The Great Pyrenees dog breed, also known as the The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is a large breed belonging to the Working Group. It is an old breed favored by French and Spanish shepherds living around the Pyrenees Mountains. These agile dogs were used for guarding sheep on the steep mountainsides, a job they performed excellently. These dogs can be aggressive when provoked, but otherwise, they are well mannered and loving. They are ideal for dominant owners who can handle them firmly and with confidence.
The Great Pyrenees dog breed is named after its place of origin in France. They are mentioned in 15th century literature onwards, but were in existence from a much earlier date. Their ancestry is traced to the all-white dogs from Asia Minor that existed probably as far back as 10,000 BC. The nomadic shepherds from these areas brought them along with their sheep to the Pyrenees Mountains in 3,000 BC., where they continued their role as guarding sheep.
The French aristocracy was enamored by these distinctive looking dogs in the 17th century, and they became very popular in the Royal court. Louis XIV declared the Great Pyrenees the Royal Dog of France in 1675. The dogs are said to have reached Newfoundland around this time, but the first documented evidence of their presence in the United States is in 1824.
The popularity of the dog suffered a steep decline in the 19th century, with only a few remaining in isolated pockets in France. The breed was revived in the 1930s when these dogs were imported in large numbers to the United States for an active breeding program. It gained the recognition of the American Kennel Club in 1933.
The Great Pyrenees dog breed is quite large in size, measuring 27-32 inches at the withers and weighing up to 120 pounds. Their muzzle is medium long with small folded ears, and the tail is very fluffy and plume-like.
These dogs have a double coat; the long outer coat made up of coarse hair and the dense undercoat consisting of fine fur. The coat is particularly long around the neck and shoulders, giving the dogs a mane. The limbs too have a thick layering of hair. The coat is more often white, but grey and rust coats or patches of these colors also occur. The colored coats may fade as the dog gets older and solid white dogs may develop some tan coloring around the ears later on.
The Great Pyrenees dog breed is known for its gentle and affectionate nature, especially with children. They are extremely loyal to their family and are very protective. At the same, these dogs are territorial, and take on any aggressor fearlessly. They make excellent guardians, their very size and imposing stature acting as deterrents.
These dogs have an independent nature, and are known to wander off if left free. They are difficult to train as they are slow to learn and obey commands. Early and consistent training is essential to avoid undesirable behaviors such as night time barking. Even though these dogs are not known to turn on their owners, they need to establish their superiority over the dogs and maintain it.
Grooming and exercise
The thick, fluffy coat of Great Pyrenees dog breed requires thorough brushing once or twice a week to look good, and more frequently during the major shedding season. These dogs drool quite a bit too.
These working dogs require regular exercise and activities to stay healthy and stimulated. However, their needs are moderate, and can be taken care of by a brisk walks with the owner. They make excellent hiking companions; they particularly love mountain trails.
The Great Pyrenees are outdoor dogs by nature, and love the cold and the snow, but they are not suitable for warm climates. They become lethargic and listless in hot weather. When kept as family pets, these dogs are better off sleeping indoors with the family, even though free access to a secure yard during the day is ideal.
Common health issues of Great Pyrenees dog breed
The Great Pyrenees dog breed is prone to a number of health issues such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation. This large breed is affected by the painful skeletal disorder called panosteitis that is usually occurs in large breeds during the fast growing stage. This self-limiting condition may cause limping and temporary lameness. Chondrodysplasia is another skeletal disorder these dogs are prone to. Eye problems such as entropion and cataracts, and skin problems are also frequently seen in these dogs. They are at risk of developing bone cancers too. The average life expectancy of this breed is 10 to 12 years.