Great Pyrenees
(AKC Working Group)
Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees is a large, majestic, mostly white dog with a black nose and dark eyes. This is a dog of medium substance, slightly longer than tall. The topline is level, and the chest is fairly broad.

The head is wedge-shaped with a slightly rounded skull and no apparent stop. The head should be well-balanced and in good proportion to the rest of the dog. The medium-sized ears are pendant. The almond-shaped eyes are dark brown with a thoughtful, intelligent, dignified expression. The nose and eye rims are black, and the tight-fitting lips must have black pigment. Where the hair from the upper face meets that on the lower face, a characteristic line is formed. The teeth ideally meet in a scissors bite, but a level bite is permitted.

The mostly white coat may include some areas of yellow, badger (a combination of gray and yellow hairs), reddish brown, tan, or gray. The configuration of these non-white areas is not important, but no more than one-third of the coat on the body should be non-white. The thick double coat is even thicker around the neck and shoulders, forming a mane that can be quite pronounced in males. The backs of the legs are feathered and the long, plumed tail reaches at least to the hocks, curling upward at the end in the "shepherd’s crook." Unlike some other breeds, the Great Pyrenees’ rear double dewclaws are actually boned and functional—they should definitely not be removed.


The imposing Great Pyrenees, also known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, has guarded his masters’ flocks from predators for centuries in the rugged Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain that give the breed its name. The first large white livestock guardian dogs likely arrived in the Pyrenees from the Middle East as long ago as 3000 BC, accompanying migrating shepherds and their flocks.

In 1675, the Great Pyrenees was named the Royal Dog of France, where it gained popularity with nobles as an estate guardian. In the 1850s Queen Victoria owned one, but by the end of the nineteenth century, the breed had gone into decline. A group of French enthusiasts rebuilt the breed at that time, and two clubs were formed, each with its own standard.

The two world wars took a heavy toll on the Great Pyrenees, but dedicated breeders rallied to restore the breed after each war. The first serious breeding program in the United States was established in the 1931, and the AKC granted recognition in 1933. Today you will still find Great Pyrenees working as livestock guardians and as valiant, trusted companions and protectors of the home and family. They have also become successful therapy dogs.

Key Facts:



Courageous and calm, the Great Pyrenees is highly protective of his flock and his territory. The breed is gentle with and tolerant of children and other young creatures, and feels a great sense of responsibility toward his charges. This is a serious watchdog and guardian that thinks about the proper course of action for each situation. He tends to be reserved with strangers, but any excessive nervousness, shyness, or aggression toward people is considered an unacceptable temperament for the breed. The Great Pyrenees will accept strangers his family accepts, but will not tolerate a stranger entering the house when the family is not at home. As this breed is protective of his territory, and not a personal protection dog like a Rottweiler or German Shepherd, it’s possible that the Great Pyrenees may not be protective of his owner when away from his territory.

Out in the field, when patrolling his territory, the Great Pyrenees livestock guardian may be working alone for long periods of time, making his own decisions, and acting to ward off danger. Therefore, training the Great Pyrenees takes patience and skill, as the dog tends to be both dominant and independent, preferring to do only what makes sense to him. Short, positive training sessions work best, and owners must learn to establish alpha pack position. It is very important to socialize and train this large protective dog properly to ensure good citizenship.

Because aggression against predators such as wolves was his job for centuries, the Great Pyrenees tends to be quite dog-aggressive. Same-sex dogs, even those living in the same household, may be a danger to each other and may have to be kept separated.

A Great Pyrenees is a dignified, serious, powerful dog that needs to be taken seriously by his owner. The Great Pyrenees is a wonderful breed, but is not right for everyone. This breed is not recommended for first-time dog owners.