Learn all about the incredibly popular Pyrenean Mountain Dog. Is it good with other dogs? Does it have many health issues? Find out all the answers in our guide.
Height: 65-82cm at the withers
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Pedigree Breed?: Yes
Positives and Negatives of the Breed
- Good family pet thanks loving and trustworthy nature
- Very child-friendly
- Intelligent and easy to train
- Excellent watchdogs
- Often suffer from separation anxiety
- Sheds a lot
- They bark a lot
- Can be headstrong and need a lot of training
As you might imagine from its name, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog comes from the Pyrenean mountain region in France. In its native country, the Pyrenees dog is known as the Grand Pyrenee or Great Pyrenees dog.
This is an extremely large and impressive breed, but despite its size, it’s known for its gentle, trustworthy and kind nature.
The Pyrenees mountain dog is particularly good for families with children, but it’s important to know that anyone keen to own one of the great Pyrenees dog breeds must be prepared to dedicate a lot of time to grooming and exercising such a large canine companion.
This breed is best suited to those with a very secure, large back yard with high fencing. They are also a poor choice for new dog-owners since they need strong and confident training.
The Pyrenean’s ancestry is distinguished and ancient, dating back to the Bronze Age.
Originating from the French Pyrenean mountains on the border with Spain, these dogs have long been prized for their trustworthy companionship and excellent guarding abilities.
Some people think these dogs originate from the white-coated large dogs from Asia Minor who came to this region with shepherds and travelers.
However, others think that this breed could have descended from the wild wolves in this region. Some people even think that the ancestors of the Pyrenean Mountain dog were a mix of wolves and mastiffs along with ancient Mossoloid dogs.
Over time, these dogs moved on from being working animals to finding favour amongst French royalty and nobility.
In the 1600s they were even named as the French Royal Dog. The breed soon spread around the world, even accompanying Basque fishermen to Newfoundland on sea voyages.
In the Second World War, this breed was used to carry supplies and messages to front line troops, and thanks to their sure-footedness, this breed has traditionally been a popular choice of smugglers who used these dogs to smuggle goods over the treacherous Spanish and French passes that were unnavigable by humans.
In the 1800s, the popularity of the breed declined, but in recent times, breeders and enthusiasts in France managed to save the Pyrenean mountain dog from extinction thanks to selective, careful breeding.
Today, these dogs are still used in their native France for guarding livestock, but both at home and overseas, they are increasingly being chosen as family pets and companion animals.
Despite their imposing and impressive appearance, the Pyrenean mountain dog is a gentle giant.
Especially gentle around young children, these dogs make great family pets, but they do mature very slowly, and therefore won’t reach full maturity until around 3-4 years of age. This is something that needs to be remembered during training.
With very loyal natures, this breed forms unbreakably strong bonds with its family members. Confident and outgoing, they also have a stubborn and independent streak that can make them difficult to train. Therefore, they’re not the top choice for first-time dog owners.
The Pyrenean dog has a very high prey drive that encourages them to chase anything that moves. This means that they need to be well-trained to return when called and they can’t be tried off lead if wildlife or livestock is nearby.
This breed has a very playful nature and loves to entertain. They particularly enjoy interactive games and thanks to their intelligence, they rapidly pick up tricks.
Unfortunately, if not kept physically and mentally busy, these dogs can become bored and develop unwanted destructive behaviours.
The Pyrenean breed is a very sociable one and these dogs thrive on companionship. They therefore often suffer from separation anxiety that can lead to excessive barking or chewing behaviours.
Due to their tendency to bark at strangers and their natural breeding to protect flocks of sheep from predators, they make excellent watchdogs, but they are rarely aggressive unless confronted aggressively by a stranger.
Like most other breeds, the Pyrenean mountain dog is prone to certain hereditary medical problems that you should be aware of if you’re considering buying a Pyrenean mountain dog puppy.
The most common conditions that affect this breed include:
- Hip dysplasia – this can be treated with medication and weight loss to reduce the pain or surgery in more extreme cases
- GT (Glanzmann’s Thrombasthenia)
- DM (Degenerative Myelopathy)
- CMR1 (Multifocal Retinopathy)
- Factor X1 deficiency (blood clotting problems)
- Tripocuspid dysplasia
- Patellar luxation
- Bloat/gastric torsion
- Entropian (when the eyelids focus inwards)
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While the Pyrenean mountain dog isn’t ranked among the most high-energy dogs, they still need plenty of daily exercise as well as sufficient mental stimulation to ensure they are a well-rounded, happy dog.
They will need at least two hours of exercise every day as this is a large breed. They need some time off the lead, but nowhere near wildlife or livestock due to their strong prey instinct.
They can benefit from having a secure back yard to roam around in at will, but you will need to ensure that the fencing is very secure since these are large and powerful dogs that can easily escape.
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This breed is highly intelligent and therefore should be easy to train. However, unfortunately, they naturally have quite a stubborn streak that makes training a lot more difficult than many owners imagine.
You’ll need a lot of patience and understanding to train this breed and this means that they’re a poor choice for first-time dog owners or anyone who is unused to the needs and demands of training a large breed dog.
Consistent and early training is essential with the Pyrenean mountain dog because of the slow rate at which they mature.
They take three or four years to reach full maturity and this means you’re in it for the long haul when it comes to training. If trained poorly, these dogs may become unruly and dominant, and due to their large size, this can be a major problem.
The Pyrenean dog responds very well to positive reinforcement training techniques, but you should steer clear of heavy-handed and harsh correction as this could cause your dog to become more disobedient in the long term.
When Pyrenean puppies are socialised correctly at an early age and given firm but gentle training, they can avoid becoming unmanageable and wilful.
Like all dogs, this large breed need to be completely clear about their own place in their pack and who is their alpha. Therefore, you need to make sure you show dominance over them from an early age.
Due to this breed’s natural prey instinct, you will need to pay special attention to recall training or you could find that you have a major problem whenever letting your dog off the lead.
When paired with their naturally stubborn natures, it can be very difficult to persuade even a well-trained dog to return if something else takes their interest.
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Pyrenean mountain dogs have a double coat that is very profuse, consisting of a soft and dense undercoat and a coarser, thicker top coat.
This makes them quite difficult and time-consuming to groom. You will need to set aside some time every day to brush their coat thoroughly so any tangles and matts can be prevented and to remove any loose or dead hair.
This breed also sheds profusely, which is something that every prospective owner should be aware of, especially those with allergies.
While these dogs shed all year round, they shed even more profusely during Autumn and Spring and, therefore, even more frequent brushing will be required at those times of the year to stay on top of shed hair.
You will also need to check your dog’s ears regularly and clean them thoroughly as and when necessary. If wax is allowed to build up to excess in your pet’s ears, the result can be a painful infection that takes a long time to clear up.
You will also need to ensure that you take care of your dog’s oral health, brushing his teeth at least once a week to remove any bacteria and tartar and to keep it from building up. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best ways to clean your dog’s teeth.
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