Looking for information on the Great Pyrenees temperament? You’ve come to the right place!
The giant, majestic Great Pyrenees is immensely powerful and strong, often tipping the scales at more than 100 pounds. They can stand nearly 32 inches at the shoulder.
They sport thick coats that help them blend in with the sheep they were bred to protect. But don’t let their appearance or personality fool you.
Despite their large, bulky presence, these dogs are often described as patient and calm.
Many owners even describe them as Zen-like, which is a far cry from their rough, intimidating exterior.
But how true is this description of their personality? Are these huge dogs really as laid back as some people claim?
The Typical Great Pyrenees Temperament
The Great Pyrenees is often described as a majestic, stately dog. They carry themselves with confidence and have a hint of gracefulness despite their large size.
They are also thoughtful, vigilant, and alert. Originally bred to guard sheep, they still have those innate instincts today.
Socialization is an important part of training for any breed. They need to learn how to recognize a friend from a foe.
Introduce them to a variety of people. Invite friends over regularly while they are young.
The Great Pyrenees is fiercely protective of their territory, family, and belongings.
They are good with their own children, but might not appreciate rough play with others.
The Great Pyrenees can also be quite destructive. They are chewers and require lots of chew toys and bones. Otherwise, they might start chewing on something you don’t want them to.
They are alert dogs, so they may bark at anything they think might be a threat.
This can be trained out, but doing so is often more difficult than it is with other breeds.
Are Great Pyrenees Easy to Train?
The Great Pyrenees is usually not easy to train.
They were bred to independently guard sheep.
At a moment’s notice, they would have to decide whether an approaching animal or person was a threat and what to do about it – all without the guidance of their owner.
They have been reported to greatly reduce the death of livestock. This trait often makes it difficult to convince a Great Pyrenees to listen to you, however.
Instill the habit of listening into your dog at an early age. The longer you wait to train a great Pyrenees, the harder it will be.
Approaches to Training
Positive reinforcement works best with the Great Pyrenees. They need to be convinced that it is in their best interest to listen to you.
Negative reinforcement can often have the opposite effect. Instead of convincing your dog to listen, you might just convince them to become stubborn and ignore you altogether.
Training should specifically focus on teaching your Great Pyrenees to react appropriately to visitors.
If they are not taught how to recognize a welcome visitor, they can very easily interpret them as an intruder.
These dogs are often described as becoming bored with standard obedience training very quickly. They are not a breed that will love performing tricks for your praise.
Instead, they are a working breed and enjoy performing actual “work.” Involvement in agility trials and other dog sports helps them feel needed and stimulated.
Are Great Pyrenees Friendly?
Great Pyrenees temperament makes this breed well suited to guard flocks of sheep. This means when they’re herding they can determine which animals are under their care and which animals are intruders.
This behavior carries over to their modern, family life.
Even if your Great Pyrenees isn’t trained to guard sheep, they will often behave as if their family is their “flock” and everyone else is an “intruder.”
They are commonly friendly with those inside the home and those who they consider in their family.
They will interact calmly and gently with children and are often very patient.
However, this is often not true with outsiders.
If a new, unusual person approaches your door, the Great Pyrenees will automatically think they are an intruder that is there to hurt their family.
They will guard their home and family with extremely courage, even when the intruder isn’t actually an intruder at all.
It is important to teach them at an early age that not everyone who comes to the door is necessarily out to get them.
Early socialization is key to making this happen. But it often takes consistent, focused training as well. Many Great Pyrenees dog owners train their dogs on a command that lets the dog know the new person is not a threat.
Are Great Pyrenees Aggressive?
The Great Pyrenees can be aggressive if not properly trained and socialized.
They will attempt to defend their home from intruders, even if they happen to be one of your friends or family members.
However, most of the time, Great Pyrenees are not blatantly aggressive.
They will not attack other people on sight, and there are not many cases of the Great Pyrenees biting other people.
Only about 22% of Great Pyrenees are aggressive towards strangers.
Instead, the Great Pyrenees temperament can be described as confident and tolerant.
While they might not be friendly towards visitors, they do not automatically become uncontrollable the moment someone walks through the door.
They are aloof and reserved, not aggressive.
With that said, some Great Pyrenees are more aggressive than others.
What Causes Aggression
Aggression levels are a mixture of genetics, socialization, and training.
Whether or not puppy’s parents were aggressive has a direct effect on whether or not the puppy will be aggressive.
When possible, we recommend meeting any puppy’s parents you are considering adopting. The parents should not be aggressive, even if they might be somewhat standoffish.
Training and socialization are also important. Even a Great Pyrenees who is genetically calm can display signs of aggression if not socialized or trained properly.
At the same time, a dog that is genetically predisposition to aggressiveness can become calm and tolerant when trained and socialized.
Basically, the Great Pyrenees temperament can be more aggressive than some other breeds of dog. But early training and socialization go a long way to making this dog accepting of outsiders.
Do Great Pyrenees Like Other Animals?
This is a very complex question that depends on a few factors.
Firstly, it is important to remember that the possibility of aggression towards other dogs lies in their guarding instinct.
They will attempt to guard their flock from outsiders.
The same is true with other family pets and outside animals.
If you have another dog as a pet that has been around longer than the Great Pyrenees, the Pyrenees will often consider that dog as part of his or her “flock.” Treating other pets just like the rest of the family is part of the Great Pyrenees temperament.
The same goes for cats, rabbits, goats, and any other animal. If the Great Pyrenees sees them as part of the family, they will get along with them.
However, trouble may arise when you try to introduce your dog to an outside dog.
Do Great Pyrenees Like Other Dogs?
It is not uncommon for dogs to be intolerant of other dogs they have not grown up with. Sometimes, this intolerance can display itself as aggression.
Of course, early socialization and training play a huge role in this.
Even a Great Pyrenees that didn’t like other dogs, to begin with, can be taught that other dogs are not a threat.
Introducing a Great Pyrenees to other dogs early can help them become tolerant and accepting of another dog’s presence.
If you’re introducing another dog to your home, it is important to do so calmly and slowly. The new dog and the Great Pyrenees should be kept apart for an extended period of time and allowed only to interact through a barrier, such as a glass door.
Overall, aggressiveness towards other dogs is low when they are properly introduced and socialization is emphasized.
The most prevalent natural instinct the great Pyrenees has is their intense, flock-guarding instincts.
They were bred to guard sheep and will translate that history into their family life. These dogs will guard their family, territory, and property against whoever they deem is a threat.
These guarding behaviors are innate; they do not need to be trained and will exist whether or not your dog has even been taught to guard.
Socialization and training can help these instincts translate better into everyday family life, however.
Are Great Pyrenees Good Family Pets?
The Great Pyrenees temperament is friendly within it’s family, but inclined to guarding behaviors.
They can make a wonderful family pet, provided they have right training and socialization.
They are best suited for those who live in homes with plenty of outside room to run due to their exercise requirements and large size.
Do you have a Pyrenees? Let us know about your dog in the comments!
References and Resources
Green, Jeffrey. “ADC Guarding Dog Program Update: A Focus on Managing Dogs.” Proceedings of the Fourteenth Vertebrate Pest Conference 1990. 1990.
Green, Jeffrey. “Is Predator Control Going to the Dogs?” Rangelands. 1980.
Hansen, Inger. “Livestock-guarding dogs in Norway.” Journal of Range Management. 1999.
Kutsumi. “Importance of Puppy Training for Future Behavior of the Dog.” Journal of Veterinary Medical Science. 2013.