Breed Spotlight: Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees is a large, thickly coated, and immensely powerful working dog bred to deter sheep-stealing wolves and other predators on snowy mountaintops. Pyrs today are mellow companions and vigilant guardians of home and family.
Frequently described as 'majestic,' Pyrs are big, immensely strong mountain dogs standing as high as 32 inches at the shoulder and often tipping the scales at more than 100 pounds.
These steadfast guardians usually exhibit a Zen-like calm, but they can quickly spring into action and move with grace and speed to meet a threat. The lush weatherproof coat is all white, or white with markings of beautiful shades of gray, tan, reddish-brown, or badger.
For all their abundant fur, Pyrs don't require a lot of grooming, as their coat is dirt and tangle-resistant. They have a double coat, with a long outer coat and a soft undercoat. 'They will shed this undercoat with great enthusiasm leading to a snowstorm', one owner says. She laughs, 'They shed in the spring, after whelping, in honor of certain Druid festivals, and after you enter them in a show!' A thorough brushing with a pin brush or slicker brush at least once a week will help to reduce the shed hair that ends up all over the house. The Pyr's nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause the dog discomfort. The teeth should be brushed often, using toothpaste designed for dogs.
Some owners note that Great Pyrenees seem to eat a relatively small amount for a dog of their size. 'Of course, if another dog wants what's in their bowl, they will snarf down the food like they hadn't eaten in months,' says one breed devotee. High-quality dry dog food that is low-protein and specially formulated for large breeds is a good idea. The breed is susceptible to bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), where the stomach distends and twists. The causes of bloat aren't fully understood, but experts agree that multiple, small meals per day and preventing vigorous exercise around mealtimes may help reduce the chances of it happening.
Pyrs are not a highly active breed. The breed was developed to be a livestock guardian and has been used since ancient times to protect flocks from wolves, bears, and human foes. When working, they will patrol their territory but tend to conserve their energy for fending off whatever may threaten their flock. Moderate exercise such as walks with their owner will help keep them healthy and happy. The breed also exercises mind and body by participating in canine activities such as obedience trials and cart-pulling.