March 22, 2016

What You Need to Know About Great Pyrenees

Just about everyone who follows me on Instagram (Bear has his own Instagram now!), or has read this blog for any length of time knows that Hubs and I have four furkids. Two rambunctious tabby cats, an energetic dachshund, and a cuddly great pyrenees. Cats are relatively easy to care for: put out food and keep the litter box clean. Dogs, on the other hand require a bit more attention and love. In my opinion small dogs are much easier than large dogs in some respects, and I should know since we have one of each. Today, however, we're going to focus on large dogs, specifically the Great Pyrenees breed.

I've compiled a list of things you need to know about this breed before you decide to adopt or rescue one. While Pyrs are oh so loving and cuddly, they can be quite stubborn and messy. Having a large breed of any kind at home is not to be taken lightly and can be a lot of work. Here are some things to consider:

1. Pyrs are BIG.

Great Pyrenees can be up to 32in tall at the shoulders (that's just under three feet!) and they can weigh 80-100+ pounds. We get comments every time we take Bear out about his size and do we have a saddle for him. While our house isn't very big, we have more open spaces which are good for Pyr owners. You don't want an excited tail knocking things over!

2. The Pyr Paw

Huge paws are another things that comes along with larger breeds. But Pyrs will paw you when they think you aren't paying enough attention to them, and this is called "the Pyr Paw". It can also be a sign of affection. So wipe down those footies when coming inside or you'll have mud everywhere.

3. Fur, fur, and more fur.

The breed is known for it's white fluffy coat. Some even have a few markings like Bear does, but even then they are mainly white in color. The coat requires brushing at least once a week with a wire brush, and during shedding seasons a fur rake; this helps get the loose furs in the undercoat out. Even with a weekly brushing, Pyrs shed A LOT, especially in the spring and summer. I recommend brushing outside during the warmer seasons. Just be prepared to sweep and vacuum several times a week to keep the accumulation down in your house.

4. Bath Time

Due to their weather proof fur, Pyrs don't need baths as often as other dogs. The two layered coat sheds dirt easily when brushed regularly. During shedding season, a warm bath can help "blow" the coat faster, but Pyrs generally need very few wet baths a year. If you have a large bathroom, and your Pyr isn't afraid of water, then by all means bathe it at home. Bear hates baths and we have a tiny bathroom, so off the to groomers he goes.

5. The Guard Dog Instinct

This breed was bred to watch over herds of sheep in the Pyrenees mountains. The instinct to guard and patrol its surroundings is strong and Pyrs need to be trained to exercise this in a civil manor. They use their size and vocal abilities to intimidate predators, and only attack as a last resort.  They also have a tendency to be territorial (Bear takes great care in guarding his bones), so this needs to be monitored closely.

6. Barks and Howls

Yep. Dogs do that, but Pyrs have a very loud bark and they bark at everything... well at least they do outside. Bear doesn't bark as much inside unless Robbie starts barking at something. Part of this is their protective instincts, because that squirrel is dangerous! Be sure to be aware of noise ordinances in your area and be sympathetic to neighbors (if you have any).

7. Demeanor and Personality

Great Pyrenees are usually pretty calm and patient dogs. When properly trained and socialized, they are very friendly, but can be shy around strangers (this doesn't apply to Bear, he loves everyone). They are great around kids and other pets, and are being used more often as service dogs, especially for the elderly. Pyrs tend to be strong willed, so taking the pack leader roll early on is a necessity for any owner.

8. Exercise and Wandering

Pyrs don't require as much exercise as most large breed dogs, but they do need to be walked or let out in a secure area daily. Due to their guarding and patrolling instincts, they tend to wander  so a leash, a strong tie out, or a fenced yard is best. Be careful in the warmer months as these furry babes can overheat fairly easily.

9. Food

Nutrition for Pyrs is so very important. They need a large breed puppy brand of food up to about 8 months old, and a large/giant breed food that is high in protein after that. Large breeds eat a lot, so large bowls or a large feeder are necessary. We supplement Bear's dry food with a high protein canned food, and when he needs an extra boost I'll make a batch of satin balls as treats.

10. Independence

Great Pyrenees are very independent. This can make them seem like they aren't intelligent, but that is completely wrong. Pyrs are very intelligent, but their priorities are not going to be the same as yours. They do things on their own time, which can make obedience training difficult at times. They are generally slow movers compared to other breeds, but have bursts of energy than can have them running around the yard like crazy. In our house, we call these the "zoomies". Fetching that ball you threw is not high on their to do list, but they do still like to play in other ways.

Each Pyr will have their own challenges to adapting and training, but with lots of love and patience they are a wonderful addition to any family.

Have you owned or been around a Great Pyrenees?
If not, do you have any pets that have specific needs that differ from the norm?

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