Understanding the Needs of Great Pyrenees Puppies
Great Pyrenees: This the Breed For You?
You've seen these big, beautiful white dogs. You're impressed, naturally.
You think you want one. This is understandable. But . . . is this the breed for you?
They are not the ideal pet for everyone!
The mature, sedate Great Pyrenees which you have seen did not just materialize suddenly.
It grew from a cuddly, lovable ball of fluff which at 8-12 weeks of age is most captivating.
From puppyhood to adulthood is a great distance and a considerable time.
As a breed they are remarkably healthy and long lived. They have few major genetic problems and usually live to be 10-12 years old.
Pyrs combine a great intelligence with a deep devotion to family and home, and a natural-born instinct to guard and protect. While trustworthy, affectionate, gentle and tractable, they can become, when and if the need arises, protective guardians of their family and their territory. Thus, they command respect as watch dogs as well as admiration as pets.
Adult Pyrs are placid by nature and calm in the house, enjoying quiet periods in which to rest and sleep. But they are a large breed and as such are not always suited to life in a small apartment or urban setting with little yard space and lots of activity around.
They want their life to be consistent and predictable.
The addition of a dog to your family is a major decision and deserves a great deal of time and thought. A Great Pyrenees is placid by nature, so despite their size, they are excellent house dogs. Yes, an adult Pyr is a beautiful, calm dog, but there are other considerations-have you thought of these?
Are you physically able to handle a very large dog? Basically gentle, they are strong, and during the phases of puppyhood can be a real challenge.
Does dog hair around the house bother you? If so, forget the Pyrenees. While with routine grooming they are not much different than any other breed, they do shed and there are white hairs in Pyr homes and on Pyr people.
A Pyr needs love and attention on a daily basis. Are you and your family able to provide this? A lonesome Pyr is a bored dog, and a bored dog can become destructive.
Great Pyrenees are at heart guard dogs and members of the great family of livestock guardian dogs. As such, they share with them certain strong characteristics. They are a guard dog by instinct, not by training. Their basic personality is different from most breeds, since most breeds were bred to take commands from people, while Pyrs were bred to work on their own.
A Great Pyrenees is an intelligent, sometimes willful animal. They have minds of their own and are not easily obedience trained. Things that you consider important may not be the same things your Pyrenees considers important. Many are almost cat-like, in their independence.
If you require a dog who will be a great "off-leash" companion for your outdoor activities, if you want a dog who will follow your every command, or if you want a competition obedience dog, the Pyrenees is probably not for you.
Do you have room for a Pyr?
They are large and must be confined in a well fenced area, or they will exercise their powerful instinct to establish and patrol a large territory.
When out of the fence they must be kept on lead at all times.
Like all livestock guardian breeds, Great Pyrenees are barkers, especially at night. The amount of barking varies from individual to individual, but the instinct is there and in some cases can cause major problems. Most Great Pyrenees in urban or suburban settings must be kept indoors at night.
The Great Pyrenees is a guard dog and as such cannot be expected to welcome uninvited intrusions onto your property. They will accept anyone whom you invite into your home. They are not "attack" dogs, but can be very intimidating to the surprised visitor. It is an owner's obligation to maintain a Great Pyrenees so that his guarding instincts can be exercised in a responsible way.
These are things to think about. If you find you've answered them honestly and still want a Pyr, here are some suggestions as to how you should choose your puppy.
A Reputable Breeder
Choose a reputable breeder instead of the pet store or a casual "backyard" breeder. Lists of breeders are available from local Great Pyrenees clubs and from the national club. Ask to see the parents of the puppy you are interested in. It is suggested that you inquire if both parents were certified clear of hip dysplasia. Make sure the surroundings are clean and that the puppy is healthy. Look for the happy, outgoing puppy. You don't want a shy, emaciated or sickly-appearing pup. Make sure the coat carries a glossy shine, a sign of good health. There should be no discharge from eyes or nose, and a pup should stand up on strong legs and good feet.
Inquire about a breeder-buyer contract which explains what is expected of you, the buyer, and of the breeder. Your pup should come from registered parents, should have a pedigree from the breeder, a health record showing when and what had been given in the way of inoculations and medication, and care and feeding instructions.
If you're buying a puppy, it should be at least 8 weeks old. Carefully bred and cared for Great Pyrenees puppies are not inexpensive. While prices may vary, people who sell pups for much less than the average for your area probably have not put as much time or care into the breeding or rearing of their pups.
Did you consider buying a mature dog? Many breeders have older dogs which they will place in pet homes. And many local clubs have "rescue" dogs in need of good homes. These older dogs usually are housebroken and have had preliminary training.
Most adult Pyrs adjust readily to a new home, but a trial period should be considered. Such a purchase may be just what you want, allowing you to skip the puppy-adolescent growth stage.
Male or female? This is a personal choice. The male is larger, and carries more coat, but they both show the same affection for, and protection of, their family. The bitch, unless spayed will come into season every six months, the first season is usually around a year of age. The decision as to which sex is yours. If the animal is to be a companion, and not for breeding, have it spayed or neutered at 6-8 months of age. A neutered animal will make a happier and healthier pet, and will probably live longer.
A publication of the Great Pyrenees Club of America, rev. 1992.
Buying a Puppy
Buying a Puppy
If after researching the breed thoroughly you still want a Great Pyrenees, take your time and resist impulse buying. Obtain the names of reputable breeders, call them to talk about the breed and ask lots of questions.
Before you call breeders, read the Breeding and Sales sections of the GPCA Code of Ethics, located in the Club Information section of this web site, which should give you some idea of the kind of things that can be expected from reputable breeders. These are some questions you may want to ask:
- Which of the following genetic clearances do you obtain on all breeding stock? GDC Hip Certification; OFA Hip Certification; Other?
- What dog clubs do you belong to and what offices have you held?
- What requirements do you have that all puppy buyers must meet?
- What types of homes have you placed your dogs in? Show; Pet/Companion; Working?
- How do you temperament/aptitude test your puppies?
- How do you decide which puppy goes to which buyers?
- At what age do puppies go to their new home?
- Will you be available to answer questions and give advice should problems arise after the puppy has left your home?
- Have the puppies received all the appropriate inoculations and wormings for their age? Have they been checked by a vet?
- Please explain why you choose to breed these two particular dogs to each other?
- Please describe the physical characteristics and personality traits that you expect from this breeding?
- Anticipated date of birth? Placement date?
- Price? Pet/companion quality; Show/breeding quality; Working?
- Do you require that pets not intended for competition or breeding be neutered?
- Can you give the names of previous puppy buyers for references?
- What guarantees do you give with a puppy and are these guarantees in writing?
- Are the sire and dam free of any hereditary defects?
- Please indicate whether you offer a money back or a replacement puppy guarantee and any conditions that the buyer must satisfy.
- If possible, visit the breeder personally and see the puppies even if this means a long drive. This will enable you to meet the breeder and see the conditions in the kennel. Although elaborate equipment is not necessary, the facilities can and should be clean. To be healthy, the puppies should be kept clean with a warm, dry pen and a clean bedding area. See the mother of the puppies and the father, if possible; and as many relatives as you can. This will give you some idea of what to expect in terms of appearance and personality.
- Ask if the parents have been certified clear of hip dysplasia AND ask for a copy of the certificate.
- While it may be the best choice to purchase your companion pup from a breeder who is within driving distance, many wonderful pups have been purchased sight unseen and arrive by airplane.
- If you are interested in buying a puppy from a breeder who you cannot visit, be prepared to spend a lot of time talking on the phone. Request written information from the breeder and a copy of the contract that you will be expected to sign. Also ask for referrals to prior puppy buyers and references from other breeders. While magazine ads and the internet can be excellent places to make initial contacts, remember that you must still do all the proper investigation and ask the same questions.
- Look for a pup that is sociable, strong, sturdy and healthy. Make sure that you have the right to take your new pup to your own veterinarian for a check up and the right to return it for a full refund if it is not healthy. And be sure that you do this within the first few days after you get your pup. A small investment in a vet visit could save a large investment in future care.
- If you are purchasing a family companion, you are entitled to a sound, healthy dog with a good temperament.
- If you are purchasing a dog for show or breeding you are entitled to an animal of superior quality and that is fully guaranteed to be so. The visit to the kennel also gives the breeder the opportunity to get to know you.
- No one knows the puppies better than the devoted breeder who has spent countless hours with them and this person is the best person to pick the puppy that best suits your personality and will fulfill your "wants" and "plans" for it’s future.
- You can expect that a good breeder would also ask you about your plans and your own facilities for your Great Pyrenees. In fact, buyers should be cautious of breeders who do not ask questions. It often indicates that the breeder is not very concerned about the future of their pups. Other questions that they might ask are:
- Do you have a well fenced area? Pyrs are roamers and MUST be kept either in your home, confined to a securely fenced area or on leash. Underground or invisible fencing is not appropriate for Pyrs. Very often it will not keep them in; if they want out badly enough they will routinely withstand the shock to do so AND even if it does keep them in, it will not keep other animals or people out. Remember, Pyrs are guardian dogs.
- Do you have neighbors that may complain about a barking dog? Pyrs are BARKERS especially at night.
- Do you have the time to give your dog regular discipline, basic obedience training, proper socialization and grooming? All dogs, but most especially large livestock guardian dogs, need regular day to day discipline, basic obedience training, companionship and attention to ensure that they become a pleasure and not a problem.
- Pyrs do SHED a lot and need regular brushing and nail clipping to keep them in good condition.
- Do you own other dogs? If so, what breeds and sexes? Pyrs are territorial dogs.
- Male Pyrs will seldom tolerate another large male dog in their territory and females sometimes will not tolerate another large female in her territory. If you should have this experience, do you have the ability to keep the dogs separated for the rest of their lives?
- Can you afford to own a giant breed dog? While adult Pyrs are not big eaters, growing pups require more, good quality food.
- And while basic routine vaccinations may not cost more for a large dog than they do for a small dog, a large dog does require a higher dosage of medications and anesthesia than a smaller dog and this can add considerably to your vet bill. It also costs more to board a large dog.
Do all family members want this pup? It is a mistake to buy a dog for the kids when it requires the management of responsible adults to care for a dog. It is also unfair to the pup if a family member resents his presence in the home.
- A puppy from an AKC registered litter is eligible for registration with the American Kennel Club. When buying a puppy one should be given either the AKC registration application with the litter number on it, or the AKC registration certificate with the individual dog’s name and number on it, and these should be properly signed. A puppy may, for good cause, be sold without papers if this is understood and agreed to in writing by both parties as specified by the AKC.
- The AKC has two different types of registration certificates. Regular AKC registration allows the dog to compete in all AKC events and for it’s offspring to be registered with the AKC. Limited registration papers are used by the breeder for puppies they do not want to be used for breeding or shown in conformation. No offspring of a dog for which Limited registration has been granted is eligible for registration.
- If for some reason, the breeder cannot provide the AKC registration application at the time of sale, get a promise of these papers in writing. The breeder should also provide such pertinent data as whelping date, sire, dam, pedigree, immunization and worming records and the recommended diet and feeding schedule. (Please see Section 8 of the GPCA Code of Ethics, located in the Club Info section of this website, to see the specific guidelines required of GPCA members.)
- AKC registration in no way indicates the quality of the puppy. Quality is usually roughly graded on three levels: pet/companion quality, show and breeding quality.
- A dog deemed to be pet/companion quality very often may have some very minor fault which may not even be visible to the novice person and that in no way diminishes the attractiveness of the dog or in it’s ability to live a long, normal, healthy life.
- If you are buying a pet/companion pup, do not be surprised if the breeder requires that this pup be neutered. This is a requirement that most responsible breeders have in their contracts.
- A show prospect puppy is one that meets the breed standard approved by the GPCA and the AKC, exhibiting virtues of the breed with the absence of faults. Such show prospects may or may not eventually make good breeding stock.
- A breeding quality dog should generally be a superior representative of the breed as well as being free of all serious hereditary defects or faults (even if the faults are not visible in a show ring).
- The AKC does require that all breeders keep full and accurate records of their litters. Any breeder should be interested in the progress of all the puppies he sells.
- If for some reason you are unable to keep your Pyr, the first person you should contact is the breeder. Most responsible breeders will specify this in their contracts and will often request that the dog be returned to them.
- Again, we urge anyone planning to buy a Great Pyrenees to research the breed carefully, and to be patient and cautious. The first available puppy or the lowest price may not be the best choice. Well bred Pyrs are not constantly available and purchasing the right pup may mean being willing to wait a while.
- Well bred Pyrs are not inexpensive and the price may vary somewhat depending on what area of the country you live in. Please be sure you are willing to make a commitment for the next 10 to 12 years to meet the physical and emotional needs of a Great Pyrenees.
- These dogs are living, breathing, sensitive creatures who should not be discarded simply because they have become an inconvenience, or your living arrangement or personal life has changed. Any number of Great Pyrenees end up in rescue each year because people did not research the breed thoroughly or did not take this commitment seriously. Don’t let the Pyr you buy become one of the statistics.
- THINK BEFORE YOU BUY.
A publication of the Great Pyrenees Club of America, 1997.
Is This the Breed For You?
Care, Feeding and Early Training
Caring for a Great Pyrenees is a labor of love. Great Pyrenees need affection, kindness and human companionship.
Provide your new puppy-or new adult dog-with a quiet place of its own. The puppy should have a place to go when it wants to be left alone-he needs lots of sleep. And remember, at this age the puppy is just a baby. Children must learn not tease or handle the puppy roughly. It is unwise to leave a puppy alone and free in a home.
He will likely become bored and lonely and in that mood look for mischief to get into, such as chewing up sofa pillows, working on rugs or furniture. Always confine him in a pen or crate until you return. Leave him toys to play with, some puppy biscuits to chew on, and fresh water.
Toys are very important for your puppy. Large hard rubber balls and toys are good, as well as good-quality commercial dog chew bones and old knotted socks. Do not let a puppy chew old shoes, clothing or bits of paper lest this taste be carried over to your good shoes, clothing or a temporarily laid-down daily newspaper.
Housebreaking will be an immediate concern. The Great Pyrenees is easily housebroken if you persist in simple rules, such as always taking the puppy out the same door to relieve himself. Observe your puppy carefully for signs of restlessness until he learns to communicate his needs.
Put your puppy out the first thing in the morning, after each meal and nap, the last thing at night, and at any other time when he appears to be restless. When the puppy is very young, you will probably have to get up with him once during the night as a baby cannot be expected to be continent throughout the night. Persistence and adherence to the same procedure, day after day, will housebreak the puppy in a short period of time. Your puppy will be quick to learn, as Pyrs are naturally clean.
Never allow your Great Pyrenees to roam at will. A well fenced yard is a must for safety, as well as compliance with zoning and nuisance ordinances in most communities. With so many fast-moving cars, it is not safe for a puppy or adult dog, nor is it fair to your neighbors for a dog to be loose. This includes never allowing the dog off leash unless it is confined.
Never tie a dog outside unsupervised. It promotes aggressiveness or other personality changes, suspicion of what is beyond his reach and susceptibility to being teased or frustrated. Furthermore, it can be dangerous because the dog may wrap himself in the chain, or even hang himself.
A precautionary note! Beware of slick surfaces and highly polished floors as footing for puppies and adolescents. They do not give adequate traction. If puppies are allowed to play on such surfaces, they may slip and hurt themselves, possibly causing an injury, or they may develop "sea-legs" which will prevent their proper development. Start puppies on a rough surface for proper footing.
Always have fresh, cold water available and provide adequate shade for the puppy or grown dog. Also, do not leave a dog in a closed car.
There is a saying that "a dog is only as good as what goes into him". This is as applicable to the quality and amount of food as it is to the bloodlines of his ancestors. So, don't skimp. A large breed grows fast and has a lot of developing to do in a short period of time.
Although a Great Pyrenees may mature slowly, your puppy grows fast and needs wholesome, nourishing food. Nothing takes the place of a good quality balanced dog food, or puppy food for young dogs.
Dogs prefer consistency.
Quality, commercial foods insure nutritional balance; manufacturers urge you not to supplement by providing additional additives to their already correct mixture. Give dog biscuits (the hard, chewing kind); they are good for cleaning the teeth.
Do not give bones for these can splinter and thus be dangerous.
Feed regularly prepared, fresh food at set times and in clean dishes. There are many excellent commercial dog foods available to canine owners, never feed generic dog food. If a dog appears to be off his feed, listless or ill, take him to your veterinarian for treatment-the sooner the better! If you check your dog's temperature (with a rectal thermometer) remember that the normal temperature for a dog runs between 101 - 102° F.
Maintain a regular check-up for your dog in the interest of good health. See your veterinarian on schedule to check for worms, other parasites, heart worm, etc. Have the teeth checked for tartar.
Give booster shots as recommended by your veterinarian.
Watch, too, for ear infections, fungus between the toes and "hot spots", which sometimes occur on the skin of long-haired, double-coated dogs.
Great Pyrenees have a low metabolism. Please always caution your veterinarian about weighing your Pyr before giving any anesthetic to the dog, and only give "to effect".
Check the ears periodically for mites, dampness and excess wax. Keep ears dry as damp ears often play host to fungus infections or mites. A swab of cotton on the finger, dampened with alcohol, can be used to clean the exterior ear canals. Dry ear powder may also be used to keep ears dry.
Clip toenails and dewclaws regularly. This insures that they do not grow so long as to curl under and into the flesh. Never let anyone tell you the dewclaws should be removed. They are a part of the breed, one of its several identifying characteristics and thought to have a "snow-shoe" effect.
Check eyebrows at least monthly to make sure they do not curl downward and possibly into the eyes, causing irritation. If necessary, clip them, being very careful of the sharp points of the scissors.
Never clip a Great Pyrenees in the summer. A Pyrenees needs his coat for protection from the sun. The "world's most beautiful dog" requires a minimum of grooming care to keep him looking beautiful.
However, care should consist of a good brushing once or twice a week to keep the coat in top condition and clean. The Pyrenean coat is coarse and hence a brush should remove the dirt. Loose under-coat can be removed easily with a wide-toothed comb or "rake".
Leash breaking should be undertaken when you get your puppy. Again, use kindness and patience. Fit a buckle collar on the puppy's neck, attach a long lead, and for the first couple of lessons, follow the puppy, letting him lead you. After this, kindly and gently coax the puppy to walk beside you, being lavish in your praise and encouragement.
Pet the pup frequently and keep the session short. The puppy will want to please you and will soon enjoy these walks. Don't use a chain or choke collar in teaching a puppy to lead. But for an older dog, a nylon choke collar is preferable-it does not wear down the coat.
There are puppy kindergarten classes for very young puppies, but formal obedience training is not recommended before six months of age. Informal obedience training may be started soon after you take your puppy home.
Simple commands such as "Sit", "Down", "Come", "No", etc. are useful for everyday life, indoors and out. From the start, show your puppy who is master (for he may well try to be his own!) and once a command is given, insist on its being performed.
Again, use kindness and firmness. A displeased tone of voice uttered as a reprimand is usually sufficient discipline. If an older pup needs more discipline, shake the dog by the back of the neck.
Whenever you have questions or problems, feel free to call the breeder. They know your puppy best.
The GPCA's Code of Ethics states, "A breeder shall be available to his buyer for whatever advice, reasonable aid and assistance they may need for the life of that dog."
*Great Pyrenees Club of America - GPCA's Code of Ethics: LINK: http://gpcaonline.org/codeofethics.htm
A publication of the Great Pyrenees Club of America, rev. 1992
Care, Feeding and Early Training
GREAT PYRENEES LIBRARY OF CARE INFORMATION ~