Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Pyrenean Mountain Dog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Pyrenean Mountain Dog
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog originates from France where the breed is known as the Grand Pyrénée. They are impressive, extremely large dogs that boasts kind, gentle, trustworthy natures and are particularly good around children which means they are a great choice as family pets. However, anyone wanting to share a home with a Pyrenean Mountain Dog would need to have enough time to dedicate to exercising and grooming a canine companion of this size although they are not considered high energy dogs.
Pyreneans are better suited to people who have large, ultra-secure back gardens where the fencing is high enough to keep a dog safely in, bearing in mind that Pyreneans are highly skilled escape artists. They are not the best choice for first time dog owners because Pyrenean Mountain Dogs must be handled and trained by people familiar with the needs of such a large breed.
The Pyrenean boasts an ancient and distinguished ancestry that dates back to the Bronze Age. Native to the Pyrenees mountain range of France which borders Spain, they have always been highly prized for not only their protecting abilities, but as trustworthy companions too. There are those who believe the breed owes its origins to the large, white coated dogs of Asia Minor which found their way the mountainous regions of the Pyrenees with travellers and shepherds.
There is much debate, however, as to the true origins of the breed with some people believing that the Great Pyrenees Dog could be a direct descendant of the wolf. Others think that their ancestors would be wolf and mastiff as well as the ancient Mossoloid Dog. A lot of breed clubs believe that the breed is lupomossoloid and that in the beginning no other dogs were used to develop them. With this said, many breed enthusiasts believe that mastiff-type dogs were introduced into the mix later in history as a way of introducing new blood and therefore ensuring the survival of the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. This included the Tibetan Mastiff or so it is thought because the breed has a connection with many other larger mountain breeds.
As time passed, these working dogs soon found favour with French nobles and royals so much so, they were to become the Royal Dog of France in the 17th Century. Pretty soon, the breed found its way to other countries of the world which included Newfoundland when they accompanied Basque fishermen on their sea voyages playing an important role as companions and guard dogs. It was Louis XIV named them the "Royal Dogs of France" and during World War II, Pyrenean Mountain dogs were used to carry messages and supplies to troops fighting at the front. Because they were so sure footed, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog was also a popular choice with smugglers who used these large dogs to smuggle contraband over treacherous passes between France and Spain that people were unable to negotiate.
However, during the 19th Century, the breed's popularity and therefore breed numbers fell dangerously low, but thankfully enthusiasts and breeders in France through careful and selective breeding saved the Pyrenean Mountain Dog from vanishing off the face of the planet forever.
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog has had an influence on the development of many other breeds and this includes the Newfoundland when Basque fishermen took them over with them on their boats. These Pyreneans were crossed with native curly coated retrievers which produced the Newfoundland. They were also used to develop and save the Saint Bernard when breed numbers fell dangerously low in the 1800's.
By the early 20th century, breed numbers fell dangerously low, but thanks to the efforts of Bernard Senac-Langrange and M. Dretzen, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog was saved from vanishing forever. Today, these proud and reliable dogs are still used in France to guard livestock from predators, but they are also a popular choice both as companions and family pets both in their native France and other parts of the world thanks to their handsome looks and kind, loyal natures.
Height at the withers: Males 70 - 82 cm, Females 65 - 74 cm
Average weight: Males 50 - 54 kg, Females 36 - 41 kg
Although most people think that a Pyrenean Mountain Dog only has a white coat, some dogs have darker markings like that of a badger which is called "blaireau", others have grey or pale-yellow coats. However, no matter what colour coat, the Pyrenean always has a striking black nose as well as black eye rims that contrast wonderfully with them and which adds to their overall charming appeal. Pyreneans have a distinctly majestic look about them with their nicely proportioned, large heads and just a hint of a stop and slight furrow.
Their muzzles are strong and moderately long, tapering nicely to the tip. They have charming almond-shaped, dark brown eyes with an amber hue in them and dogs always have an intelligent, thoughtful look about them. Their ears are on the small side and triangular in shape with rounded tips. Dogs typically carry their ear flat to their heads, but slightly raised when excited or alert.
The Pyrenean has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. The roof of their mouths and lips are black in colour or can be pigmented quite heavily with black. Their necks are quite short, but strong with virtually or no dewlap. Shoulders are strong, powerful and lie close to the body with dogs having well-boned, strong, straight and muscular front legs.
They have well-proportioned bodies with nicely developed chests and their ribcage extends well down their body. Backs are nice and long, muscular and broad being level and straight. Males tend to have a more pronounced waist line than their female counterparts which gives them a greater outline to their lower body.
Their hindquarters are powerful and strong with dogs having muscular, broad loins and quite prominent haunches that slope slightly to the rump. Their topline curves gently to the tail. Pyreneans have well-muscled back legs and double dewclaws. Their feet are compact and short with slightly arched toes and nice strong nails. Tails are thicker at the root, but taper gently to the tip and have a slight curve in them. Their tails are nicely covered in long hair that forms a plume when raised. When alert or excited, a Pyrenean carries their tail high over their back in a curl.
When it comes to their coat, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog has a profuse double coat that consists of a longer, harsher, thick topcoat that lies close to the body which can be either slightly wavy or straight and a much finer, very thick undercoat. The hair is longer at the tail and around a dog's neck and shoulders which forms a mane. Their front legs are nicely fringed and the rear of their back legs boast having long, dense and much woollier hair on them which gives the impression of dogs wearing pantaloons. Females have smoother coats than their male counterparts and they have less of a mane too. Accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
A dog can have markings on their head, ears or base of the tail with a few being permissible on the body.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
Pyreneans are gentle giants even though they are quite impressive and imposing looking dogs. They are exceptionally gentle around children which is just one of the reasons why they have always been a popular choice as family pets for so long. However, like some other large dogs, the Pyrenean matures very slowly and only really reaches full maturity when they are anything from 3 to 4 years old which must be taken into account when training them.
They are extremely loyal by nature and form strong, unbreakable bonds with their families. They are outgoing and confident dogs, but they also boast having a stubborn streak in them thanks to their rather independent nature which means they can prove challenging to train. As such, they are not the best choice for first time owners because they might just get the better of them.
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog needs to be socialised from a young age which should include introducing a puppy and young dog to as many new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated for them to mature into well-rounded, happy dogs. In the right hands and with the correct amount of training which should never be rushed, the Pyrenean will do as they are told but only when they feel like it. As such, owners need to show their dogs a lot of patience and understanding.
They respond well to positive reinforcement, but any harsh correction or heavier handed training methods would not achieve good results and may even end up causing a dog to be even more disobedient. Without the right amount of early socialisation, the correct amount of positive training and being handled with a firm yet gentle hand, a Pyrenean can become quite wilful and unmanageable. These large dogs are never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who to look to for direction and guidance. They are known to like the sound of their own voices and will bark at the slightest thing which is a trait that needs to be nipped in the bud when dogs are still young.
Pyrenees Mountain dog are known to be excellent escape artists which is why as previously mentioned, garden fencing must be high and extremely secure, bearing in mind they are capable of clearing 6-foot fences with the greatest of ease.
Pyrenean Mountain Dogs are not the best choice for first time owners because they must be handled and trained by people who are familiar with the needs of such large and intelligent dogs.
The Pyrenees has a high prey drive and will happily chase anything that moves or tries to run away and because they like to turn a deaf ear to the recall command when it suits them, they are not to be trusted off the lead more especially when there is livestock or wildlife close by.
Pyreneans have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained. They adore playing interactive games and being so smart, they pick things up quickly, but the downside is that if they are not kept busy both mentally and physically, they soon get bored which could see them developing unwanted and destructive behaviours around the home.
Pyreneans are very large dogs and therefore need to have enough room to express themselves as they should. As such, they are not the best choice for anyone who lives in an apartment because they need to be able to roam around a secure back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam.
Pyreneans love being around people and thrive on having company. As such, they are never happy when they find themselves on their own for any length of time. They can suffer from separation anxiety which can lead to a dog developing all sorts of behavioural issues which includes excessive barking and being destructive around the home out of sheer boredom.
Some Pyreneans like the sound of their own voices a little too much which is something that needs to be gently nipped in the bud when a dog is still young being careful not to frighten them. Others will only bark when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their surroundings, bearing in mind that they are wonderfully impressive watchdogs.
Most Pyreneans love swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Pyrenean off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own. It is also important to thoroughly dry off a dog's coat to prevent moisture from being trapped in it which could lead to an allergy flaring up.
Pyreneans are natural watchdogs which is a trait that is deeply embedded in their psyche having been bred to protect large flocks in challenging conditions for centuries. As such, they do not need to be trained to "protect", but rather let to do their "own thing". With this said, rarely would a Pyrenean Mountain Dog show any sort of aggressive behaviour unless they feel confronted in any way by a stranger.
The Pyrenean is a smart dog, but because they boast a stubborn streak in them it means they can prove challenging to train. It takes a lot of understanding and patience to train one of these large dogs which is why they are not the best choice for novice dog owners. Their training must start as early as possible and it must be consistent because Pyreneans mature so slowly. In the wrong hands, dogs can become dominant and unruly which can make living with such large dogs quite a problem.
It cannot be stressed strongly enough that Pyrenean Mountain Dogs need to be well socialised and trained from a young enough age for them to grow up to be more manageable mature dogs. Taking a dog along to puppy classes is a great way of starting their education because not only do they get to meet lots of other dogs, but people too. A lot of emphasis must be put on the "recall" command from the word go, bearing in mind that Pyreneans are renowned for turning a deaf ear when it suits them.
Pyrenean Mountain Dog puppies are incredibly cute and it is all too easy to forget that they quickly grow into extremely large and impressive dogs. As such, new owners must start out as they mean to go on which means as soon as a puppy is settled in, they need to be taught the rules and boundaries as to what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. It also establishes a pecking order and who is the alpha dog in a household which is important when dealing with such a large and dominant breed. The first commands a Pyrenean puppy must be taught includes the following:
Pyreneans are kind dogs by nature and they love being in a family environment. They revel in being involved in everything that goes on around them which includes playing with the children. They are always extra gentle around children, but because of their large size any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be supervised by an adult to make sure nobody gets knocked over albeit by accident.
If they have grown up with other pets in a house, they generally get on well together. However, if a neighbour's cat ventured into a Pyrenean's territory, they would think nothing of chasing them off. Pyreneans have been known to be a little aggressive to other similar sized dogs, but otherwise as long as they were well socialised from a young enough age, they usually get on with other dogs they meet thanks to their placid natures.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Pyrenean Mountain Dog is between 10 and 12 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Pyrenean is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these large and impressive dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is known to be a genetically diverse breed with a coefficient being 3.7%. As such, the risk of inbreeding is greatly reduced thanks to there being a good amount of viable lines to choose from.
Pyrenean puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Some Pyreneans gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Some Pyrenean Mountain Dogs are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up which is why it is so important to thoroughly dry off a dog's coat once they have got wet. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Pyrenean Mountain Dog breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions for all Kennel Club registered breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Pyrenean Mountain Dog.
It is mandatory for all Kennel Club Assured Breeders to use the following test on their dogs and all other breeders are strongly advised to follow suit:
As with any other breed, the Pyrenean needs to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Pyrenean puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Pyrenean puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
As previously mentioned, Pyrenean puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Pyreneans need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
Living with a Pyrenean Mountain Dog in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include taking a look at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Pyreneans need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Pyreneans don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
Pyreneans have a profuse double coat that consists of a dense, soft undercoat and a thick, coarse topcoat. As such they are high maintenance in the grooming department. Ideally, their coats need to be brushed every day to prevent any matts or tangles from forming and to remove dead and loose hair. They shed profusely only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is typically needed to keep on top of things.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Although not considered high-energy dogs, the Pyrenean needs to be given the right amount of daily exercise and enough mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. This means exercising a dog for at least 2 hours a day.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these large dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Pyrenean puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing problems later in their lives and the Pyrenean is known to have brittle bones.
If you get a Pyrenean puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Pyreneans are known to suffer from bloat, it is important for them to be fed twice a day instead of giving a dog just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand for their feed bowls which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks to reach their food. You should never exercise a Pyrenean just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more at risk of suffering from gastric torsion.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Pyrenean puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 24 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Pyrenean must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult dog can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, you may need to register your interest with breeders and be put on a waiting list because not many puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything from £900 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Pyrenean in northern England would be £49.22 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £85.31 a month (quote as of June 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £60 - £70 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Pyrenean and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1200 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Pyrenean Mountain Dog would be between £120 to £160 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Pyrenean Mountain Dogs have a large fanbase both in the UK and elsewhere in the world which means that healthy, well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Pyreneans there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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