This breed is also known as ‘Chien de mantagne des Pyrenees, Great Pyrenees and the Patou. It is a large herd guarding breed.
ThePMD is a capable and imposing guardian, devoted to its family, and somewhat wary of strangers – human or canine. They are still often used to guard livestock. When not provoked, it is calm, well- mannered, and somewhat serious. Temperamentally it is courageous, very loyal and obedient and Gently affectionate with those he loves. The PMD is devoted to its family even if self-sacrifice is required.
It does best with children when it is raised with them from puppyhood, and if they are not being used as working flock guards it is important to socialize them well with people, place and noises. It has an independent nature, and may try to dominate a less secure or meek owner, and/or an owner who treats the dog as if he is human, becoming stubborn or territorial as it tries to fulfil the role of pack leader its owner is not performing. If left alone inside the home without the proper amount of exercise and or leadership they can become destructive. The PMD is good with non-canine animals, and usually loves cats. These dogs do not reach maturity until they are about 2 years old. Some are not good off the leash and may wander away. PMD’s tend to bark a lot and some tend to drool and slobber, so not the ideal choice for a city or suburban household. The PMD can be slow to learn new commands, slow to obey, and somewhat stubborn to train. For this reason the breed is ranked #64 (out of 69 breeds) in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs.
The PMD has proven to be a very versatile breed working as an avalanche rescue dog, as a cart-puller, sled dog, as a pack dog on ski trips, a flock guardian, dog of war, and as a companion and defender of family and property.
Males grow to 110–120 pounds (50–54 kg) and 27–32 inches (69–81 cm), while females reach 80–90 pounds (36–41 kg) and 25–29 inches (63–74 cm). On average, their lifespan is 10 to 11 years.
The weather resistant double coat consists of a long, flat, thick, outer coat of coarse hair, straight or slightly undulating, and lying over a dense, fine, woolly undercoat. The coat is more profuse about the neck and shoulders where it forms a ruff or mane, more pronounced in males, supposedly to fend off wolves that may attack their neck. Longer hair on the tail forms a plume. There is feathering along the back of the front legs and along the back of the thighs, giving a “pantaloon” effect. The hair on the face and ears is shorter and of finer texture.
The main coat colour is white and can have varying shades of grey, red (rust), or tan around the face (including a full face mask), ears and sometimes on the body and tail. As PMD’s mature, their coats grow thicker and the longer coloured hair of the coat often fades on those dogs that were not born completely white. Sometimes a little light tan or lemon will appear later in life around the ears and face. Being a double-coated breed, the undercoat can also have colour and the skin as well. The colour of the nose and on the eye rims should be jet black.Grey or tan markings that remain lend the French name, “blaireau”, (badger) which is a similar grizzled mixture colour seen in the European badger. More recently, any colour is correctly termed “Badger” or “Blaireau”.
One unique characteristic of the breed is that they have double dew claws on each hind leg.
The Great Pyrenees is a very old breed that has been used for hundreds of years by shepherds, including those of the Basque people, who inhabit parts of the region in and around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France and northern Spain. One of the first descriptions of the breed dates from 1407, and from 1675 the breed was a favourite of The Grand Dauphin and other members of the French aristocracy.By the early nineteenth century there was a thriving market for the dogs in mountain towns, from where they would be taken to other parts of France. It was developed to guard sheep on steep mountainous slopes with agility.
As late as 1874 the breed was not completely standardised in appearance, with two major sub-types recorded, the Western and the Eastern. They are related to several other large white European livestock guardian dogs, including the Italian Maremma Sheepdog, Kuvasz (Hungary), Akbash Dog (Turkey) and Polish Tatra or Polski Owczarek Podhalański, and somewhat less closely to the Newfoundland and St. Bernard. According to the Great Pyrenees Club of America, the Great Pyrenees is naturally nocturnal and aggressive with any predators that may harm its flock. However, the breed can typically be trusted with small, young, and helpless animals of any kind due to its natural guardian instinct.
Like other giant breeds PMD’s are prone to bloat, it is recommended that they are fed several smaller meals a day, hip dysplasia, and luxating patellas. There is also a high incidence of bone cancer. They are particularly vulnerable to heat stroke and can develop skin problems in hot weather.