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owning a great pyrenees

Women love little, bitty tiny things: babies, mini quiches, puppies.  Sure you could have a regular-size quiche, but who wants that when you can have an itsy bitsy quiche that's just your size?

Women, that's who.

Same way with puppies. That's why, when my husband showed me a picture of a Great Pyrenees puppy last summer, and the little pup was only six months old, I oohed and ahhed and cooed. 

What we sometimes forget is that little bitty things (puppies and babies) eventually grow up and get big. Like, really big. Like, with gigantic paws big. Well, hopefully the baby doesn't have paws, but you get the idea.

Those little Great Pyrs are natives of the Pyrenees Mountains, nestled in between Spain and France; were favorites of the 17th century French court; and continue, even today, to work hard for livestock owners around the world, protecting herds and flocks from bears, bobcats and wolves. 

Sometimes while wearing a spiked collar.

So if you're wondering whether or not a Great Pyrenees is for you, consider the following:

(1) They are massive dogs. Great Pyrenees start out small and fluffy, but they grow into big, big dogs. So if you feel yourself getting sidetracked with pictures of the wee little puppies, just make sure you also look at some pictures of adult dogs to keep you balanced. 

(2) Great Pyrs are livestock guardians don't need any training to protect your cows, chickens, goats and even kids. They work hard at night to keep dangers away from you, your house and your other animals. Those dangers, however, can come in the form of coyotes, leaves, birds, the moon and crickets. It doesn't matter what the sound or threat is; your Great Pyr will know it's there.

So if you aren't into nighttime barking, this is not the dog for you. If you don't mind barking and you like a dog who works all night and sleeps all day, then you've found your man! Err . . . dog. 

It is not uncommon to hear Wally chasing away packs of coyotes at night. I've even seen him chase them away and then continue to follow them until they were gone over the ridge. From 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., he's your guy. But if you're wanting an alert dog during the day, keep looking. He'll be out from all the hard work he's done during the night. 

(3) Great Pyrs are pretty hard-headed, which means they are hard workers but also easily indifferent to training. My husband once noted that our pup Wally acts like he really can't be bothered to play fetch with us. 

To quote the American Kennel Club, "Because they were bred to work independently, Pyrs may not be the star of the local obedience class." . . . Thus the reason Wally is flopped down next to the tennis ball and not bringing it back to me while giving me the "You really thought I'd get up for that?" look. 

We'll keep working on that. 

(4) Great Pyrs are calm and patient. My husband's lab bounces; Wally lumbers. He doesn't jump on people or mind when you pick burrs out of his long, white fur or care if you flop over on him. He can handle the cold snow, the heat of summer and the pouring rain. He doesn't eat much more than a lab and can't be bothered with food or water when he's on night patrol. And he generally hangs out whatever door I went into last, under the window of my office when I'm working, or outside the kitchen door when I'm making a meal. Hey, somebody's gotta be Head of Farm Security around here. 

5) Great Pyrenees are very affectionate. They love people, especially children. Wally was a little shy when he was a puppy, but step a foot outside now or turn in his general direction, and he's burying his head in your leg . . . 

or flopping on his back just begging for you to scratch his stomach. (In case you're wondering what a dog who works at night and sleeps during the day looks like when you wake him up at lunch, it's this . . . which, to be fair, is not unlike how most of us look in the morning.)

They can be equally affectionate toward other animals . . . or equally hard-headed. Some people say you shouldn't have two Great Pyrs of the same gender or they'll constantly be fighting. The good news: Wally and old Blackjack are pretty tight. Blackjack likes to get Wally in trouble, and Wally's just chill enough to let him. 


Great Pyrenees are faithful, beautiful dogs. They are "of immense size, great majesty, keen intelligence, and kindly expression; of unsurpassed beauty and a certain elegance. . . . The Great Pyrenees has been used for centuries as a guard and watchdog on the large estates of his native France, and for this he has proven ideal. He is as serious in play as he is in work, adapting and modeling himself to the moods, desires and even the very life of his human companions, through the fair weather and the foul, through leisure hours and hours fraught with danger, responsibility and extreme exception; he is the exemplification of gentleness and docility with those he knows, of faithfulness and devotion for his master even to the point of self-sacrifice; and of courage in the protection of the flock placed in his care and of the ones he loves" (Edith Smith, How to Raise and Train a Great Pyrenees). 

Should you get a Great Pyrenees? Absolutely! If you have the space for this big dog, ear plugs, the ability to give him some attention when he needs it, and the freedom to protect you from everything from the wind to other dogs, yes. 

Especially if you can get him as a tiny fluffy puppy. He may not stay itsy bitty tiny forever, but as it turns out, that's really okay too. 


  1. We have four of them, 2 males and 2 females.
    They are they joy of our lives even if the words "come" and "sit" do not exist in the Pyr universe!!

  2. Thank you for taking some time to write this post. The Great Pyrenees is considered one of the oldest natural dog breeds of all times. Some people believe that it has first appeared around 3000 BC. The Great Pyrenees looks like a large white bear thanks to its size and protective double coat. See more

  3. This is such a wonderful article, you described the Great Pyrenees personality perfectly! ;-) Loving, strong, intelligent and super stubborn with the heart of a lion. It's hard not to love this breed ��


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