Saturday, November 19, 2011
BEFORE You Adopt A Great Pyrenees
I have read that a nickname for Great Pyrenees is "Disa-pyr". While there are several breed traits to make yourself aware of, we have found over time that a very common theme in owner surrenders of these angelic dogs is the owner saying they "can't keep" the dog in the yard, or that it keeps running away. We have had several owners lose their tolerance for their "escape artist" and surrender. While breed traits are explained to potential owners, AND it's a new owner's responsibility to educate themselves, this breed trait does not seem to be taken into consideration appropriately.
As with anything, there are always exceptions to the rule, but you need to anticipate the breed standard, and if your dog is different in a way you perceive to be "different" than the standard, than you are fortunate. Also, never assume that your newly adopted dog, if it's older, will behave the same way it behaved for a previous owner. In new environments, dogs can manifest new behaviors due to new stimuli. Not all new potential behaviors may be bad; however, a Pyr prone to night barking may bark more in your home than in a previous one due to your neighborhood's stimulation.
The trait people need to really and truly understand is the breed's natural tendency to wander. You tell potential owners that they cannot be off-leash dogs, and they perhaps still think their dog will be different. Pyrs typically do best with a privacy fence, yet owners will have short, wire fences and their Pyrs will escape. When testing your dog's personal boundaries and behaviors against it's natural breed inclination do so in a guarded environment where you will be able to see how they fare.
If you want an off-leash dog, a dog to leave in the back yard unattended without a 6-foot privacy fence, please think twice about adopting a Pyr. If you want those things and want a Pyr regardless, you need to have plans in place to see how they really will fare in those environments.
All the same, understand the Pyr for the breed they are and accept that lifestyle for them. Great Pyrenees are naturally inclined to "go away". Meaning, regardless of how you raise them, it's in their DNA to be livestock guardians. Pyrs were bred to be independent from people, to stay in the hills with their sheep and guard them. Everything the Pyr could see was his cause to be concerned. We often say, "a Pyr thinks everything they see is theirs to guard". Your Pyr needs to know if there is a coyote over that hill threatening his flock, so he will go there, to ensure that threat isn't present.
An off-leash Pyr will think nothing of leaving you in the dust. They will also be surprised you are annoyed at them for this. They think they are checking out the perimeter around you to ensure no predators are present. Likewise with fences, if they think they see something they need to check out, they will be gone. They are not out romping for fun. Imagine your Pyr having a 5-foot wire fence they can clearly see through; if they see another dog, a coyote, a suspicious person, they will do their best to "do their job", scale that fence, and go secure their flock. Maybe you had them fenced like this for a year and "it never happened". Consider they probably never had the proper stimulation…yet.
One of my Pyrs seems as if she'd stay with me if I let her off leash. Though I never care to test her on this, because I can't anticipate the potential for stimulation that I cannot control, I would never test her in an environment where I could lose her. I'd take her to a dog park on a day with only a couple of other dogs present, and see how she fares staying by my side to my command. Pyrs aren't exactly good at obeying commands, for all the reasons they were bred to be independent from people to perform their job.
I have a 6 foot privacy fence, and that same Pyr lounges under the deck most times she's outside, and never shows an interest at its perimeter. Nonetheless, I know she's a Pyr. I make sure my perimeter has no dug out holes she could escape through if she sensed a threat. Standing on our deck, my other Pyr can easily see beyond that fence. Garbage men, cars, homeless people…if he sees them, he goes nuts. If he could scale that fence, he would…and he'd be gone.
Dawn would get calls from panicked owners about how they came home, having left their Pyr out while they were gone, and came home to no Pyr. While of course you go and look for them, she'd always tell them she felt if they didn't find them, they'd come home after hours of looking to their Pyr sitting on their doorstep. Pyrs would return home to their "farm" after making sure that "wolf" wasn't there, but they sure as heck are going to do their job first.
If you are NOT absolutely committed to an on-leash dog, or a tall privacy fence when they go out to potty and play, please think hard before adopting this breed. If you want to leave your dog outside while you are gone, please reconsider this dog, and pretty much any dog. Unless your dog is a working dog on your farm, let them be part of the family and live inside when you are gone. Too many Pyrs have been surrendered who were tethered up outside because their owner felt that was the only way to "keep them" from running away. Just think hard on your dog breed match, and never think you can out-train a long history of breeding this INTO the dog. Those who own Pyrs to work as livestock guardians can attest, all this independence is what allows the owners to sleep at night, knowing their flocks are protected without the direction of a human…it's natural for them!
-by Shannon Murphy