"Dog of the Mountains"
Although they originated in Asia, these beautiful white canine giants took root in the Pyrenees Mountains at around 3000 B.C. There, they guarded sheep for the Basque shepherds in the region. Over time, the isolation of the area enabled the shepherds to develop the breed's unique characteristics. By the seventeenth century, Basque fishermen were bringing these dogs with them to Newfoundland; after another 200 years, the Pyr began showing up in the United States. Only after World War I, however, did enthusiasts' efforts to preserve the breed result in the Pyr becoming a versatile dog that is as appreciated in the home as it is in the sheep pasture. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1933. Out of 155 registered breeds, the Pyr ranked 57th in 2006.
That same sheep-guarding history also makes the Great Pyrenees relatively independent. Although he is devoted to his family – especially to children – the Pyr likes his own space; if you want a Velcro dog, this breed is not for you. That said, the Pyr has much to offer the right individual or family: a calm, sedate demeanor, devotion to the household and its inhabitants, and a willingness to protect all concerned.
The full-grown Great Pyrenees may resemble a polar bear with drop ears and a four-legged stance. Not all Pyrs are pure white, however: some have gray, reddish brown or tan markings, particularly around their heads. They are long-bodied, long-legged dogs that look as though they could take on bears or wolves with ease (which many of their ancestors did in fact do). As quoted by the AKC Breed Standard,"The Great Pyrenees dog conveys the distinct impression of elegance and unsurpassed beauty combined with great overall size and majesty."
The Great Pyrenees has a mind of his own, which can make training problematic if you're looking for precise maneuvering, instant compliance or an ace at competitive obedience. However, this dog – like any other – will respond well to kind, consistent, positive training from an owner that he respects. With proper training and diligent socialization in puppyhood, the Pyr makes a fine therapy dog. These dogs also make fine back-packers and may be enthusiastic participants in carting.
Grooming & Care
For such a big-sized, heavily-coated dog, the Pyr requires surprisingly little maintenance. A weekly brushing – with a rake, comb or pin brush to remove any dead undercoat – weekly pedicure and ear cleaning, and periodic trimming of the eyebrow hair are pretty much all that's required.
Like so many large – and even some not-so-large – dog breeds, the Great Pyrenees is subject to problems in the bones and joints. These problems include elbow and hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap), and spinal problems. Cataracts and eyelash malformations are other problems. The parents of any pups should receive OFA screens for the dysplasia and CERF screens to uncover hereditary eye problems. Parents also should be screened for von Willebrand's disease, a bleeding disorder that's similar to hemophilia in human beings.
Famous Great Pyrenees
2 Great Pyrenees owned by Mary Crane, painted by Edwin Megargee;Belle, protagonist in Nickelodeon cartoon "Belle and Sebastian"
|Challenges||Size may be hard to control; needs consistent training|
|Height||25 to 32 inches|
|Weight||85 to 120 pounds|
|Life||10 to 12 years|
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