats, they will do just fine. If they are threatened or attacked, they can become very aggressive, so they don't require constant supervision. But they are also great family dogs. The Great Pyrenees may take some time to get used to the idea of living in close quarters with a loving family, but once they are socialized, these dogs are great with children. In fact, they are known as natural guardians because they are very protective of children and other young animals.
The Downside to Independence
One downside to the Great Pyrenees comes as a side effect of their independence. Because they do so well on their own, they tend not to be too interested in impressing humans. That means it can be difficult or impossible to teach the Great Pyrenees to do pet tricks, and they may be reluctant to come when they are called. However, since these dogs are so highly observant, they are not likely to wander off and get lost or need a reminder when it's dinner time.
Great Pyrenees as a Herd Dog
For consideration as a herd dog, the Great Pyrenees is particularly suitable for use with skittish animals. Since the breed is very placid and gentle by nature, they can easily mingle with animals without invoking panic or causing a stir. This doesn't get in the way of their guard duties, however. Great Pyrenees dogs are very protective of their flocks and will readily attack predators, even bears and lions, if the animals under their watch are endangered.
Not an Apartment Pet
Although the Great Pyrenees is a great pet for many reasons, families living in an urban and suburban environment should think twice before choosing this breed. These dogs are born guardians, and if left alone in houses or apartments, they may become bored or unhappy. As always, make sure to select a breed that is a good fit for your family and lifestyle. If a gentle friend and fierce guardian is what you need, the Great Pyrenees may be the breed for you.