The Pyrenean Mountain Dog
By Lisa Holmes
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is an ancient French Breed of dog, as the name suggests originating in the Pyrenees mountains. Madame Harper of the famous De Fontenay kennel introduced the breed to the United Kingdom in the early 1930’s.
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is very easily recognised by its size and appearance; A dog of great size, essential for its purpose, but always in proportion. This magnificent breed longevity is short due to its great size with an average life span of 10 years.
The breed has what is referred to as a double coat; a profuse undercoat of fine hairs and a thick, but course over coat designed to protect from both heat and cold in its originating environment of the Pyrenees Mountains. The Feathering on the legs is there to offer extra protection. The Males of the breed carry a thick mane, classically recognisable because it is always either pure white or white with Blaireau or pale-yellow markings.
The primary function of the Pyrenean Mountain Dog is to guard and herd. The guarding aspect of the breed is to protect flocks of sheep from bears and wolves in all weathers.
The characteristics of this breed are consistent with its origins, strong willed but at the same time affectionate and fearless. They must be patient and gentle with an air of confidence; but not overly so. They must also be watchful and protective of their charge. This breed will always guard its flock by way of barking; but not necessarily by aggression. These days the ‘flock’ would translate to the family that it lives with. The Pyrenean may also display the appearance of being aloof.
This breed needs to be well socialised through careful management and gentle consideration. The temperament should be friendly but always remember to its in-bred guarding instinct.
A secure environment is required as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog WILL roam if invited by an unsecured fence or gate! As this breed has an element of ‘independence’ they can NEVER really be trusted off a lead as they tend have an element of selective deafness which can and often does make training difficult.
Temperaments are greatly influenced by husbandry; if reared gently and respectfully the temperament is usually good. The first formative months of life are extremely influential in any breed, but the Pyrenean Mountain Dog is significantly influenced by its environment. Problems can occur with same sex aggression, usually but, not always between males; females can be equally aggressive to one another. At the onset of puberty (about 8 months for females and 12 months for males) be especially aware of this and prepared to deal with it immediately, if necessary with the advice of your br.
Exercising your Pyrenean Mountain Dog puppy; Understanding the reasons why a young dog should NOT be exercised inappropriately is vital to your dog’s health both in the immediate and long-term future. The simple process of over exercising your puppy is enough to damage the immature growth plates and developing bones and joints will be placed under stress. Small ‘greenstick’ and stress fracturs can form just by walking your new puppy too far on hard ground and when he is tired he is too heavy to carry home!
The term ‘forced exercise’ is often used to describe when a puppy or young is dog placed on a lead (quite innocently) then walked to the point of its muscle endurance. This is when the damage is done. The puppy or young dog has exceeded its endurance level but still must walk back home causing even more damage to the developing joints. The simple way the assess exercise levels is to ask yourself one simple question…
Would I allow an 18-month-old toddler to walk the same distance and expect them NOT to be tired?
The answer will inevitably be NO. So WHY would you expect a puppy or young dog to do the same; the joint development is comparable.
It is easy to avoid ‘forced’ exercise; playing and controlled ‘free’ running in the garden or small paddock are acceptable, but not to excess.
All slippery floors such as laminates, tiles, wooden floors must be avoided. It is a serious issue for a puppy to skid and splay its legs at any time, let alone during its developing stages. Just imagine yourself slipping and spreading your legs to the same degree…ouch!!! (probably a trip to the hospital will be needed). The same applies to your puppy, the same damage will be done. Stairs are a definite NO as is also jumping on and off furniture, walls or similar obstacles must be avoided in the first 18 months of life to avoid bone and joint injury
Because the Pyrenean Mountain dog is a ‘giant’ breed its rate of development should be carefully monitored and controlled. Excessively rapid growth with poor muscle development will all lead to health problems including those that will affect the skeleton. Natural exercise is all that is needed for healthy development coupled with plenty of rest and natural daylight.
One of the most serious conditions affecting the Pyrenean Mountain Dog is cancer. The most commonly occurring cancer in this breed is ‘bone’ cancer. This dreadful decease may go undetected until the symptoms become too much for the dog to tolerate. Unfortunately, by the time you are aware that your dog is ill it is often too late for intervention.
Because I have bred Pyrenean Mountain Dogs for many years, more than I care to remember! I would recommend that a good feeding program is implemented at the very beginning. Diet is very important, and your dog’s dietary needs will be advised by your breeder. I however, have found that a good quality complete food with added meat protein is a good starting point. Do not be fooled in to believing that a bowl of brown kibble twice a day will be enough. The Pyrenean Mountain Dog requires care and consideration when it comes to diet. I also offer goats milk, cheese, natural yoghurt, eggs both raw and cooked including the shell. But, your breeder will advise you.
A cautionary note: Vitamin Dᶾ builds bone and is instrumental in many aspects of your dog’s well-being. There is a school of thought is that the lack of vitamin Dᶾ (synthesised in the skin in daylight) may predispose to some cancers. Vitamin Dᶾ is absorbed into the dog’s system by licking the coat during natural self-grooming and ingesting the skin oils containing the active vitamin Dᶾ. The active vitamin is created by exposure to natural daylight but NOT through glass. The sunlight is not absorbed into the skin (as in humans) to create vitamin D but by secretion into the natural skin oils which the dog then licks and absorbs. There are many reasons why dogs self-groom and it is important to understand why dogs do the things they do.
If selecting a good complete food for your dog it is worth remembering to check the ingredients for ‘added’ vitamin Dᶾ. Vitamin D2is not the same.
At the age of about 12 months I start to cut back on food intake, (reduction in calories not necessarily amount) to avoid obesity. At 18 months to 2 years the Pyrenean Mountain Dog experiences what is termed a ‘growth spurt’, as it does at various stages of development such as puberty.
This is when the dog changes from puppy to an adolescent and as in humans’ teenagers become gangly and somewhat un co-ordinated. They give an appearance of not quite fitting their own bodies; legs become long and they may even look slightly under weight no matter how much food you feed. This is normal, just like teenage boys and girls,
When considering a Pyrenean Mountain Dog as a new addition to your family it is strongly advised that you seek out a reputable breeder; here are a few practical hints on how to find one:
- Contacting the breed clubs for the Pyrenean Mountain Dog is a very good starting point. They will be happy to advise and point you in the right direction.
- Under 2018 legislation all breeders must have a current breeding licence issued by their local council.
- Someone who carries out all the required health tests for this breed (see the list below)
- Good breeders will usually ask you all sorts of what may seem quite intrusive questions.
- A good breeder will ask you if you have researched the breed
- A reputable breeder will often tell you that they have a waiting list. Once they have interviewed you and possibly completed a home check you may be invited to place your name on their waiting list.
- A good breeder will not just sell you a puppy, but they will be supportive throughout the dog’s life.
What you must never do is buy a puppy on impulse, and a good breeder will recognise this instantly. If after reading this short overview of the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, you feel that it is the dog for you then please go on to research the breed in more depth so that you can ask the correct questions of your breeder. This way you will fully understand how magnificent this breed truly is.
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