Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What's in a breed?

Every so often I am inspired to write about a specific breed of dog. In some circumstances, it is because I have a deep rooted passion for them, and in others, it’s because I see them being so misunderstood that I feel something needs to be said.

My breed of choice this time is the Pyrenean Mountain Dog or as they are more commonly referred to around here, the Great Pyrenees. This fluffy white giant of a dog is making a break out onto the popular canine companion scene and it couldn't make me sadder to see it, it really couldn't.

Of course, most people will raise up in arms and disagree with me when I say that. The truth is it bothers me when ANY breed becomes a fad but it really bothers me when breeds that were bred for very specific purposes become the next couch companion. Mainly the reason I say this is because rarely are they chosen for their minds, working ability, and temperament. Instead, they are often bought because they are cute and as a breed fairly inexpensive to purchase.

The Pyre is my newest most popular clientele, and do you want to know why? Because often the owners are completely unprepared for the type of dog that cute and cuddly fluffy white baby turns into. In order for me to be able to completely give you a picture of what I mean, I need to give you a rundown of this truly amazing breed of dog.

The Pyr is a very old breed and hails from France/Spain where this gorgeous creature was bred as a guardian. His job was to be patient and kind to his flock, yet strong and fierce against potential predators and threats. He was designed in both temperament and structure to wander with his flock through rocky and rough terrain for hours every day, and to always be on the lookout and patrolling the parameters of his territory. A gentle giant, indeed, when it comes to the young under his keep, but one that also has a fierce sense of independence and generally an unflappable self-confidence which he needs to do the job for which he was designed. They need to be extremely intelligent to survive and attend to their flock appropriately, and are not designed to look to others for guidance or approval.

 This is a dog that expects to be, and more often than not, should be equal to his owner, unlike other breeds that were bred to please us, to do our bidding, and become our shadows and echoes of our thoughts. This breed was bred to be free thinking, in charge of his own actions, and responsible for the lives of other living things. This is a dog with a big bark and has no hesitation to use it. The bark is actual its first line of defense, and if you are ever greeted by the massive bulk of a patrolling Pyr using his voice to warn you off,  I guarantee you’ll think twice before approaching.

They deserve an owner that understands this, who is willing to live with them on equal terms, and isn't out to change who they are. This breed has an uncanny sense of empathy and an ability to look deep within the soul of those with whom it shares its life. It generally loves children because they appeal to its built in sense of responsibility but like any breed, they need exposure to them early on to truly appreciate their presence in their life.

This is a breed that requires a high level of awareness, and even responsibility from its owner. You need to make an extreme effort to socialize them appropriately. All dogs, of course, need this but when it comes to any of the guardian breeds, these are dogs that are fairly new on the pet market and don’t have the same amount of breeding away from natural purpose to allow easy transition into their new job. They need to experience all the things that they will be expected to tolerate, and they need a gentle, kind, and consistent level of guidance to learn and accept these things.

They do not respond well to any level of harsh treatment and will often become very reserved or introverted if they are treated as such. They are definitely not a breed that will tolerate harshness from their handler, and will resort to retaliation if it is applied. You may not see it immediately but you will eventually.

They do best with owners who are willing to understand them, and compromise between their own wants, and the dog’s natural ability.

They can be a truly wonderful breed to share with whom to share your life in the right circumstances, but what I am hoping to do with this article is to inspire those who have them to try a little harder to understand them, and those that are considering getting one to do a lot of research first to ensure that you will be able to live together in harmony!!!


Something to get that research and understanding started!
http://www.great-pyrenees-club-of-southern-ontario.com/
http://www.great-pyrenees-club-of-southern-ontario.com/Great-Pyrenees-rescue.html

**you can also find them on facebook Great Pyrenees Club of Southern Ontario Rescue**

22 comments:

  1. Question. We want to adopt one we found at the pound. He immediately took to us and already demonstrates that love and patience. We do have a 10 yr old lab that lost a relationship with our oldest lab this year. They had been together for all of our labs life and he has been so lonely and had quit eating much or playing for the past few months. When we brought our newly fixed Pyrenees home, we walked them, and let them get familiar in the front yard for hours before we brought him into our labs space in the backyard. There were a couple of growls at our lab when he would smell our new addition but all in all our lab seems so happy and has fallen under the understanding that the pyrenees is to be respected. We have our pyrenees on an overnight visit to see if they will get along and want to know if the 3 yr old could be a keeper...we want to use him as a ranch dog with our chickens and cows...is that good? He seems extremely smart and loyal...what do you suggest we should do?

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    1. I'm not sure if Jade has responded so I will do my best. It's been a month so I'm not sure how things are going. Having a dog overnight isn't much time to determine if he will be suitable for you. You'll find out the real character in a few weeks. Two males aren't generally recommended since they don't always see eye-to-eye. I hope all has gone well. In training him for the livestock, when you are in there, keep him on leash with you so he gets used to the livestock. The chickens are a tougher one for them to watch over but it can be done. It will take at least 3 months for you to guide him as to who his charges will be. When you aren't there, keep him in a large pen but still near the animals so he becomes bonded to them. Best of luck. I hope it is going well.

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  2. I have had 5 great pyrs in my life, and I am devoted to this breed. One thing jumps out at me Lana, and that is that you have 2 males together, who were not raised together. This can be a huge, sad, painful mistake....which could leave your old lab severely injured, or worse.

    Great Pyrs are well known for often being completely intolerant of an adult dog of the same sex. This is unfortunately common. Great pyrs are bred to fight off predators and if they do fight, they are an ugly thing to see, and they will fight to the death.

    I'm not happy to bring this up, but your lab would not have the slightest chance for they to fight. Not the slightest chance.

    If a pyr were your only dog, that can be a beautiful thing. They are an amazing, amazing breed. Too many wonderful qualities to enumerate.

    You just must be aware of this one thing.And it does not necessarily happen right away. One can think that the 2 dogs are getting along, and then, for whatever reason, usually the pyr, will become aggressive and growling, and if you do not separate the 2 dogs at that point or ideally before that point, and if the dogs fight, you will be full of remorse for your lab, and hating the pyr for doing something that is often in their nature. Good luck with your pyr, and with your lab. I have had a lab as well, and she was just the sweetest thing ever. But labs are not natural-born fighters and unlike a pyr, it is not deeply in its nature, to fight, or to know how to fight back. Even breeds like German Shepherds, for example, at similar size and age, is realistically a dog who will lose a fight to a great pyr. Like the article says, if you want and love a pyr, you have to know exactly what you have in a pyr; an incredible breed whose is born to guard and ward off predators. Extremely strong-willed and frequently tunes out commands from its owner and others.

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  3. Hi Pyrless
    My name is Larga and I live in South Africa. A month ago we adopted a male Pyr called Joe who is 3 years & 3 months old. We saved his life as he had biliary and almost died. When we got him to the vet he weighed in at 40kg. He was just ribs and spine. After a month he has crept into our hearts with a speed that has surprised even us. We have 4 other faithful friends in the house. (3 little girls and a very old stubborn severely abused fellow. They are Pekingese's and are known for their stubbornness! Prince the male Peke has a heart like a lion and shows no fear. Your honest reply to the above post has made me re think the family structure. At this stage I cant even think of giving Joe away again. We are his 4th owners. I am quite prepared to separate them (the 2 guys) if need be. Prince is around 13 years old and suffering from heart issues. However I would love to know if there is any way that I can get Joe to take the girls in as his family. How do I get him to adopt them into his family circle? Any advice would be SO appreciated. I have been searching the net for 3 days and to be honest your are the first person that seems to have a honest handle on them when it comes to rescue Pyr's. Thank you in anticipation.

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    1. No one has responded to you, Thomas. It's been awhile so this may not even be relevant. Perhaps things have worked out.

      When you bring a new dog into your family, you may have to keep them separate for awhile unless there is an acceptance. This means, usually, a playbow. After that, keep an eye on things to make sure fights don't break out over a toy or anything. Remove all toys and food. This usually will work out overtime until everyone realizes the other dog is not a threat.

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  4. Hi, I just adopted a three year old female Pyr. She is beautiful. I am having trouble with aggression towards my male Border Collie ( he started it) and also even more alarming - my teenage daughters. She will be all happy to see them, then she can turn without warning and start growling and barking. Last night she went for my daughter's leg, but I grabbed her before she could bite. She was not snarling, but barking and growling. So far, I remove her immediately and put her alone in a room or outside. She seems to know she is being punished and often apologizes with a smile and bow later. But, she just does it again. Very unpredictable. We love her dearly, it is alarming behavior but we want to make it work. Any suggestions?
    Thank you

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    1. If you got her from a reputable breeder, take her back. This is not normal. As Jade has said, they must be socialized and handled with and by many many different people in their first 3 months of life.

      The aggression, if the dog has not been socialized and handled by many many different people in the first 3 months of life, will come out as it matures. Backyard breeders, farmers and puppy mills also do not breed to improve the breed (they never mix breeds), or for sound health or temperament. They only breed for profit. Take the dog back to the breeder. There is nothing that can be done.

      NEVER punish a dog.

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  5. Hello. I also have a 3 yr old. He is a Pyr/lab mix that we've had since birth. There was never any aggression before but the last couple months will growl or snap if touched while laying down. Even if fully awake. He is normally very loving and friendly. I've taken him to the vet for an exam and they also did blood work to check his thyroid etc. Everything is normal. He likes to sleep with my teenage son but I'm concerned my son will get bit in the middle of the night. He first started with a growl but now snaps. Does anyone have any ideas? Thank you so much.

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    1. The aggression, if the dog has not been socialized and handled by many many different people in the first 3 months of life, will come out as it matures. Backyard breeders, farmers and puppy mills also do not breed to improve the breed (they never mix breeds), or for sound health or temperament. They only breed for profit. Take the dog back to the breeder. There is nothing that can be done.

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  6. I have a Great Pyranees/Australian mix he is 2 1/2 years old and he too has become aggressive. He has been socialized since his was a young pup but lately we can't trust him around anyone.

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  7. we recently adopted our second Pyrenees after having one for 12 years. The pups mom died at 5 weeks and we took him in to our home at 7 weeks old. A magnificent looking animal with badger markings and smart as a whip. After only 5 days in our home he got a hold of a dead chipmunk that the cat had killed and ate it whole. This little 11 pound animal swallowed the chipmunk whole only after growling and biting my husband who tried to take it out of his mouth. After the shock of that wore off he quickly became very aggressive. Not just puppy nipping but down right biting. Our arms are covered in scars from his unexpected attacks. We want to give him every chance possible but we don't want to find ourselves with a 150 pound dog down the road with a nasty streak. Totally our of character from our last Pyr. Any advise. He is currently back with the breeder to see if she can shed any light on this unusual behavior. We have had him out and about around people and he was a gentlemen with no biting at all. His first encounter with another dog he was a bit scared.

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    1. Sorry. This is very late. Pups need their moms for those 8 weeks. In those 8 weeks, as Jade has pointed out, they need crucial socialization and handling with and by many many different people. That must be continued by you. Without that, you will have an aggressive dog. There is nothing that can be done, unfortunately. Not the dog's fault.

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  8. Hi Donna,
    Thank you so much for your reply! I am pleased and heartsore to report that things did work out. The elderly peke passed on due to his heart. Joe is awesome! He is a gentleman with the other 2 old ladies, although he gets jealous but not in a threatening way. What an amazing dog. He looks at you and you can see the love in his eyes. We call him "skaapie" which in our language is little sheep as he is so protective over me. Follows me everywhere. Thanks again. Larga

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  9. I just adopted a 3 yr old female Pyr from a rescue organization a week ago. I am her 4th owner. she is very sweet and is great with the kids and the cat but she is having issues with my female lab that is 11 years old. When they first met there was a little growling but they both choose to keep there distance from each other but earlier tonight she attacked my lab. Luckily I was there and separated them immediately but my lab got a cut under her eye. Can they be socialized to get along with more time or is this a lost cause? We can keep them separated but would not be ideal. We love her but I don't want my lab hurt and it is my responsibility to everyone safe.

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  10. This is our exact scenario except our lab is 6 years old. It was a scary attack. Our vet said the thick fur is what saved our lab. We do not want to return our Pyr! Is there any hope? Someone please respond. We do not want to get anymore attached to Raleigh and then have to return him to the rescue.

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  11. Question: we have a similar issue and don't know what to do...�� We live in a farm and got a male Pyr as a pup and is almost a yr old and a little over a month ago we got a female Pyr which was 12 was old then and our issue is that when the come inside our home to eat (they have separate bowls and in different area of the room) that the male is showing aggression and growls and goes after the female Pyr pup but he does not do it when they are outside yet anyways it just seems only inside and when there is food and we don't know what to do.. he's a good loving dog and so is she but we are lost on how to handle this issue and what to do... any suggestions would greatly be appreciated

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  12. Question: my family rescued a male pry when he was pretty young. We also have a 7 year old fixed male Great Dane mastiff mix. They have always gotten along fine. We also have several rescue and foster cats that he is really good with. Some times he chases the cats but never in an aggressive way. We also have chicken. He has never hurt them but he does chase them which scares the poor things so we keep them separate. So for my question we walk both dogs for an hour around our neighborhood. Our Great Dane mix is very well trained.... however our pry seems to be showing signs of aggression towards other dogs on our walks. We did put our pry through puppy school but we learned very quickly about his independent thinking. We are very patient with him and try to use positive reinforcement. He was very good with the other puppies and loved to play with them. Now he is about 2 yrs old and fixed. Last week while we were walking him another dog was approaching and my pry started to bark so we crossed the street to give the dogs space. He became more excited as the dog got closer passing on the other side of the street so I tried to block is view and redirect him... he's 139lbs.... he lunged toward the dog broke off the leash ran up behind the poor labradoodle and bit his butt four times. I know it was four because after paying the owners vet bill and seeing the poor dogs rear. Now I'm worried to walk him because I don't want him to injure another dog. He is very good with people but not other dogs. We switched to a harness and have been walking him in the evening to avoid other dogs. Our Great Dane always stays really calm on the walks and doesn't join in when the pry gets so excited. I'm not sure what we can do to help my pry out. We would never rehome him. We want to be responsible and good pet owners. We are just struggling to know how to right now. We also contacted a professional trainer but she has yet to return my call.

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    1. I have a female pyrenees 3 1/2 years old. I am by no means a professional on this subject, but I can tell you the gentle leader has helped me with the same issue. It goes around their nose and snaps behind their ears. Get one that connext under their chin to their collar. This keeps them from raising their heads in an aggressive manner. They hate it to begin with, but with patience he will adjust to it. Hope that helps

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    2. Thank you so much. I don't know why I didn't think of that. We used a gentle leader on our Dane for the first few years while we were training him. I will definitely try that!!!

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  13. It's interesting to see so many comments from folks of 3-ish year old Pyrs. We just adopted a 1 year old, spayed Pyr mix. She's very gentle and mild mannered, with a startlingly loud bark that she's only used for alarming us of what she's noticed (or thinks she's noticed) outside the house, never during play, in the house, or towards animals/people while out on walks. I've never had a dog take food from my hand as gingerly as she does - even raw meat. So far, she doesn't guard her food. She's been very tolerant of children, and has not shown any aggressive behaviors towards other dogs. Some dogs have approached her roughly and she tucks away from them though hasn't flipped over for any yet. We haven't seen how she would react to a truly aggressive dog or one who would attempt to mount her, though. She seems more independent minded and stubborn than our previous dogs (St. Bernard mix and an Akbash mix), and not submissive - just not assertive or aggressive, if that makes sense. My question is: how likely is this to change over the next couple of years as she approaches adolescence? Our Akbash mix was an easy going goofball who was chased and flipped over and pinned by many a smaller dog at the dog parks his first few years, but became leash aggressive around age 4 or 5 and less tolerant of dogs wanting to bully him; it seemed he took a few years to realize he was bigger than the others. He never minded people coming to the house, however, and wasn't aggressive around visitors. We are wondering if this gentle Pyr mix could follow a similar developmental path. Thank you.

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  14. I have a 9 month old femsle pyrenees/husky mix ( not spayed). She is great with kids and people in general.We have many dogs in the neighborhood that like to congregate in our yard to play. However just last week our dog attacked our neighbors Boston terrier, and left several puncture wounds on its neck. Now she has never done this before. She is very protective and watchful of my kids. If the neighbors dogs are in my yard she will block the dogs from the kids with her body and if they still try to approach she will knock them over and stand over them and growl. On the day of the attack it was just the dogs outside no kids around. Just today she attacked the Boston terrier again, my husband was outside and was able to pull her off. The terrier is very yappy and acts aggressive towards us if we are out in our yard. Our dog has only done this to this particular dog. I don't know what to do. I'm not sure if it is a sign that our dog may become more aggressive, or if the terrier has possibly done something that my dog doesn't like. I am also not sure if getting my dog spayed would help any as the terrier is female as well I do not know whether it is spayed or not. We are getting an enclosure for our dog. Any advice is greatly appreciated. I can be reached at agsmoore@gmail.com. Thanks

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