History of the Pyrenean Mountain Dog
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD). Almost every European country has its own livestock guardian breed, they are ancient and likely interrelated as Europe’s borders have been fluid. These breeds were developed when shepherds needed dogs to bond with the flocks of goats and sheep and exploit the dog’s natural pack instinct to protect their flock/pack against predators. As distinct from the herding breeds, like border collies, which bond with the shepherd and scare the flock at the shepherd’s request in order to move them, the LGDs move with the flock and guard them. They are independent thinkers, used to working with other dogs of the same family, and while they are bonded to the shepherd as well, they usually make their own decisions. Pyreneans are the French version, and originate from the Pyrenean Mountains between France and Spain. They are one of the more benign LGDs, and were favoured by royalty when giant breeds were fashionable.
What is a Pyrenean Mountain Dog?
A Pyrenean Mountain Dog is a powerful and imposing dog with a certain elegance. They have a thick double coat which is predominately white. The coat may be all white or whilte with patches of badger, wolf grey, or paler shades of lemon, orange or tan. They are independent thinkers who should be quietly confident when out and about.
Caring for a Pyrenean
Pyrenean Mountain Dogs tend to mature early and you have less of the annoying puppy phase to go through. They are more independent than the Leonbergers; training will require more patience as merely pleasing the human is not always a motivator for a Pyr! Most Pyrs do not drool (unless they have an incorrect heavier head with droopier lips). They will need a good brush once a week. As LGDs, Pyrs use their bark to scare away predators, traditionally at dusk and dawn, and should be kept inside during this time if you live in suburbia or with close neighbours. Pyrs are not suitable to be offleash as they tend to ‘disapyr’!
Known Pyr diseases, health tests and what they mean
One of the benefits of purchasing a purebred dog is that within a closed gene pool, diseases can be identified and bred away from. I believe that with a dog with a small gene pool like the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, where genetic diversity is extremely important to allow for greater population disease resistance, that we should, wherever possible, attempt to breed away from diseases rather than just knocking dogs out of the gene pool.
A classic example of the type of disease we can breed away from is hip and elbow displaysia. Hips and elbows of all breeding dogs should be tested and scored. Displaysia is polygenetic, meaning there are multiple genes at work, as well as being related to diet in the growing puppy. The scoring does not produce ‘affected’ or ‘not affected’ results; these are more of a sliding scale; a dog with higher hip scores should only be bred to a dog with low hip scores. In Australia, there is no upper end cut off point. Dogs in Australia can be scored using AVA or Pennhip methods. The ideal for both is the lowest score possible.
Eyes: Pyrs can suffer from cataracts so it is important to have a yearly eye test for breeding dogs.
DM and NDG: Pyrenean Mountain Dogs can also suffer from the autoimmune disease Degenerative Myleopathy (DM) and the crippling neurological disease Neuronal Degeneration (NDG). Fortunately, these are both straightforward recessive diseases, meaning that genetic tests can be developed for them, allowing breeders to know which dogs carry the diseases and making sure that no puppies will be affected. Affected (D/D) or carrier (D/N) dogs can be mated to clear dogs (N/N). Affected dogs and carrier dogs should never be mated to other affected or carrier dogs as there will be affected puppies produced.
Cancer: Pyrs can also suffer from osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and hemangiosarcoma (blood vessel tumours). There is no test for these, and as with people, they are usually late onset so there is no way to know if the parent dog has it before they are bred.
Dont get a Pyrenean if…
…you don’t like grooming. Pyrs need a good brush once a week.
…you don’t like barking. Pyrs have been selectively bred for centuries to ward off predators from their pack, and the most energy efficient way of doing this is by barking to let the predators know they are there. It’s ingrained in most: you wont train it out of them.
…you want a star dog sports dog. Pyrs are independent thinkers and excellent problem solvers. Training them to do something when they dont see the benefit in it takes a lot of commitment.