- Dogs suitable for experienced owners
- Extra training required
- Generally healthy breed
- Enjoys active walks
- Enjoys more than two hours of walking a day
- Giant dog
- Some drool
- Requires grooming every other day
- Chatty and vocal dog
- Barks, alerts and may be physically protective/suspicious of visitors
- Might not like other dogs
- May need additional training to live with other pets
- May need additional supervision to live with children
- Needs a large garden
- Best suited to countryside
- Can be left occasionally with training
|Lifespan:||10 – 12 years|
|Weight:||36 – 54kg|
|Height:||66 – 81cm|
|Colours:||They are typically white or white with patches of badger, wolf-grey, lemon, orange or tan on their heads, ears and root of the tail|
|UK Kennel Club Groups:||Pastoral|
|Easy to train:||1/5|
|Tolerates being alone:||3/5|
|Likes other pets:||4/5|
Whilst Pyreneans can make affectionate and loving companions to their families, they are inclined toward aggression to strange dogs, particularly those of a similar size. Strangers will be at best mistrusted and at worst, a Pyrenean may react aggressively to those they deem unwelcome and threatening, so careful socialisation and training is advised.
Often described as headstrong and stubborn, the reality is that this is a bred long bred for a willingness to use aggression if they think necessary and an independent nature, ready to make decisions for themselves without the input of their owners. This means they really are not suitable for first-time owners as they are hard to motivate in training and must be managed very carefully.
History and Origins
Country of Origin: France
From the French side of the Pyrenean Mountains, the exact history of the breed is unknown, but we do know they have been used as a livestock guardian breed to protect sheep and cattle grazing the mountains for millennia. Fossils suggestive of this breed type predating the Bronze Age (1800-1000BC) have been found.
These dogs were generally taken as very young puppies (sometimes as young and four or five weeks old) and placed with the sheep so that they will think of them as family and bond very closely to them - and then will protect them. They were often helped in this job by being given a fearsome looking spiked iron collar to help protect their throat from wolf attacks.
Exactly which breeds contributed to the Pyrenean Mountain Dog are unknown, but it is likely that the Kuvasz of Hungary, the Anatolian Sheepdog of Turkey, and the Maremma Sheepdog of Italy were involved, all being very similar types with a similarly long history. Prior to the French Revolution, the Pyrenean was also used to guard French Chateaus and these dogs were also used by smugglers in the late 19th century, as they could carry heavy backpacks of forbidden goods across the Pyrenees, taking paths impassable to humans and so avoiding customs or checkpoints. And even if officials did spot them, nobody was going to argue with a dog this big!
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is generally a hardy breed. However, in common with many large breeds they may suffer hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important.
The breed club monitor the health of the breed carefully and should be contacted for the most up-to-date information and details of any DNA or additional testing they recommend. Breed Clubs can be found on the Kennel Club website.
Exercising puppies must be done very gradually to avoid putting excess strain on their growing bones and tender tissues and, even with the adult dog, care must taken to build up exercise gradually. Having said that, for their size they really do not need copious amounts of exercise, but, in time, should be given free running off the lead as well as regular controlled walks.
The Pyrenean is big, tall and long and with a heavy coat that picks up water and dirt. You’ll need a large house with a large garden and extremely secure, ideally double, fencing. You cannot stop a Pyrenean from guarding; therefore, you must ensure they feel no need to do so by using solid fencing. 50kg of guarding Pyrenean hitting a fence can do some real damage and should they escape they can cause serious accidents.
Livestock guardian breeds do not fare well when loose surrounded by strangers. Suitable for remote rural living, with plenty of secure space to run and play. Pyreneans living in highly populated built-up areas are likely to feel very stressed and unhappy and will take serious management to keep safe.
Giant-breed dogs, as well as having giant appetites, benefit from a different balance of minerals and vitamins, supporting different joint and cartilage needs. The Pyrenean is prone to bloating and stomach problems; try feeding smaller, more frequent meals to help minimise the risk.
It is necessary to brush or comb this breed thoroughly once or even twice a day to remove loose hairs. This becomes even more important during the moulting times. Failure to do this will result in the coat matting and the dog's coat looking dull and unhealthy. They do require regular bathing and this is no easy task! Early habituation to the groomer’s salon is crucial unless you are prepared to groom this dog yourself for their entire life. Trying to get an adult Pyr to accept grooming by a stranger is unlikely to go well and many groomers will not entertain a dog of this size who is anything less than relaxed!
The Pyrenean is not inclined to enjoy training for training sake, so whilst they can and should be trained it will always be a work in progress and owners must take great care to keep up that effort. It is vital that puppies are well socialised and habituated to the life they will lead with their owners and life skills such as handling, walking on a harness and lead and recall should be worked on early and be ongoing as they will grow into a 10 stone giant, and so if training isn’t started from a very early age, you will often find yourself arguing with a dog who may well weigh more than you do!
It must be understood that this dog is a lifestyle dog, requiring you to live a lifestyle that suits the dog, rather than attempting to change their nature to suit your life!
Whilst the Pyrenean can be affectionate and friendly with their own family, they are not advised for homes with children, as children tend to mean other visiting children. Better suited to child-free homes or those with adult children only.
While many dogs are traditionally thought of as being good with children, all dogs and children need to be taught to get on with and respect each other, and be safe together. Even so, dogs and young children should never be left alone together and adults should supervise all interactions between them.
Did You Know?
- The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is strangely popular within the Japanese manga and anime culture, with characters featuring in several manga series’ including Fullmetal Alchemist and Naruto amongst others.
- In 2014 a Pyrenean Mountain dog, ‘Duke’ became Mayor of Comorant, a small town in Minnesota where he held the (ceremonial) role for four consecutive terms!
- This breed is naturally nocturnal as they were bred to guard flocks of sheep and herds of cattle at night.
- Queen Victoria of England owned a Pyrenean Mountain Dog in the mid-19th century.
- In 1870, blood from Pyrenean Mountain Dogs was used at a hospice in Switzerland to help revive the St. Bernard after so many had suffered injuries from avalanches and distemper.