By: Stephanie Schmitt, Volunteer for Local GP Rescue Groups
The Great Pyrenees, or “Pyrs” as they are commonly called, are a big dog with an equally big heart. The Great Pyrenees, also known as the Pyrenean Mountain dog, was bred to be a livestock guardian dog for the farmers in the Pyrenees Mountains of Europe which form the border between France and Spain. They are an ancient breed of dog that have been serving as guardians for their flocks for thousands of years, dating back to as early as 1800bc. Great Pyrenees are still working Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) today throughout the world and in Texas, and are in charge of protecting the flock from predators like coyotes, wolves, bears and the occasional delivery driver!
Pyrs are not just a guard dog, they are guardians. They bond with the flock, care for and nurture them and they become their “family”. They are known as “Gentle Giants” as their instinct is to be kind and patient with all vulnerable animals. If you don’t have a farm or a ranch, don’t worry…Pyrs make amazing family pets!
Knowing a few key characteristics of Great Pyrenees will help you decide if this breed is right for your family and lifestyle. Pyrs are generally known as calm, well-mannered, and devoted to their family. The Great Pyrenees have an affectionate nature and their time spent as guardians have made them gentle with children and other animals. Pyrs like to be “on patrol” to ensure they keep evil away from both the animals and humans they are charged with protecting. Pyrs are barkers which is necessary for them to do their job as guardians. They need to assess what is a threat and what isn’t, who is a good visitor vs a bad visitor, and they do this by assuming a large stance and using their voice!
It’s important to train and set the proper standards for this breed, based on what they are bred for, not what we think they should be. Different dog breeds have different personalities, and what one breed excels at, another might not be so good at. Pyrs were often left alone in mountain valleys with just their flock for company, so they have developed a strong independent streak as they have to make their own decisions about dangerous situation. Because of their natural instinct to be on patrol, they tend to wanderer, so any off- leash activity should be avoided. Unlike herding dogs or retrievers, Pyrs do not have the same recall as a retriever may have.
Great Pyrenees have a double coat and regular brushing will help, but Pyrs shed… no way around it! So, if you are not a fan of vacuuming, this breed may not be for you! Their fine undercoat serves as an insulator against both heat and cold. The good news is that they have the type of coat that “self-cleans”. Dirt and mud have the tendency to clean itself off without you having to do it. Also, many owners think it’s too hot in Texas for dogs with this type of coat, but their double coat helps keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and provides protection from the sun and insects,
Like most dogs, they enjoy spending time with family but tend to be more serious than playful. They have moderate energy and benefit from a good exercise plan or walk once or twice a day. Pyrs are gentle, loyal, affectionate, protective and forgiving. They generally enjoy an orderly routine and a family to bond with. Owners who have a quiet life will also find these dogs to be wonderful companions.
If you are interested adopting a Great Pyrenees, or learning more about Livestock Guardian Dogs, please contact one of these organizations:
Great Pyrenees Advocates of Texas
Texas Great Pyrenees Rescue
Bluebonnet Animal Rescue Network (Hobby Farm & LGD)
National Great Pyrenees Rescue
Saving Pyrenees in Need (SPIN)
Great Pyrs & Paws Rescue (GPPR)