About the Pyrenean Mountain Dog
The size, beautiful coat and wonderful eyes, which carry a ‘far off’ look as if they are dreaming of the mountains, are trademarks of the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, as are their ‘double dew claws’ on the hind legs. They are intelligent, independent thinking, sometimes wilful and definitely not the dog for all, or even most. But for those who love them, there can be no other dog.
What is the breed’s history?
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog was used by shepherds in the French Pyrenees Mountains to guard flocks of sheep and goats from wolves and bears. In addition to the breeds traditional duties there is also record of the breed being used to guard castles in Lourdes, Foix and Carcasonne. The young Dauphin, son of Louis XIV, made friends with a gorgeous young male Pyrenean on a visit to the region in 1675, and the breed became popular with the French court.
What is the breed used for today?
Pyreneans are still used as livestock guardians guarding sheep, goats and even flocks of free range chickens in various places around the world including here in Australia (including here on our property Burrow Downs) and in its home in the Pyrenees. In the right home they also excel as a family pet and guardian and it is in this role that they are most commonly seen in Australia. Pyreneans can be great family dogs but like any dog, young children need to be supervised. They have an excellent reputation as a protector of small creatures, both animal and human. Young dogs, however, may be boisterous and can easily knock over young children or worry other animals in their exuberance. Good supervision, management and leadership when young will ensure they grow up to be a calm and well mannered adult.
Are they easy to train?
Pyreneans are not the easiest breed to train as they are not overly people focussed dogs and can be quite wilful, especially when younger. As they have been bred to think independently, they are not interested in doing things just because you want them to. Pyreneans are well known for not coming when called. While some owners may have success with formal obedience training, it is accepted that even the most highly trained and obedience titled Pyrenean can not usually be trusted off the lead outside of a fully fenced area. This does not mean that Pyreneans can not be trained and all dogs should be taught basic commands. A Pyr however, may not be the right dog for you if you expect your dog to always do what it is told, no questions asked. They are NOT a big white Golden Retriever!
Can they live in a suburban backyard?
With the right family who is willing to adjust to their needs, they will be perfectly happy in the suburbs. They can sometimes be escape artists however, so they need good fences and gates to keep them home. Pyreneans were bred to bark to alert predators that they were on duty. Some Pyreneans can bark a LOT. This can sometimes be an issue with neighbours, so keeping the dog inside at night is a must. They also love to dig large holes to lie in and keep cool. A Pyrenean may not be a good choice if you are particular about your garden.
Are there any breed specific health problems?
For a large breed they are quite healthy and have few major genetic problems though problems will occur from time to time. Like many large breeds, bone, joint and growth problems can be an issue. It is recommended that puppies come from parents who have, as a minimum, been x-rayed for hip and elbow displaysia. Visit our page on health issues for more information.
How about grooming?
Their lovely white coat is relatively easy to care for but they do need brushing about once a week to stop mats from developing. Nails must also be trimmed regularly to keep them short, in particular the double dewclaws on the hind legs. Lots of brushing is needed to help remove the undercoat when they ‘blow’ their coat, which usually occurs once or twice a year. They do shed all year round though so owners need to get used to the sight of white hair on everything! Visit our page on grooming for more information.
Do they need much exercise?
They are not a dog you can take jogging or bike riding, but they will enjoy a regular walk and a sniff around the neighbourhood (on lead of course!). Young growing dogs should not be taken for long walks on lead, particularly on hard surfaces.