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How to Train a Great Pyrenees

Updated on November 20, 2019
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Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

A Look Back into History

To better train a great Pyrenees, it helps to gain a little insight into this breed's history and needs. At a first glance, great Pyrenees are gentle giants that are sure to attract many due to their bear-like appearance and striking white, fluffy coats.

It's very easy to fall in love with these fellows; they are beautiful and are blessed with an affectionate demeanor and propensity to provide unconditional love. While they look like fluffy pillows you could cuddle all day, these dogs though are serious working dogs with a history as livestock guardians.

Don't let the cuteness of a Pyr puppy sway your good judgment! What did their main duties entail? Pyr were selectively bred to protect flocks of sheep from predators and strangers in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain.

From livestock guardians owned by peasants, Pyr were later utilized by the French nobility to guard their estates. Their bulky presence and instinctive guarding instincts made them excel in this task; indeed, according to the Great Pyrenees rescue of Chicago, "Great Pyrenees are a guard dog by instinct, not by training! "

With a history of being selectively bred to guard flocks of sheep and goats and working on their own with little to no human guidance in the middle of isolated mountain valleys, it's natural for this breed to have an independent streak, which can add a few challenges to training.

Yet, this doesn't mean they are difficult or impossible to train. They just need to know what's in for them. Those who believe their dogs must obey in a militaristic manner just "because I said so" or looking for a biddable dog with a natural willingness to follow directions will be disappointed with this breed.

Skip this breed as well if your ultimate goal is to put serious obedience titles on your dog, as generally this breed doesn't excel much in the obedience ring. According to the American Kennel Club " Because they were bred to work independently and make decisions on their own, Pyrs may not be the star of the local obedience class." Of course, where there is a will there is a way, and just as you'll occasionally stumble on bloodhounds

In the next paragraphs, we will look at some tips and ideas for successfully training a Great Pyrenees.

Be Patient and Consistent

Training a Great Pyrenees of a client.
Training a Great Pyrenees of a client. | Source

Great Pyrenees Training Tips

Obedience training is a must with this large, strong breed. Bulky as they are, they must learn not to jump on people. They must also learn basic obedience so they can be better under control on leash and when meeting people. There should be no place for strong, physical corrections for this breed, or any other breed for this matter. A dog should not need to learn out of the fear of punishment.

Following are some tips to help you successfully train your Great Pyrenees.

  • Look for a trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement training and recognizes each dog as a unique individual.
  • Consider that Pry are rather lethargic dogs, and as such, execute commands very sloooowly. Be patient.
  • Use lots of praise and invest in high-value treats.
  • The down and come cues are often the most difficult cues for this dog to grasp, but most learn these after some practice.
  • The sit-stay and down-stay instead are the easiest commands to train as these dogs are naturally calm.
  • This is a breed who should always be on leash due to its tendency for wandering. A Pry that doesn't come when called is not being spiteful or stubborn; rather, from his perspective he has more important stuff to do.
  • Motivation, motivation and motivation is what you need to help your Pyr succeed. Don't be shy in giving loads of praise and using high-value treats.
  • Keep sessions short and sweet. And always end them on a positive note.
  • Don't bore your Pry with tediously long training sessions and repetitive commands (cues). Ask for different cues and add treat variety into the mix so to keep him on his toes.
  • Train your Pry to sit nicely in front of the door before you open it. These dogs have a tendency to push through doors and rush out if not trained otherwise.
  • Proof your training by changing environments. Ask for sits in the home, and then move to the yard, then on walks, around people, around other dogs etc.
  • This breed tends to become bored and destructive, so digging and barking may take place when left alone in the backyard.
  • Socialization is a must so the Pry can learn how to behave around strangers. Without careful socialization, the Pry may become suspicious of everyone. Aggressive behaviors are not part of the Pry's temperament, according to the Great Pyrenees Club of Southern Ontario. Indeed, according to the breed standard: "Although the Great Pyrenees may appear reserved in the show ring, any sign of excessive shyness, nervousness, or aggression to humans is unacceptable and must be considered an extremely serious fault."
  • Take your Pry on daily walks. Keeping him too long indoors or outdoors may lead to destructive behaviors.
  • Consider that digging in the yard may be your Pry's way of cooling down. He'll dig up a place to lie down in hopes of escaping the heat.
  • Barking in these dogs is instinctive and natural; they were selectively bred to bark to send predators and intruders away from the livestock. Here you will find some tips: how to deal with great Pyrenees barking.
  • Same-sex aggression is not uncommon in this breed and some Prys will also attack animals who try to trespass their perceived territory.
  • Consider that Pry may be prone to escaping their yards. Erect a secure fence and always supervise when your Pry is outside.

A Happy Recall is Possible Even with Independent Breeds

A Pry and hound mix happily coming when called
A Pry and hound mix happily coming when called | Source

Great Pyrenees Natural Guarding Behavior

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Adrienne Farricelli

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