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We are often asked if Pyrs make good pets and if we would sell a Great Pyrenees for a pet.

Our answer to both is an unequivocal yes but...

The but... means that there are some things you should know about Pyrs before you can even think about making an intelligent decision about whether a Great Pyrenees should be your choice for a pet:  

 

Pyrs can be loving and enjoyable pets.  Here is Barrèges lounging in her favorite relaxing position and again relaxing with Pierre.

1.  Pyrs drool.  Drool isn't necessarily something we think about often when we think of pets.  We usually think about love and petting and loyalty.  Well, Pyrs are loving and loyal and they love to be petted but the fact is they drool, too.  Some are bigger droolers than others but when any Pyr drinks water in your home, you're going to be walking in water over what can sometimes be a considerable area, depending on how far your Pyr moves immediately after drinking.  This may not be a subject included in your dreams about a really great dog but it's one you need to include if you think that really great dog might be a Pyr.

2.  Pyrs shed.  Great Pyrenees have a beautiful coat.  It's a gorgeous, self-cleaning, relatively maintenance-free coat for an LGD.  For a pet, it's still gorgeous, not quite as self-cleaning as we'd like, and quite a bit higher maintenance.  Part of the reason that the Pyrs' coat tends to take care of itself is that the coat sheds hairs, lots of them, so that you will have a hair coat on any furniture or carpet where your Pyr lies.  If you have tile or hardwood, the hair based dust bunnies can grow to truly staggering proportions unless you keep that dust mop busy on a regular basis.  Owners of Great Pyrenees never wear dark clothing.  All of this is during the normal part of the year.  Pyrs do what is called "blowing their coat" usually on an annual basis although some dogs will do it twice a year.  Blowing the coat might be compared to Spring Housecleaning for the Pyr's coat.  Almost everything must go!  Great clumps of hair can be gently pulled from the coat or they fall out.  The Gorgeous coat starts to look a little thin and raggedy as it's "out with old and in with the new". During this time the mild distribution of Pyr hair on all domestic items seems insignificant compared to the explosion of hair during the "blowing of the coat".

3.  Pyrs roam.  Great Pyrenees have been bred for thousands of years to keep their territory free from predators.  To them, this often means they need to run patrols beyond their boundaries to ensure that predators are not sneaking up on the Pyrs' home territory.  In the Pyrenees Mountains, this worked well.  It also works in the huge ranches of the Southwestern US.  It doesn't work well in a city, a small town, or even in the countryside in most areas of our country.  To protect the Pyr from its own instincts which may lead to being hit by a car, being shot by a neighbor, being apprehended by the local Animal Control Authorities,  being adopted by some well-meaning pet needy family, being stolen for research, or any of several other less-than-desirable alternatives, Pyrs must never be allowed out without being on a leash or in a Pyr-proof fenced enclosure.  Pyrs will lie and tell you they'll be good and stay with you but in this respect they are spectacularly untrustworthy.

4.  Pyrs Dig.  Pyrs love to dig.  Usually it seems to be to find a cool spot to lay in but sometimes they do it just for the enjoyment. Pyrs are also not above tunneling out when they're trapped in a place where they just don't want to stay any longer.  Right is a picture of Barrèges landscaping the Sittingers' yard to better suit her whims.

5.  Great Pyrenees are protective, especially of children.  Sometimes they will protect children from playmates who appear to be trying to cause harm to their children and sometime they will protect children from adults who appear to be causing the children harm.  In many cases this is exactly what you want the dog to do.  At other times, it can be a bit awkward trying to discipline your child with an adult Great Pyrenees standing between you and your child, especially when it's telling you you're not getting near the child until you present a much different attitude.  How would you handle that?  It is a real possibility and something to consider ahead of time.  You also need to consider how other children and their parents might react if your Pyr tells the children that they aren't getting near your child until they present a different attitude.

6.  Great Pyrenees is a large breed of dog.  They are large enough that an exuberant tail wag can clear a coffee table.  They are also large enough that your dinner, which you left unattended only for a minute, can disappear without a trace, except perhaps, for a little slobber, a few white hairs, and some drippings that were too quick to be caught.

7.  Pyrs are independent.  Great Pyrenees have been bred for thousands of years to make their own decisions.  This trait makes them excellent guardians but is responsible for causing some human canine behavioral specialists to rate the Great Pyrenees as "not very intelligent" because they don't seem to understand quickly what the "specialist" wants them to do.  The truth is, Pyrs catch on almost immediately, they just don't care unless what the human wants matches what the Pyrs want.  The effective outcome of this trait is that Pyrs are a bit willful when it comes to obedience.  Our house dog, Bob, has been to obedience school on and off leash.  He still has to decide to obey every time.  Don't expect instant obedience as you would from a breed that has been bred to please humans and the earlier you start, the better.

8.  Pyrs bark.  A lot.  At night!  This is part of their genetic make-up for warning predators to stay away.  This has also caused major problems for Pyr owners who bought a cute little puppy without knowing much about what they were doing.  No one of whom we are aware recommends surgical de-barking and we would never place a dog where this would be a requirement.  If your Pyr won't be able to bark, don't get one.

9.  Pyrs are usually food aggressive toward other dogs.  This means that they don't share their food with other dogs, although we can remove any food from our Pyrs' mouths any time.  Pyrs practice food aggression with their litter mates when they're little so they are pretty good at it when they grow up.  If you have other dogs in the home, your Pyr can be trained to live with them and often learn to bond with them, but sharing food requires a very special relationship.  Be prepared for fights over food. 

With all of this, "Why", you might ask, "would anyone not out of their mind want a Great Pyrenees for a pet?"  The only answer we can give is that they are the most marvelous dogs in the world.

A picture of Blanca enjoying the scenery on her car trip to her new home in CA. Note the pet safety restraint system she's wearing. 

At a stop in CO, it didn't take Blanca long to win the heart of a grandchild in her new family.

All Pyrs that leave our home as pets are puppies that have been spayed or neutered or are sold with a spay/neuter deposit.  The pup is brought into our home for at least a month to make the adaptation from being an LGD to being a house pet and to have a final evaluation of their personality to make sure they'll do well in a home environment.  Consequently Pet Pyrs will usually be about 12 weeks of age when they leave here.  

In order to more closely align our practice with our principles, we feel it's necessary for us to restrict our customer base in regards to the purchase of Great Pyrenees for pets.  

We will not sell a Great Pyrenees to any family that has children younger than 8 years of age living at home unless the family owns a Great Pyrenees or has had a companion Pyrenees pass away recently. We believe a family with young children should not own a Great Pyrenees as a pet unless they already have extensive experience with the breed.  We do this not for the safety of the children who would never be endangered by their Pyrenees, but for the safety of the dog who is not prepared to deal with the intricacies of our modern world and whose efforts to protect the children could easily be either mistaken or inappropriately handled by someone acting in ignorance.  We have found no way to screen potential buyers and satisfy ourselves that this would not happen.

We will not sell a Great Pyrenees for a pet to someone who has no previous experience with them.  People who have owned livestock guardians or previously owned a pet Pyrenees will be welcomed.

We will not sell a pet Great Pyrenees to a home where all the family members work out of the house or the dog is left unattended several hours every day.  

We will not sell a Great Pyrenees for a pet to anyone who represents to us that color is of vital importance.  When we have pure white Great Pyrenees born on this farm they are sold as a normal puppies and not as "special" dogs because of color.  We feel that Great Pyrenees are special enough in their own right and will not traffic in designer dogs.

To those of you who may think these criteria are arbitrary, we can only agree.  Nevertheless, they are criteria with which we must abide to satisfy ourselves and our consciences when placing a pet Great Pyrenees.

 


Dan & Paula Lane
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