The Great Pyrenées Mountain dog is gentle and friendly of temperament. Protective of his charges be they animal or human, he is patient, tolerant and quiet. Independent and reserved of nature, he is loyal, attentive, without fear in the defense of his charges. This dog is the ideal companion and guardian for children and truly a 'dog of all work' for the family.
Le Pyrenean is a natural dog. That is, it was not artificially created by crossing breeds as was the St. Bernard or the Leonberger. The present-day conformation is the result of selective mating within the breed by the shepherds of the Pyrenées over the millennia since the ancient Romans arrived in these mountains with their mastiffs and sheepdogs. Roman house ruins in the area depict them in floor ceramics.
He has two dew claws on each hind paw. These must be clipped regularly so that they don't turn back into the flesh of the paw. Supposedly, this very old characteristic was meant to help traction on the rocky mountain terrain. He loves to live outdoors even in very cold weather as long as he has a shelter against the wind and cold rain. The shepherds used them to guard their flocks against wolves and bears, sometimes leaving them alone with the flock for a week or two while they checked other flocks. Now, on modern farms, to ensure that the guardian instinct develops well, farmers raise a pup in the barn with the sheep so that he develops a bond with his charges.
The Pyrenean is a working dog. To be happy, he needs a job, something or someone to guard and be with. He also needs a friend, an ongoing relationship with a human to whom he will be loyal. He will guard what belongs to his human. If he doesn't have these two elements, he may decide to leave to find them. This loyalty to his job and his human is the most important characteristic of a pyr.
The Pyrenean is elegant, intelligent and contemplative -creating the' Pyrenean gaze'. The coat has two layers; the undercoat gives insulation: the hair is fine and silky to keep in the body heat in cold weather and keep the body cool in warm weather. The hair of the outer coat is longer and thicker to keep out rain, snow or sand. One might say that he's a self-cleaning dog. When the hair dries, the sand and dirt falls.
The tail is a plume. On alert, it turns toward the back and slightly to the side (not over the back like a Husky). The Pyrenean shepherds call this making 'la rounde'. At rest, the tail is carried straight down with the tip having a slight curve upward like a shepherd's crook.
The fur on the head and ears is shorter and fine. He moults twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, in preparation for the extremes of the coming seasons. He needs to be vigorously brushed at this time, to remove the undercoat of the preceding season. If not, the old undercoat will mat and form a sort of felt where parasites may embed. If he is often in the house, he needs to be brushed every week to control the shedding caused by the warm air.
The Pyr is stately, elegant and confident. He is intelligent, gentle and amiable, having a fluid movement, powerful and agile. It is easy to see why the Louis' XIV and XV made him France's national dog and gave free run of Versailles to these 'gentlemen in white'. On some paintings in Versailles, we can see Pyrs at play.
This is the companion and guardian par excellence for someone who is willing to accept his independent character and his friendship.
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