How to Deal with Great Pyrenees Barking
An attentive guardian of your home
A Look Back into History
If your great Pyrenees is prone to barking, rest assured you are not alone. Barking in this breed is very common, so common that it's rare to see a great Pyrenees that doesn't like to bark. It's not like these dogs like to hear their voices, they were simply selectively bred to use their bark for a very good reason. Let's take a look at what these dogs were purposely bred for, shall we?
The great Pyrenees is a large, ancient breed of dog selectively bred to be a livestock guardian dog. They were used for hundreds of years by Basque shepherds inhabiting rural regions and mountainous slopes surrounding the Pyrenees mountains found in southern France. Their main task was protecting sheep from dangerous predators such as wolves and bears that would harm their flock. This often meant keeping an eye open in the night when many predators came to life. Their white, heavy coats helped them blend with the flock and provided them with protection from harsh, cold weather and teeth and claws of potential predators. How were predators discouraged from potentially harming livestock? You got it, the great Pyrenees resorted to their powerful, booming voices.
Because of these dogs' protective nature and appealing looks, they caught the eye of French royalty, and later on he made a prized guardian for the Chateau of Lourdes. They were soon were proclaimed the "Royal Dog of France" in 1675. Several specimens were transferred to Newfoundland, but the scarcity of predators due to widespread hunting practices made their use decline.
The Great Pyrenees Today
Great Pyrenees remain working dogs at heart. They are indeed categorized by the American Kennel Club under the working dog category. However, unlike some other working dogs who require constant training, the Great Pyrenees acts primarily on instinct. Today many great Pyrenees are still utilized as livestock guardians. Whether you have geese, ducks, chicken or sheep, this dog will enjoy taking care of the animals in your care. When you have more than one Pyr doing the job, you'll be fascinated by watching these dogs work as a team. They'll literally take turns guarding your livestock, many sleeping during the day so they can be active when the animals need it most: at night. This is the job they were bred for and in which they excel. Cheesemaker Marcia Barinaga of Barinaga Ranch in Marshall, California claims: "Great Pyrenees are an amazing example of the genetics of behavior,they’ve been protecting sheep for centuries, and there is nothing else they’d rather do.”
So what happens when the guardians aren't put to work on livestock? Most likely, their family will be their "flock" to defend. Those guarding instincts will still prevail. In the yard, the Pry will perform several perimeter checks to make sure everything is alright and there are no threats. If they are in the home, they may get anxious to get out and check those outdoor noises. When they detect something is amiss, they will bark in hopes of scaring whatever it is away. How much a Pry barks depends on many factors, genetics, the level of socialization and training received, the environment they are exposed to and more. You may end up with a Pyr that barks only when something is amiss, or a Pry that barks if a leaf falls from a tree.
Pyrs bark! They bark more than other dogs and this is why they may not do well in tight-knit communities. According to Indy Great Pyrenees Rescue, "Asking a Pry not to bark, is like asking a fish not to swim. Pyrs are bred to bark to keep potential animal and human intruders away. It is their way of letting everyone know they are on duty." You really cannot completely eliminate the instinct to bark but you can reduce its instances. Following are some suggestions:
Socialization is a good way for many dogs to learn about the world about them. In guardian dogs it's even more important as they must learn to accept what is normal in their whereabouts and today's society. Start socialization early, the window of opportunity is set to close at 16 weeks. During this time, it's very important to get the puppy accustomed to many different people so as he grows he won't feel the need for making his own decisions about who is friend and foe. Without careful early socialization, your Pry may become suspicious of everyone.Ongoing socialization though should still be implemented throughout the Pyr's life. A well-socialized Pry will be less likely to unnecessarily bark towards stimuli that he recognizes don't pose a threat.
- Exercise/ Mental Stimulation
As with other working dogs, Pyr need exercise and mental stimulation to keep their bodies in shape and minds stimulated. Fail to do so, and they'll find their own forms of entertainment and they won't be pretty. "An idle brain is the devil's workshop" goes the saying and this applies to bored dogs. If left to their own devices, you'll see chewing, digging and barking. Long daily walks, interactive toys, foraging opportunities, training sessions, play sessions and durable chews will help keep the mind occupied. A tired mind and body is less likely to react to the most subtle noises. The instinct to bark may still be there, but you're more likely likely see your Pry raise his head and then go back to nap if he had a busy day.
- Keep Indoors at Night
As mentioned, many Pry are active at night because that's when most predators tend to be around. Nocturnal hypervigilance towards noises may turn into relentless barking. Bringing your Pry indoors is a good option as inside noises are buffered and many dogs are less likely to bark. The same applies if your Pry tends to bark during the day. Take him indoors and find a suitable activity to keep that mind busy. Trainer and author Michelle Welton claims "Great Pyrenees should never be left outside in your yard, unsupervised. Their booming barks will have your neighbors calling the cops to report the nuisance -- or perhaps letting your Great Pyrenees out of his yard so he'll wander away."!
According to National Pyr Rescue ".Pyrs have a strong independent streak and are not easily obedience-trained. Training is a challenge for most owners, so if you require a dog who will display unquestioning obedience, you should probably look elsewhere." While this is for a good part true, don't let a trainer tell you they're un-trainable. They can be trained, they just need you to be patient, consistent and determined. According to Northeast Pry Rescue, when it comes to training a Pry "there is no shortcut and you will not achieve this in an 8-week obedience course; it is a lifetime commitment." Don't give up! So, yes, you can train a Pry, and you can also train them to bark less! How?
First and foremost, do not get frustrated and start yelling things like "stop it" or "knock it off." To the Pry you are only joining in the barking and making him more anxious if his barking is due to outdoor noises. Instead, better off acknowledging his barking by looking out the window and reassuring him that it's nothing to be concerned about. The Colorado Great Pryenees Rescue recommends saying something like this " "Thank you, good boy. It's okay, I see him. It's fine, let's go back to bed."
In a rural, natural setting, young Pry often learn from older Pry what is considered a threat. In a more urban setting, it's up to the owners to provide reassurance over what is or is not a threat. Train your Pry to accept cars passing by saying "it's just a car" and if he alerts you about something going on outside, take a peak, look at the disturbance and say "it's gone, all clear" so your Pry knows you acknowledged the disturbance and can now relax. If there are noises that tend to upset your Pry you can use desensitization and counterconditioning by presenting the noise at a low level and repeatedly pairing it with a tasty treat. For other types of barking, you may need a different approach, for more on barking read "why do dogs bark?"
As seen, there are some steps you can take to reduce barking in your Pry, but you cannot eliminate this tendency completely. If you are away most of the day and your Pry barks relentlessly in the yard, consider taking him to daycare or hiring a pet sitter that can keep him entertained when you are away and the barking better under control. It's unfortunate that many Pry are sent to rescue because of their barking, when this is something they naturally do. As with any breed, good research is a must to reduce the chances of unwanted pets.
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For further reading
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