Complete Guide To The Great Pyrenees: Health, Grooming, Exercise and More

The Great Pyrenees is a large and imposing dog that is bred to work and protect. This dog is happy to protect a herd or flock, roaming the farm and diligently doing his job. A loving and affectionate family member, the Great Pyrenees needs only a moderate amount of exercise but plenty of love and attention to stay happy.  

I’m always excited to meet one of these gentle giants in my veterinary practice. They’re so lovable and huggable and good-natured. I think the size and the coat put off some potential owners, but this is a dog that would be perfect for any family.

How Big Do Great Pyrenees Get?

Male27″ – 32″ at the shoulder100 lbs and higher
Female25″ – 29″ at the shoulder85 lbs and higher

What Do Great Pyrenees Look Like?

The defining feature of this dog is the thick, double coat that consists of a dense and downy undercoat with a long and plush top coat. The topcoat is usually coarse and can be a little wavy but never curly. Males have a more pronounced rough around the neck, and there should be longer, feathered fur at the back of the legs.

The coat is usually a stark white, but other colors are also standard. It is possible to find a Great Pyrenees primarily white with gray, tan, or even reddish-brown markings on the saddle or face.  

What Is The Personality Of A Great Pyrenees?

This dog is a loyal, loving, and extremely affectionate dog. These dogs thrive on being close to their family and regularly seek attention by gently pawing at their owners. They enjoy snuggling close to their owners on the couch or in bed and are willing to give their lives if it means protecting their beloved family.

The Great Pyrenees was bred to be a protective guard dog, managing a large herd or flock. As such, they are great independent thinkers who primarily work without being told what to do. They are quick to problem-solve and are more likely to assess and think about a situation rather than immediately jump to action.  

Due to their independence, though, this can be a challenging trait to overcome when training. The Great Pyrenees isn’t really interested in learning new behaviors or tricks, especially if he didn’t see its purpose. However, if properly socialized and trained, the Great Pyrenees can make an excellent therapy dog.  

How Much Grooming Does A Great Pyrenees Need?

Although this dog looks like it would have intensive grooming needs due to its thick fur, they are not that labor-intensive. About once per week, spend thirty minutes brushing the coat. The Great Pyrenees coat is dirt and tangle resistant, making it very easy to care for.

The double coat will go through a heavy shedding season twice per year, called “blowing” their coat. Owners describe this shed as a virtual “fur snowstorm” through the house, so this breed of dog is not ideal for people who enjoy a neat and tidy home. Only wash the dog as necessary, and be sure to keep the dog’s nails clipped short if the dog is not naturally wearing its nails down by walking on rough surfaces.  

Should I Have The Double Dewclaws Of A Great Pyrenees Removed?

As a preventative, I highly recommend that you don’t. The vast majority of Great Pyrenees never have any issues with these claws. These dogs are meant to have the double dewclaws on the rear legs. Unnecessary surgery isn’t something that I recommend.

You do need to keep them trimmed, however. They don’t touch the ground so they’ll always need to be checked once monthly for potential trimming.

How Much Exercise Does A Great Pyrenees Need?

This breed of dog is not overly energetic but does have plenty of endurance. The dog was bred and developed to spend long days roaming fields but can spring into action if need be. The dog is happy to take a long and steady walk or have a short play session each day to keep this dog active. Because of the moderate energy level, the Great Pyrenees can be pretty happy living in a small home or apartment setting.

The Great Pyrenees loves to work and enjoys having a job to do. This dog excels at canine athletic competitions, especially cart-pulling competitions and obedience trials. Enrolling your dog in these activities will not only keep your Pyrenees happy with a job to do but will also give you plenty of time to bond with your dog.

Activities That I Recommend With This Breed:

  • Walking
  • Hiking (both walking and hiking can be done with your dog also wearing a weighted pack; the weight in the pack will help to tire your dog out faster; don’t do this if your dog has any orthopedic issues)
  • Swimming
  • Agility Training
  • Dog Parks

What Kind of Dog Food Is Good For A Great Pyrenees?

Personally I believe that most foods are fine for most dogs. Some dogs may not do well on some foods. However, as a rule I don’t blanket-prohibit any dietary ingredient from any breed at this time.

This is a breed that requires a large-breed puppy food to help control growth. Growing too fast can cause growing pains and potentially developmental orthopedic issues. For this reason, I recommend to my Pyrenees owners to switch to adult food at around 6 months of age.

Best Puppy Food For Great Pyrenees:

Best Adult Food For Great Pyrenees:

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

How Long Does A Great Pyrenees Live?

10-12 years based on information from the AKC

What Health Problems Can Great Pyrenees Have?

Due to their large coat, obesity is something that is quite common in Great Pyrenees because owners really don’t know just how “big” their dogs are. You should be able to feel the ribs through the coat and the abdomen should be narrower than the hips or the chest. If you’re not sure, just ask your vet is your dog is at its optimal weight.

Outside of obesity, the most common health conditions that I see in the Great Pyrenees are:

  • Arthritis as they age in the elbows, back, hips, and knees (not in all joints, usually just one or two of these)
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Osteosarcoma (cancer of the bones)

This is a dog breed that I highly recommend my owners start on a joint supplement by the age of 3-4 years to try and keep those joints as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Where Can I Find Out More About The Great Pyrenees?

Great Pyrenees Club of America

AKC Breed Page

  The Complete Guide To The Great Pyrenees (Amazon)

Where Can I Find a Great Pyrenees?

This large dog is readily available from many reputable breeders throughout the country. With a dog as large as a Great Pyrenees, be sure your breeder has conducted the proper health checks and certifications, ensuring that the hips and elbows are certified and healthy. Organizations like OFA issue health checks and maintain records of prior dogs. Be sure to research and vet your breeder to ensure your puppy has been well cared for.

Breeder List From The Great Pyrenees Club of America

AKC Puppy Marketplace

Adopting a Great Pyrenees is also an option. Many people purchase this dog as a puppy, completely unaware of its massive adult size. Several rescue groups, like the Great Pyrenees ConnectionNational Pyr Rescue, and the Mile High Great Pyrenees Club Rescue, specialize in this particular breed. Reaching out to a rescue group can help you locate a rescue dog close to your area. Rescuing a dog will help give a dog in need of a home a loving and forever family.  

Fun Facts About the Great Pyrenees

  • Bred to protect and guard, the Great Pyrenees have a phenomenal sense of hearing. This dog can detect even the slightest sound. It doesn’t matter if your AC is running; with the television on and the music blasting, this dog will alert you to something out of the ordinary.  
  • Most dogs just have one dewclaw, but the Great Pyrenees has double dewclaws. Be careful not to remove these claws because they are essential to help your dog climb and protect. Treat the dewclaws just like other claws on the paws, and be sure they stay neatly trimmed and short.  
  • Although the dog is called a Great Pyrenees in the United States and Canada, it is known by other names throughout the world. In the United Kingdom and Europe, it is called a Pyrenean Mountain Dog. 
  • This dog was originally bred for peasants, but in 1675 it was quickly elevated to royal status. The Dauphin in the court of King Louis XIV officially made the Great Pyrenees the French Royal Dog.  
  • The Landseer Newfoundland, with beautiful black and white coloration, is a result of breeding the Great Pyrenees with a solid black Newfoundland.