Our Guide to Training Pyr's
- Guarding - Large Flock
- Insect Pests
- Jumping Up
- Leash Training
- Life and Death
- Pack Mentality
- Picking a Puppy
- Predator Control
- Pyr Smile
- Traveling with a puppy
- Vet Care
We have a fenced in pasture for the sheep and poultry. Our Great Pyrenees guard dogs stay in close range to the sheep, and pay special attention to the new lambs born in the spring. The chickens, ducks and geese all free range with the dogs.
Any form of predator or neighbor's hounds are quickly discouraged from approaching the pasture. The Great Pyrenees are very alert, even when they appear to be snoozing. The pasture is close to a main highway and the dogs are "fence trained" to remain inside the pasture and away from the road. When there is real predator threat, the Great Pyrenees size and aggressive barking dispatch the intruders quickly. We trained our dogs to their boundary limits, by repeatedly walking the fence line with them. They know their territory and keep it well patrolled. See the links below for info on open pasture guarding.
All of our Great Pyrenees have been taught basic manners. They do not jump up. They will "sit", "down" and "come" when called. They will politely take a treat from our hand, and wait for the command to do so. They march dutifully into their kennel or pasture when the command, "Kennel," is given.
Our dogs are equally at home in the barn, the pasture or in the house. Our female dogs are house broken and do not put their paws on the carpet. The only thing that do that may get them into trouble is to "wag" and knock something over. These are big dogs.
Great Pyrenees are mellow by nature and make a good companion. Ours go on "chores" with us and sometimes plop on the kitchen floor and hope for a treat. We have trained our dogs never, ever, never, no never, to jump up on anyone. This is very important considering their size. They were taught as puppies not to jump up - by stepping firmly on their back feet. Having big dogs brings the responsibility of training that big dog. We encourage the people who buy our pups to teach them good manners. We do not have show dogs. Our dogs have never been to obedience school. We have working dogs with good manners and we can trust them around child and small animals.
As Mrs. Woodhouse would say , there are no bad dogs, just undisciplined dog owners. If you treat your Great Pyrenees in a consistent manner and give it security within the pecking order of the pack (your family), your dog will become well behaved and be a joy in a short period of time.
What follows is our guide to training Pyrs. We get a lot of calls from people who have bought puppies from us, but surprisingly, we also get a lot of calls and emails from people who have bought their puppies and dogs elsewhere. If you would like to add your observations on Great Pyrenees behavior, please email us or write your comment on the message board.
Great Pyrenees are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. They were bred as dogs of war and then used during peacetime as sheep guarding dogs. Pyrs are one of the least aggressive of the large guardian dogs (LGD), so often people cherish them as family dogs. They are regal, independent and aloof compared to other dogs breeds, traits necessary to spend days alone guarding flocks. This independence shows when you call them - they come, but maybe not on the first call.
A Pyr gains acceptance from the flock by being submissive. The ewe or ram postures by butting and the Pyr responds by crouching down. Not being a threat, the sheep readily accept the dog. Pyrs will submit to livestock and ignore poultry and felines, but not other canines. Wolves, coyotes and dogs packs are aggressively challenged and driven off.
Pyrs are very gentle around children. Despite their size, they won't knock over a child, jump up or engage in dominance behavior tests. They are graceful and sure-footed. Playful teenage pyrs may bump into a person, but adults do not though they may "lean-in" for some ear scratching.
They usually don't fetch. It's beneath them. They don't take to water like retrievers, but may wade a little and lap at the water. One of our dogs, Molly Brown, likes to stand in the stock tank and lap at the water. The other Great Pryenees drink from the outside.
We applaud the work accomplished by the Pyr rescue people. We do not recommend using a rescued dog for a livestock guardian unless you know the background of the dog. An Pyr that was tethered or kenneled in a small cage may be aggressive around livestock and poultry.
A handbook on Pyrs, with useful information on the breed and history, is Dr. Paul Strang's The New Complete Great Pyrenees, Howell Book House, ISBN 0-87605-188-3.
Great Pyrenees dogs would be considered a large guardian dog. Other members of that group would include: Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Komondor, Kuvasz, Maromma and Tibetan Mastiff as classified by the Large Guardian Dog Association. Great Pyrenees information can also be found on the AKC's Great Pyrenees Breed Standard page.
Great Pyrenees dogs are also known as Pyrenean Mountain dogs to people in Europe and Asia. Searching Google with the term "Pyrenean Mountain dogs" will give you lots of search results. Here's some other links to Great Pyrenees web sites:
Appearance: Pyrs have several colorings. All white is common and is favored by judges in dog shows. Badger marked is the most common coloring among working dogs. The AKC also recognizes tan, red and gray marked colorings. As Pyrs get older, long white shield hairs grow through the undercoat and that has the effect of fading out any coloring except on the ear tips and near the nose. This coat can be very fine, almost like angora fur, or coarse. The coarse hair requires less care. Pyrs look larger than they are because of their heavy coat. Also, they hold their tail curled over their back when trotting or facing down a threat. This makes them look bigger. Another unique characteristic among Pyrs is that they have double dew claws on their back feet. More information can be found by checking the Illustrated Breed Guide at the Great Pyrenees Club of America.
Great Pyrenees dogs have a distinctive smile. A Pyr is content in their world, is protecting it's flock and does knows its place in the pack. It smiles knowing all is well. When you see a Pyr that doesn't smile, it's a clue that there may be a situation that needs correction. A dog that has been abused, neglected or mistreated will show it on their face. Boredom or being kept in a small kennel or not given enough exercise will show too. A dog in constant pain may show other signs as well like holding its tail or head low or walking stiffly.
Great Pyrenees Breeders: Pyr breeders tend to fall into three areas of interest - show dogs, working dogs and the pet/puppy mills. The best guidance we can give is to stick with breeders who can answer your questions on the way you're going to be using the dog. Here are some links to breeders:
- Impyrial Great Pyrenees - Karen Justin, owner, New York, show dogs.
- Rehoboth Farms of North Carolina - Guard dogs.
- Mon Ami Great Pyrenees - Linda McNeil, owner, Florida, show dogs.
- Rivergroves - Jean Boyd, owner, Maryland, show dogs.
Growth: Pyrs typically have 4-6 pups in a litter. Each pup will weigh between one and two pounds at birth and will be about the size of a small Guinea pig. By six weeks, they will weigh between 12 and 16 pounds when they are well fed. Looking at the paws will give an indication of how large the dog will be as they tend to grow into their paws. They will continue to put on weight very quickly until about ten months and will slow as they begin to reach their adult weight. The females weigh between 85 and 115 pounds and the males between 100 and 125 pounds. The males will look like "skinny teenagers " until about 18 months. If the Pyr is spayed or neutered, food should be measured so that the dog does not become overweight.
Picking out a puppy among the litter mates may be a challenge. Goods things to decide beforehand is how you're going to use the puppy and what are your preferences for sex and coloring. The breeder will let you know what pups are available and should be able to answer all of your questions. There is not much personality before four weeks of age. Social interaction and role playing begins to bring out the personality of the pup. All pups are cute and cuddley, so the choice for some often comes down to the cutest one. Sarah says that the best guardians are often the pups who are the "watchers". When people come, the pup observes rather than greets. The family dog tends to bounce out and say "howdy".
Owners: Sarah likes to say that normal people do not own Great Pyrenees. All the people we have met seem to have some unique project or family activity that they are working on. The majority of owners value the Pyrs for their guarding ability and so buy them to guard livestock like sheep, goats, alpacas, and chickens. Pyrs are the gentlest of the large guardian dog family, so they are a good choice to be with children. Some owners cherish them as a family pet because of their gentleness and easy going nature. If the home is out in the country, having the big dog provides security from strangers. They bark when somebody stops by and will often sit quietly between you and the stranger should there be a short conversation. Their large size and gentleness are good qualifications to reside in nursing or group homes. Some are even trained as therapy dogs to help people recover.
Pack Mentality: All dogs are pack animals. Some breeds like companion dogs, have had their natural instincts to test for dominance testing minimized through selective breeding. Even so, many dog actions like licking your face or placing their paw on your leg are showing submission behaviors or dominance testing. The pecking order within the pack is determined by age, sex, strength and hormones and is played out through hundreds of testing and submission behaviors. A well behaved, secure, self-confident dog knows its place in the pack. It has testing against every member of the pack - recently! It knows that the owner is the Alpha dog and that challenging a more dominant will result in punishment or having to show submission. It should also learn that all the people in its pack are higher in the pecking order.
To reinforce our superior position in the pack order, we practice a technique called the 'takedown' which is similar to a mom correcting a puppy. She holds it down with her paw and barks or growls at it. We too hold or pin the dog down and yell at it until it stops struggling. Teenage Pyrs can be very independent, and want to not come when they are called. A takedown or two as needed will help cure the independence. A growing puppy and young adult will do a lot of dominance testing and should be corrected promptly.
Biting people by a Great Pyrenees is very rare usually an issue related to a pack mentality issue. Pyr's are so gentle that we have only heard of a few cases of it among hundreds of owners. The time when it will most likely happen is when a non-alpha person (a child) attempts to take the food dish from the dog. This is not just Pyr behavior as most large breed dogs will behave in exactly the same way. If there is a question in your mind whether your child or your dog has dominance, instruct the child not to go near the dog while it is eating. Better yet, feed the dog outside away from the children. It is important to note that taking your dog to obedience school and having them well trained does not establish pack order. Many obedience programs rely on pats and praises and do nothing for keeping right pack relationships. Do not assume that if your dog was the star of the obedience class, that it will not defend its food dish, especially from someone who is not the alpha of the pack. Also, female dogs who are pregnant or nursing (hormonal), will be more likely to growl and posture around the food dish.
A method to get your Pyr to be more tolerant is to pat or scratch it while it is eating. Some suggest picking up the food dish after thirty seconds and then setting it back down. These behaviors help to reinforce pack order by saying, "I still control the food dish and I'm letting you eat".
Another bad situation is to place the food dish where lambs or sheep can get at it. This is dangerous because the dog will tend to guard his food and may nip at the lambs or sheep so that they keep their distance. The dog food may contain copper - harmful to sheep. Place the dog food dish away from the sheep, goats or chickens.
Jumping up: All Pyr puppies will jump up, especially if their home area includes a cage or fence they can jump up on for attention. They are cute jumping up when they weigh twenty pounds, but when they weight 100 pounds and have just galloped across a muddy pasture, the cuteness wears off quickly. If you stick your hands or fingers through the fence, do so a the dog's nose level. This way the dog will receive attention with four feet on the ground, not when jumping up. Do not allow the puppy or dog to put its paws on you (a dominance test). If it does jump up, step on the rear paws - really hard. Another method is to "knee" the dog in the chest.
Chewing: Puppies chew and bite naturally, especially from six to twelve weeks as they socialize with their peers. When you get a puppy this age, do not allow it to continue "socializing" with your hand as this is part of dominance testing for placement in the pack. Being able to bite says, "I'm more dominant". With your thumb and forefinger, roll the top lips under the teeth so that the pup bites down on them. They will squeak. A gentle pinch and a firmly spoken, "No" gets the message across. Discourage mouthing the hands or nipping at any family member. Somewhere between five months and a year come the adult teeth. The young dog will need to do a lot of chewing to help bring those teeth in. Have available big bags of rawhide strips. Rawhide bones would be better for an older dog whose teeth are already set.
Barking: All guard dogs bark, especially at night. That's what they are bred to do. If you and the neighbors don't mind the barking, varmints, stray dogs and other undesirable critters will stay far away. If the barking is not acceptable, move the dog to a place where the dog feels secure. This might be on the porch, in the basement, in the garage, in a pen in the barn, or whatever works for you and your dog. Some dogs will also bark or yelp because of boredom. Vary their days by moving them to a new location. Also squirting them in the mouth with lemon juice when they are barking from boredom, sometimes will discourage this behavior.
Roaming: Adult Pyrs will naturally cover a one to two mile radius. If that's not allowable, the dog will have to be trained to a smaller area. Fences, electric fences, and invisible fences all work good. Neutering helps to keep a male dog at home. Close supervision and correction the first two years will help yield a dog that stays within the property lines.
Guarding: A Pyr will guard what it is bonded to - or better said - it will guard the defined space that contains what it is bonded to. If bonded with sheep, it will guard sheep. If with the owner, the owner and his or her property. If the Pyr is to guard, it is not good to raise it around other non-pyr dogs where it can pick up bad habits such as chasing poultry or livestock. Pyrs don't normally chase, but if the big puppy bounces up to a chicken and the chicken runs the other way, the Pyr will give bounce after it. Once chasing starts, the chicken soon becomes a diversion, and that Pyr can no longer be trusted with poultry. Closely monitor your Pyr puppy for its first 12 months if you desire to raise a trustworthy poultry guard. A Pyr confined to a kennel will likely be more aggressive with poultry than a Pyr that is loose with them.
Pyrs are social in a pack society. The older members of the pack teach the younger ones. Sticking a Pyr pup by itself in with sheep or goats is risky. The pup may be mellow and responsible and take on the guarding duties in stride. Then again, it may be playful and want to rough house with the livestock. We think it is better to segregate the Pyr pup where it can see the livestock. Take the pup in with you while doing chores and correct any undesireable behavior such as chasing, barking or nipping.
Great Pyrenees guard mostly through intimidation - by barking and posturing. Their barking keeps deer and rabbits out of our garden and raccoons, weasels, and rats out of our chicken house. They bark at people and cars, but keep their distance. They will defend and back down dog packs, wolves, coyotes, bears, cougars, etc. If you have a problem with a bear or a wolf pack, you will need two Pyrs. One will die trying to defend - two cannot be surrounded or overpowered.
Another story going around is that if you want a good livestock guardian, the pyr must be raised without human contact. This is the best method for a Pyr that will guard 5,000 sheep on 10,000 acres, but not too practical for people who have less than a hundred acres. How are you going to capture a wild dog and take it to the Vet? You can have a great guardian that is friendly to your family by bonding the Pyr to its guard area (By guard area we mean an area with natural boundaries or fences that the Pyr can "mark" and define as its own). Taking the Pyr for a walk outside of your property or bringing it to the house begins to blur the definition of what its area is and could diminish its guarding interest. We suggest that the only place you take your livestock guardian Pyr is to the Vet. If the Vet is willing to visit you, that's even better.
Large Flock/Herd Guarding: This information comes from our friend Dave in Oklahoma who runs a lot of cows and goats in open spaces. Dave like to pair two Pyrs with one Anatolian. The Anatolian breed is very fast and agile. The Anatolian races to the trouble while the Pyrs come in for the heavy lifting. With three or four teams of dogs, he protects his herds of livestock as they graze. His dogs have killed dozens of coyotes - as many as seven at a time.
The key to training a puppy or even an older dog is to do it progressively over several months. Put a 12-week or older Pyr in a medium pen with ewe and her 2-3 week old lamb (or goat). Provide a place for the pup to hide under and where only he can get his food. In a couple weeks and the pup will learn that the lamb and ewe are to be respected and ignored. Move to pup to another pen with several ewes and lambs. Again, provide a safe spot to hide and eat. As the pups learns to respect the Ewes and lambs, he will become confident and ignore the sheep. Finally, move the pup to a larger pen with lambs or kids about its size. After some initial sniffing, the dog should settle down and ignore the sheep. Any posturing or attempts to play should be a sign to extend any phase of the training period. Put the conditioned dog with a trained team of working dogs to learn how to behave in an open pasture environment.
Predator Control: Is a large guard dog the best solution for predator control? We think so. Llamas, donkeys, guineas and strong fences all have their place. Here's some links to other sites that talk about their experiences with predator control.
- Castalia's Guard Llama Info
- Large Guardian Dog Association - Check the library for tons of LGD info.
- Longshadow Farms guide to predator control.
- Skylines Farm guide to predator management.
- Consequences of Predator Damage to Livestock and Poultry
Grooming: your Great Pyrenees is important for its health and well being. Pyrs shed in the spring when the weather turns warm and also when a female weans her pups. Brushing during these times keeps the dog looking good. The brush on the right has long sturdy rotating teeth that work well in a Pyr's coat. Outdoor dogs don't need a lot brushing, but is good to brush to periodically to check for mats, ticks and injury. An electric hair clipper (or pet clipper from Jeffer's ) is good removing the occasional small mat, especially around the ears. Larger mats should be cut several times with a sharp scissors along the grain of the fur. Carefully comb through until the shed hairs are removed and the mat is gone. A spray-on waterless shampoo helps keep the coat smelling clean without having to give a bath. NOTE: If your Pyr cools off by sleeping on dirt or in a dirt hole, it's important to check for and remove the mats on the rear quarters, tail and legs - especially on older dogs. The mats pick up moisture from the ground and flys will lays eggs in the mats causing big health issues when the eggs hatch. Better to shave the rear quarters and legs than to have mats.
Because of their thick coat, some people ask if the Pyr should be clipped or shaven for the hot summer months. This is not a good idea for a guard dog. The white coat helps keep the dog cooler by reflecting the sun and not allowing the sun's heat to penetrate into the body. The coat also sheds rain.
Our groomer is Joyce at Country Clippers Dog Grooming in Dassel. She can be reached at (320) 275-4270. She has a nice setup for bathing big dogs.
Pyrs need their toenails clipped, especially the single dew claws on the front feet and double dew claws on the rear. Check the toenails once a month and clip every 2-3 months as needed. The ears should be cleaned during this time too. Swab out with long-handled Q-tips wetted with hydrogen peroxide. Commercial solutions are available that help dissolve wax. If dogs shakes its heads, rubs or scratches at the ear, check it at once. If you suspect an infection, the ear will smell foul. Dirty ears can cause infection and an unwanted trip to the Vet for medication. Our Vet recommends using a clipper to remove the hairs from the bottom side of the ear flap and from under the ear to help keep the ear dried out.
Pyr puppies house break very quickly following this schedule: Take them out to potty: 1) every two hours, 2) after they finish eating or 3) when they wake up from a nap. They usually will not mess up their kennel, so they will sleep through the night without incident. They do need to be taken out fairly soon after awaking. Always take them to the same spot and they will quickly learn. If the dog is kept inside it is good to have a "safe" spot where the dog can do its duty with getting in too much trouble. There is a commercial product that is scented to attract the dogs to do their duty on it. This can be moved closer to the door everyday and then finally placed outside.
We feed our pups Purina Puppy Chow and our dogs, Purina Dog Chow. We also free feed our breeding dogs as much as they like, but dogs that are neutered should be feed a set amount every day. We also supplement they diet with eggs, rice, lamb meat and vitamins. Bones are too dangerous to feed as they may splinter and get lodged internally. The adult dogs sometimes get bored with the feed or water and will dump the dish or push the dish around. Bob makes a wood frame of 2 x 6 lumber to hold the dish and water pail too. This helps prevent wasted food. Another Pyr trick is to bury unfinished food under the loose straw bedding. The cure is to place the food holder on a shelf or box about 18" high. They should have fresh water daily. A wooden frame can hold it or it should be clipped or hooked to a wall in the kennel. A couple of our dogs will tip over the water bucket if it is not fastened.
Sleeping is a favored activity for any dog. The Pyr's night guarding behavior may make it seem like they are always sleeping during the the day. In reality, their sleep behavior is average for a dog of their size. Puppies, like all babies, sleep a lot. Pyrs have dreams and so it is common for them to twitch during the dream periods. Some Pyrs snore. Sleeping adult Pyrs take up a lot of real estate, so we recommend that you do not let your puppy sleep in your bed.
Leash Training: Having the dog to walk gently on a lead is a real pleasure. Young Pyrs seem to pick up very quickly on this skill when trained properly. Their strength and thick coat make a choke collar ineffective. Invest in a pinch collar and only use it during training sessions. Remove the normal collar before putting the pinch collar in place. Links may have to be added or removed to make the collar work properly. Make the dog sit when you stop and walk when you walk.
Good manners is especially important for a dog as large as a Pyr. They are very easy to train to sit just by pushing down on the hips, saying their name and, "Sit". We always do this at treat or feeding time and they catch on fast. We like them to sit when coming up to a person for petting or fastening a leash or for grooming. We also like them not to take treats out of our hands without permission. To train, hold a treat over their nose about four inches away and pull it back when they reach for it. After being good for ten or fifteen seconds, give them a voice command like, "Okay," and let them have the treat. A few sessions of treat training will produce a dog that will sit and wait patiently for their treats. Another bad habit is to reach or jump up on a table or counter to get some food - theirs or yours! They usually sniff before committing the crime, so be watchful of their behavior and scold before they get a taste. Older dogs can be trusted once trained, but teenagers think every food treat is theirs, even the cat's!
A Veterinarian is a great resource for dog care. The following paragraph on medication is for your information only and it's best to follow your Vet's advice on all dog care issues. If you're new to an area and need to find a good Vet, check with a groomer for a recommendation as they get lots of feedback from dog owners.
A dog needs various medications for a long and healthy life. Puppy shots consist of a vaccine that covers 6-7 different diseases. We start our pups at ten weeks although the series is often started earlier. These are then given annually or bi-annually for older dogs. Worming is necessary unless you keep the dog in the house and tightly control what the dog eats. When around other animals, it's best to worm. Rabies vaccination is needed every 2-3 years. Dogs need heartworm medication unless the ground is frozen thus killing all mosquitoes. These and other medications like Rabies may be required in your community and recommend by your vet. Check with your Vet for advice on all medications.
Pyr health: Great Pyrenees generally stay in good health. Some more common problems may include mats in the fur (especially around the neck and ears), the dew claws growing too long, ear infections (due to dirt and moisture in the ear), eye infections (pink eye), allergies and "hot spots". Hot spots are caused when an area of the skin becomes inflamed. The fur will fall out, the skin will turn bright red and the dog wants to bite at it. Some ointment from the Vet and keeping the spot dry cures this problem.
Genetic problems include: underbite, entropia (small eyeballs), seizures and hip dysplaysia. Pronounced underbite shows up as wet spots under the chin and neck. Entropia is when the eyeballs are small for the socket size and the eye lashes stick inward causing irritation. This can be cured with simple surgery, but the dog should not be used for breeding. The cause of seizures is unknown, but from what we have heard, changing owners, being confined to a small area, or other highly stressful situations will tend to bring them on. Hip dysplasia is not quite as common as in other breeds because Great Pyrenees have not been over bred. The most common form of death that we hear about is being hit by a car or being stolen.
Arthritis may show up in older Pyrs, especially those that spend the winter outside sleeping on the ground. Boomer, our nearly ten-year male, was showing signs of discomfort walking, running and getting to his feet. He stays out all of the time and often sleeps on the ground though he could sleep in the barn if he wanted to. Sarah began treating him daily with one tablespoon of cod liver oil and a product we get from Jeffers called Arthramine. She would mix it with his food and he ate it readily. Within a couple of weeks, he started bouncing around like his old self. He seems much happier and more active. Arthramine does not claim to treat any disease, but does tend to promote joint health.
Insect Pests: Biting flies seem to come in a few of waves of hatches. They like to bite the nose where the furline starts and feed on the blood. We've tried several products and of course, the Pyrs immediately rub their nose on the ground to scrape it off. We've had fair success with our own Bug Buster soap which has citronella as a deterrent. A horse product called "Swat" seems to work well too. While the flies are biting, you may have to reapply the treatment every four to six hours.
Mosquitoes like to bite the muzzle where the fur is thin. (Make sure your dog receives its heart worm medication during any month when there is not freezing weather). Rubbing your hand with mosquito repellent and then rubbing the muzzle helps. Ticks are hard to spot in the dense fur. Regular brushing helps to locate them. Sarah feeds the Pyrs a brewer's yeast and garlic product available from Jeffers. The smell gets into the skin and reduces the appeal of the dog to insect pests. We are also testing a Jeffers product, Freedom 45, which is similar to Frontline. A flea collar keeps the fleas off the dog.
Life and Death: Normal life span for a Great Pyrenees is about twelve years. Some live shorter, some live over sixteen years. You will have a relationship with your dog for a season and when the season is over, the dog will be gone and you will miss the dog that you loved. These feelings are normal. There is a strong cultural influence in our society to dogs to give your dog human-like qualities and rights (Anthropomorphism). These feelings are not quite normal and are easily played upon by a care provider willing to bump up their charges. Your dog is still a dog no matter how much it feels like part of the family. You may want to decide in advance to what (time and dollar) level you will be willing to spend to care for the dog as it ages. For example, maybe your dog is diagnosed with a illness at age ten and will need $200 worth of "treatments" a month. You will have to make a decision to either spend the money or say the season is over. Without forethought, this decision will be much more difficult at the care provider's office. A family meeting to discuss, "What would we do if...?" may be appropriate as the dog ages.
Traveling with a new puppy can be an adventure or relaxed and peaceful. If the trip is less than an hour or two, the pup can be held or rest on the floorboards. Have an old towel ready in case of emergencies. On longer trips, it would be better to use a kennel. A medium or large kennel works best. Place newspapers on the bottom and bring extra papers to change out. Be very careful in the warmer months not to let the puppy get too hot. The pup will often "yodel" which can be distracting. We find a country station that plays old, old country music - male singer's voice (think Tennessee Ernie Ford or Hank Williams Sr.) will calm the pup down after a song or two. Of course, depending on your taste in music, maybe the yodeling would be better :-).
Stop every two hours to water, feed and exercise. The pup may not drink or eat the first couple of stops, but it will soon get with the program. We carry water and puppy food and bowls for each. Always use a lease and a collar to walk the pup. The pup does not know who you are and that it belongs to you. Despite their roly-poly appearance, they can move fairly quickly and may get away from you.
Fencing: The loss of a Pyr is hard to deal with - especially if it could have been prevented. Being run over or stolen happens all too frequently where there is a lack of fencing. Great Pyrenees are large and most animals respect their space, so they seem deliberately slow to move out the way when a car approaches. We are fanatical about keeping the dogs off the busy highway in front of our house and watch them closely when they are outside the fences. Our fence is made up of tee-posts supporting six wires and a electric fencer. The dog receives a shock when touching the wire and can be trained to the fence with two or three shocks. The fences require maintenance to check for broken wires, to tighten sagging wires and to trim back weeds and grass. They do not work in the snow or when a lot of weeds touch the wires. A standard wire fence or cattle panel works well, though some Pyrs learn to climb. Boomer will climb any five-foot fence but does respect the electric fence - even if it is under five feet of snow. We have also used a portable electric sheep fence which the Pyrs respect (Premier 1). Several people have told us that invisible fencing works out well for them.
Climbing is something your Great Pyrenees may do. Boomer, pictured above, will climb any three to five-foot fence. He doesn't climb the outer pasture fence, only gates and fences in the barn. Boomer's dad was also a climber. Boomer is the only male climber. Kodi will climb, but not as agressively as Boomer. I'm not sure why they start, but for Boomer, he seems to enjoy sniffing and marking the area he has just climbed into. We do maintain two kennels where the fence goes to the ceiling. We can put the climbers in there when we do not think it's best for them to be climbing.
A strange behavior that we have noticed is what we call redecorating. Redecorating occurs mostly with female Pyrs when they are loose unsupervised. For us, this starts about 7 - 10 months and lasts a couple of days. It happens when we discover who the climbers are or when I forget to secure the gate. The Pyr gets out and then not knowing what to do with herself, finds things to move around. She will pull objects off the benches and carry them to a spot to chew on them. Food scoops and towels seem to be the favorite objects, but food bags are fair game - shredding them into little pieces. When she finds the food and water and learns how to enter and exit the barn, the behavior goes away.
A kennel is your Great Pyrenees' lounge, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Well, not really, but what we're trying to say is you need to give them some Pyr size space if you're going to kennel them. We have a lot more kennel space than most people because we need to tightly control the breeding and to give the moms a place for their puppies. Each kennel has a 10' x 10' enclosed space in the barn with an outside run of 15' x 35'. We keep feeders and fresh water in the enclosed area. Each area has a people gate and there is a dog-size door between the areas. It's important whether you have a kennel or not, to have a place where the Pyr can eat without sheep or poultry contesting for its food.
We believe that it runs contrary to the Pyrs breeding to spend too much time in the kennel. We rotate the Pyrs daily so that each dog gets to exercise in one of the three pastures. Boomer and two of the females are loose in the pasture at all times.
Shelter: Great Pyrenees, guardians by nature, like to sleep outside. They don't like the wind and will find a shelter behind a wind block. Cold and snow doesn't seem to bother them, although they will find an overhang if it begins to rain heavily. A good shelter will keep the wind and rain off them and give them a place to stretch out when it is hot. It should also get them up off the ground when the temperature is below freezing
A shed, garage or barn works well. I built this doghouse from three wooden packing crates. It sits on two green-treated landscaping timbers and there's an inner partition to help keep the wind out. The entrance is facing downwind from the prevailing winds and there's enough space just inside to place a food dish. Total cost for this project was about $50. Using plywood instead of crates would work well, but keep the dimensions about the same for a two dog house.