I LIVE IN THE SOUTH; HOW DOES A PYRENEES DO IN HOT WEATHER?
Our Pyrs were born and raised in Georgia with temperature extremes of 0 to 100 degrees! Because they are working dogs, they are outside 24/7. They are absolutely their happiest in snowy and frigid weather, but 9 months of our year are warm to hot temperatures so they learn to adapt.
There are a couple of very important factors and those are shade and water. Natural tree shade with dirt to dig is cooler than a building, but shelter shade is acceptable with plenty of ventilation, and possibly even fans during the hottest days. It is a great idea to provide a kiddy pool or a shallow water trough in the shaded areas to help them cool off. And of course, NEVER EVER let them run out of clean cool drinking water. **
SHOULD I SHAVE MY PYRENEES IN THE SUMMER?
These double coated dogs have protection both in winter from cold, but also in summer from the hot sun. Their skin is very fair and they are very prone to sunburn if they are shaved, so we do not recommend that. The best plan for summer for the working dogs is to have a late spring/early summer grooming/blow out to eliminate any dead hair that has accumulated, and the shedding winter undercoat. This will leave them a fluffy, loose layer of top coat to protect from sun. You do have to be alert to hot spots that could develop under mats or in areas of insect bites or abrasions. Sometimes there are medical reasons to shave but that is not our general practice. **
WELL WHAT ABOUT THE COLD – SOMETIMES IT GETS BELOW FREEZING?
These dogs are their absolute happiest in the cold, and are able to acclimate to below zero temperatures if they live outside full time. They must have shelter to keep them dry and out of the wind, and insulation such as straw, shavings or hay to bed down. If they are livestock guardians, they will want to be with the livestock who are also sheltered from wind and precipitation. **
**All the above answers apply to Full Time Livestock Guardian Dogs only. If your Pyr is a pet that goes in and out, that dog should be regularly groomed (not shaved) and brought indoors with extreme heat or cold. **
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST DANGERS TO MY LIVESTOCK GUARDIAN LIVING OUTSIDE?
The biggest risks are ESCAPE and subsequent injury, HEAT STROKE if not managed properly with shade and water, PARASITES, especially heartworms and tick-borne illnesses if not on parasite control, and PREDATORS if you have too few dogs for your pasture size and geographic area.
These are all manageable risks with proper husbandry.
I HAVE HEARD THAT PYRENEES ARE ESCAPE ARTISTS – IS THAT TRUE?
YES, they all have the potential to become escape artists!! They have different styles of escape – Over (climbing), Under (digging) or Through (pushing through a small fence defect to make it big enough to escape).
Good fences make good Pyrenees! A Pyr that grows up from puppyhood without escape opportunities is less likely to challenge fences (though they will still wander if a gate is not shut/latched properly). An ideal fence would be 6-foot horse fence with 2x4 mesh, and solid fence post placing. A compromise is 47-inch field fencing stretched tight with live electric wire six inches inside the fence at two levels. Fence maintenance is of course crucial as weather and time can allow problems to develop, and the Pyrs are always looking for an opportunity!
HOW DO I TRAIN MY DOG TO BE A GOOD LIVESTOCK GUARDIAN?
The best news is that if you are getting your pup from a working farm where parents are great guardians, that is a good predictor that yours will also be a dedicated LGD. We advise getting the pup very young to bond with your specific herd/flock and family. The peak socialization period is from 8-12 weeks, and we have found that getting the pup moved early in that time period is very beneficial. You will see differing opinions in that some breeders want the pups trained by their dams for a few months before moving to another herd or flock. That does work, but there can be some difficulty transitioning depending on age. If it is a brand new operation with new livestock not familiar with dogs, and no older dogs around to model, it is an option to get an older pup, but make 100% sure it is bonded to livestock, not to humans. Also be extra careful in the transition period to make sure enclosures are 100% escape proof!
MY PUPPY IS SO LITTLE – SHOULD I KEEP HIM IN THE HOUSE FOR A FEW WEEKS UNTIL HE IS BIGGER BEFORE PUTTING HIM WITH THE LIVESTOCK?
Absolutely not!! A cardinal rule is that your pup will bond with whatever he is exposed to in that critical period. If the pup is taken in the house for a few weeks, he will develop an intense bond with the humans, and will forever and always want to be with his humans and it will be very difficult to convince him otherwise. Our recommended technique is to have the pup inside a safe enclosure that is in the midst of the livestock, with shelter, food and water when humans are not around. As often as possible, take the pup out in the midst of the livestock to begin to have contact. Also walk the perimeter a couple of times a day of the area to be guarded. It is okay for the pup to be chased by a mama hen or butted by a mama goat as that will develop respect without injury. He can be left loose with the livestock as long as his people are nearby and watching. After a couple of weeks, he can be left out longer and longer. When you are convinced after several weeks that he will not chase chicks or pull goat kid tails, then it is safe to leave him unobserved. Make sure he always has a safe place to escape to, and food that is not accessible to the livestock. Be aware of deep water troughs or buckets that he could climb into and be unable to escape.
As far as humans go, all family members should spend lots of time with the pup in his work environment only. Any POSITIVE INTERACTIONS – food, treats, petting, play – should happen inside the livestock area. He should never be rewarded for escaping to the house or outside of the livestock area.
The same goes with house pets that may wander out to the livestock facilities at times. Pet house dogs should be taken to the pup's enclosure frequently during the bonding/training period so that the LGD recognizes the pet as friend, not foe in future encounters.
WHEN SHOULD I SPAY/NEUTER MY DOG?
Eighteen months to twenty four months of age is our recommended time for spay or neuter in giant breeds to minimize bone growth plate disturbances and certain types of cancer. This means that a FEMALE pup will likely go through at least one heat cycle (usually between 7-12 months of age) before spay. During this time, she should be confined in a secure location from which neither she can escape or a male get in with her.
WHY SHOULDN'T I JUST GET A RESCUE PYRENEES?
Sadly, we have seen tragedies and poor outcomes on farms trying to put an adult rescue in with the livestock. Rescues can make good pets with lots of TLC but are not likely to turn into dedicated LGDs. The exception is if they came from a farm that is downsizing or closing down and has similar type of livestock.
WHY PURCHASE PUPS OF EMBARK/OFA HEALTH-TESTED, AKC REGISTERED PYRENEES IF I DON’T PLAN TO BREED THEM?
Embark DNA testing both identifies the dog’s ancestry and genetic health risks. Our Embark-tested Pyrs are proven to be 100% Purebred Great Pyrenees. While AKC Registration is a good indication of Purebred status, papers can be falsified, DNA testing cannot. Embark also tests for the most common genetic health risks, guiding breeders to make the best pairing choices. We can guarantee that none of our pups will be “At Risk/"Affected” for any of the diseases tested by Embark.
OFA radiographs in the parents is a great indicator of overall health and longevity you can expect for your pup. In addition to orthopedic testing (hips, elbows, patellas, shoulders), OFA also offers a cardiovascular examination.
While many “backyard breeders” offer unregistered “purebred” Great Pyrenees, the fact is that without AKC Registration (or DNA testing), the buyer has no way to actually confirm this. In addition, a dog can be purebred but also INBRED or poorly matched, resulting in genetic health risks or severe conformation or behavioral faults. The AKC Pedigree allows a potential buyer to identify the family tree of a registered litter.