Despite his regal and majestic appearance, the Great Pyrenees is a keen worker, faithfully guarding his flocks no matter the weather or terrain. With his intelligence, scenting ability and excellent sight, he is an invaluable companion to the shepherd. The breed possesses a beautifully thick, weather resistant white coat that may contain markings of badger, gray, or various shades of tan.
While affectionate with his family and quiet and tolerant in general, if there is something to guard or protect, the Great Pyrenees can become quite territorial. Because they were bred to work independently and make decisions on their own, they may not be the star of the local obedience class. The breed should be exercised daily on leash or in a fenced area. New owners should be prepared for barking, especially at night, and brushing approximately once per week.
A Great Pyrenees does require regular bathing and brushing. This majestic dog can be bathed every other week up to no longer than every 6 weeks. With this double coated breed, proper bathing and drying techniques lay the groundwork for achieving a beautiful coat. Selecting the correct products to meet the dog’s needs is essential to achieve optimal results.
The care and maintenance of the coat set the foundation for obtaining healthy skin and coat. When the coat is dirty, the hair shaft becomes rough and eventually breaks down, which can lead to the coat becoming damaged. It also can This coat needs to be bathed and brushed weekly or bi-weekly in order to prevent the dog from becoming matted and tangled. Lack of maintenance can contribute to the formation of the cobweb matting that forms close to the skin. This type of matting if left unattended can lead to the development of numerous skin issues. Therefore, keeping the coat clean and healthy is of utmost importance in order to maintain the abundant coat.
Before the bath, take a few minutes to take a high-velocity dryer over the coat to loosen any dirt and debris from the skin and to loosen any cobweb matting. Do not move the dryer back and forth quickly. Rather, hold the dryer in one place and slowly move it through the coat. The coat should start standing off the skin and not mat up. You might have to pull the dryer farther away from the skin to prevent it from tangling the coat. Once you have blown out any loose hair, and have lightly brushed through the dog, you are ready for the bath.
Wet the coat and apply the shampoo by squeezing it through the coat making certain you have worked it all the way through the coat down to the skin. Thorough shampooing will contribute to building a healthy, strong, and manageable coat. It is a good idea to slightly cool the water temperature down when rinsing the coat. The coat should be rinsed thoroughly making certain that all the product has been removed. Use a light conditioner to nourish and hydrate each individual strand of hair without changing the texture of the coat. A heavy conditioner is not necessary unless the coat is severely damaged. Once the bath is complete, blot the coat with a towel to remove excessive moisture. Try to avoid using a circular motion to avoid any further tangling. Blow the coat out with a HV dryer to remove any excess moisture. Be sure to hold the nozzle far enough away to prevent the coat from tangling. Finish with a stand dryer and line dry all the way to the skin. Once the dog is completely dry, line brush, working in sections until the dog is tangle free. Go over the entire coat with your hands, to see if there are inconsistencies in the density of the coat. If so, continue to brush and comb those areas. As a final check, use a firm slicker brush throughout the coat, and little to no hair should be apparent on the brush. Areas to pay particular attention to for tangles and excessive hair are the thighs, behind the ears, the tail, and around the ruff. It’s always a good idea to spend a little extra time in these areas before you finish the dog.
Finishing the Dog: Tools and Finish Grooming
The coat should be light, airy, and stand off the dog. A wide-toothed comb should easily glide through the coat with no resistance all the way down to the skin. Pay particular attention to the neck, chest, and hindquarter area as they can get packed with excessive coat. A healthy coat is light, airy, and has a natural shine. The Great Pyrenees should be in a natural state with the only trimming on feet, hocks, and pasterns.
General Health Care
Prep work is the foundation of all grooming. Prep work includes ear cleaning, nail trimming, anal glands, and proper dental hygiene. Mastering these skills sets the professional pet stylist apart from the rest. Prep work should be done before every bathing and grooming appointment. All dogs need to have their ears checked and cleaned on a regular basis. Proper nail care is also very important. Long, unsightly nails are uncomfortable for the dog, as well as anyone they might jump on. Long nails also compromise the shape of the foot. Trimming the pads of the foot helps give the dog good traction on different surfaces. It can also help minimize the amount of dirt the dog tracks into the house. In addition, it affords the opportunity to treat and condition the paws from cracks and abrasions. Anal glands should also be checked and expressed if they are full. Some caring pet owners prefer to have the anal glands done by their veterinarian. Good dental hygiene is essential for a healthy pet as well.
In order to maintain healthy skin and coat as well as overall health, it is important to provide good nutrition to your dog through a well-balanced diet, vitamins, and healthy treats.
Do they require a lot of grooming?
This type of coat requires consistent grooming. In addition to regular, routine baths if you can spend 30 min each week doing regular brush outs to keep the hair separated and divided to prevent matting and allowing the skin to breathe, you should be able to maintain this coat.
What are the common problems in the breed?
Like all purebred dogs, the Great Pyrenees has some issues to be aware of. Auto-immune issues (such as Addison’s Disease and Degenerative Myelopathy), Cancer (specifically Hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, Lymphosarcoma, and Mast Cell Tumors), and Orthopedic problems (Elbow Dysplasia, Hip Dysplasia, and Patellar Luxation) are more common in the breed.
Do they shed or cause allergies?
They do shed year around. Frequent baths and blow outs will help accelerate the shedding process and help keep the skin and coat in good condition. In addition, it will help cut down on the dander, which can be a trigger for those suffering from allergies.
Are they good with children?
This breed is very gentle with children. He is watchful and protective in nature and can be more serious than other breeds. As with any breed, never leave a small child unattended with a dog for any reason.
What if I have a show dog?
Whether you have a show dog or a companion dog, the same basic care is given regarding nutrition, socialization, and hygiene. The difference is the maintenance, conditioning, and training for the show ring. It is always helpful if your breeder is willing to mentor you to lead you in the right direction upon entering the wonderful world of showing dogs. A great place to start is with the national breed club like the Great Pyrenees Club of America, www.gpcaonline.org.