Breed of the Month: Great Pyrenees
By Ashley Montminy
Animal Product Development Coordinator, Pet Naturals® of Vermont.
Meet Burton. He’s my family’s second Great Pyrenees. When he moved in at 10 weeks old he wasn’t much more than a walking cotton ball. We named him Burton because we live in Vermont where there’s lots of snow, and the little guy was infatuated with snow. Napping and snow forts seemed to take up most of his puppyhood. Pyr pups are not big on toys, unless they involve chewing. Burton has never fetched a ball, and he’s made it clear he doesn’t want to. With a big back yard, it was obvious he would be a roamer, just like the Pyrenean mountain dogs before him, and those before them.
Curiosity still tends to bring out his stubborn side. Selective hearing is another side effect, and he tends to forget what his name is. Although well trained, he’ll wander off if given the opportunity, which is similar to Husky behavior. It wasn’t long before we invested in a fence, which keeps everyone happy and safe. Burton is now 7 years old, and in that time he’s formed a trench about a foot wide inside the perimeter of the backyard from daily “security rounds.” The breed is known for its territorial behavior. Bred to guard flocks and fortresses, Burt has not lost that instinct.
The Great Pyrenees is also known as the “gentle giant.” Burton is well behaved with children and doesn’t mind if they climb all over him. He gets along well with other animals and shares a special bond with our cat, Annie. He loves his humans and is pushy when it comes to affection. If you don’t scratch long enough, he’ll remind you that he has two ears and a belly. Pyrs are very mellow, and you can usually find ours lounging under a tree or in the living room.
Even though he’s usually mellow, Burton is very good at making himself known, which is not limited to daytime hours. Pyrs like to bark, and they tend to bark a lot! If the wind blows too loudly, or the cows in the field next door look at Burton the wrong way, we all hear about it. He’s also the designated door bell. You’ll hear him before you reach the front step. “Burton, be quiet!” is a familiar phrase in our home.
That protective nature is reassuring, but it can also take some getting used to. Although the Great Pyrenees is not overly aggressive, they can be a bit intimating. Visitors usually get the point not to walk into the house unannounced. Once Burt knows you, his “welcome home” is much nicer. You’re either greeted with a wagging, fluffy tail, or a simple head lift from his dog bed.
Burton’s daily exercise consists of inspecting the back yard and an evening walk around the lake. Showing him his leash is enough motivation to get him up and moving. Being laid back, he’s a great walking buddy. He never pulls at the leash and always ignores barking dogs that we pass on our walks. He enjoys a hike every now and then, but the summer months are too hot for a long trek. Because he’s an older, large breed dog whom we want to keep active, we keep him on Pet Naturals® Hip + Joint for XL Dogs.
My mom, like most Pyr owners, will tell you she first fell in love with the breed because they’re big and beautiful. These guys have a lot of fur, which will make its way throughout your home. Brushing once a week has been a good rule of thumb for Burton. He enjoys it and tends to get in a good nap in the process. We’ve never shaved him during the summer because a Pyr’s undercoat works as insulation against the heat and the cold. The Pyrenees is usually all white in color with a black nose and black rimmed eyes. Some have distinct markings that are gray, tan, or a combination known as “badger.” You’ll see some with a face mask and others with a couple of body spots.
One hygiene factor I should probably mention is occasional drooling. Not all Pyrenees drool, but Burton does. We always warn guests that he likes to share. You’ll find tissue boxes strategically placed around the house, but he still prefers pant legs.
As it is with any breed, it’s important to do some research before bringing home a four-legged friend. I’m convinced my parents will always own a Pyrenees. Burt’s quirky personality has made him the center of attention in my family, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.