Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Great Pyrenees, Selective Breeding, and Barking
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 one that doesn't exhibit this behavior. It's not like these dogs like to hear their voices; it's simply that they were selectively bred to use their bark for a particular 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 were on the prowl.
The dogs' white, heavy coats helped them blend with the flock and provided them with protection from harsh, cold weather—as well as from the teeth and claws of potential predators. How were predators discouraged from potentially harming livestock? You guessed 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, one made a prized guardian for the Chateau of Lourdes. In 1675, this breed was proclaimed the "Royal Dog of France." 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 Pyr 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 Pyr 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 one 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 Pyr 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 Pyr may become suspicious of everyone. Ongoing socialization though should still be implemented throughout the dog's life. A well-socialized Pyr will be less likely to unnecessarily bark towards stimuli that he recognizes don't pose a threat.
As with other working dogs, Pyrenees 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 see your Pyr raise his head and then go back to nap if he had a busy day.
Keep Indoors at Night
As mentioned, many Pyr 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 Pyr indoors is a good option as inside noises are buffered and many dogs are less likely to bark. The same applies if your dog 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 Pyrenees 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 Pyr Rescue, when it comes to training "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 Pyr, 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 Pyr, 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 Pyrenees 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 Pyr often learn from older Pyrs about 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 Pyr to accept cars passing by saying "it's just a car." 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 Pyr knows you acknowledged the disturbance and can now relax. If there are noises that tend to upset your dog you can use desensitization and counterconditioning by presenting the noise at a low level and repeatedly pairing it with a tasty treat.
As seen, there are some steps you can take to reduce barking in your Pyr, but you cannot eliminate this tendency completely. If you are away most of the day and your dog barks relentlessly in the yard, consider taking him to daycare or hiring a pet sitter that can keep him entertained when you are away in order to keep the barking better under control. It's unfortunate that many Pyrs 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.
For Further Reading
- How to Stop a Dog From Barking in the Morning
Barking can be troublesome if the dog wakes you up every morning to be fed! Barking in the morning for the purpose of waking up the owners and eliciting them to start their day early is a form of nuisance barking. What increases this form of barking.
- Understanding Dog Counterconditioning
Dog counter-conditioning is behavior modification technique that goes to the root of your dog's problem by changing your dog's underlying emotional responses.
- Dog Behavior: Why Do Dogs Bark at Nothing?
Why do dogs bark for no good reason? Truth is, very likely there is a reason but humans cannot detect it. Learn which stimuli may trigger unexplained barking in your dog.
- Dog Behavior: How to Stop a Dog From Barking at Men ...
Learn how to help your fearful dog cope with men coming into your home. Understand effective techniques to change your dog's emotional state and perception about men.
Questions & Answers
Question: Why does it take my great Pyrenees so long to go potty when I let her out in the morning?
Answer: Most likely, she has to do her "rounds" of sniffing and checking out if there are any changes. We must remember that dogs, unlike us, don't just urinate and defecate to get rid of waste, but use their waste as well as a form of marking their territory and leaving information for other animals to find.
Question: How does a dog's bark collar work?
Answer: A bark collar may work in different ways. Some are meant to emit a spray of citronella, some others will deliver shock and some others may emit ultrasonic sounds. The spray, shock and ultrasonic sound are evoked by the dog's barking. Bark after bark, the dog starts associating the spray, shock or sound with their barking behavior. All bark collars are therefore meant to suppress the barking through punishment. The problem with these is that they fail to tackle the underlying cause of barking and dogs may get more stressed and anxious in the long run.
© 2014 Adrienne Farricelli
Pyrenees Neighbor on August 22, 2020:
You dog owners that bring this breed into neighborhoods are totally rude. Do you really think you have the right to annoy your neighbors because you "love" your dog? You chose the dog, your neighbors did not. Keep it inside or send it to a home where it can be what it is.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 11, 2019:
Moving to an apartment is a big change and he likely is going through an adjustment period. It is hard to sa whether this will get better with time considering that barking can feel reinforcing. You may find some of these tips helpful, but not sure if they will work if he's really stressed; https://pethelpful.com/dogs/How-to-Stop-Your-Dog-F...
Sarah on December 11, 2019:
I recently moved into an apartment and brought my boy, who's 8 years old, with me. I was well aware of his barking tendencies and he used to respond to me, and calm down after a moment. But now he's barking non-stop, and it's upsetting my neighbors. I'm heartbroken because I don't want to send him back to my parents. I know he'd be miserable without me (and I'd be miserable too!) but right now neither of us are able to relax at all. Do you think this is something that will get better with time? Or are there just too many different noises and he's too old to get used to it?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 20, 2019:
Luna, this sadly happens when people adopt dogs without researching the breed.
Luna on November 06, 2019:
They didn't have the barking bred out because the dog is literally bred to bark and protect. Not be family pets. You're cruel and should be considered an animal abuser for cutting his vocal cords.
Jasper on November 01, 2019:
No one ever thought to breed out the barking...sad.
I’m having my pyres vocal cords cut. I’ve had it.
Theresa on July 25, 2019:
Henry may get us kicked out of a lovely home we are renting.
We don’t want him to bark but we have to go to work at some point and can’t always be here to stop him ( he is inside, he is a Pyrenees, he gets exercise and discipline).
Dawn on July 01, 2019:
But I have 2 one is a mix and they can bark all night I knew this before I got them that’s what they do that’s the breed and I don’t correct that love my Pyrenees
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 02, 2019:
Raditu, maybe it's time to get a GPS tracking collar to know where he goes? If you do not have a fence, that would be recommended for your dog's safety.
Debra on May 14, 2019:
When i first got Buddy @5 years old, i put him in the fence with a single goose which had lost her mate and she buddied up to him. He protected her till the neighbor complained.We found the goose a new home with her kind and i moved Buddie to the back side of the house in the compound with the other dogs so his barking don't disturb the neighbor.
Raditu on May 07, 2019:
We have an Antonian and and Great Pry who came from a field. He is very skittish but loving when you can get near him. We live on a forested area and he takes off at dusk and returns at dawn. This is very worrisome to us but he will not come into the house so it’s almost impossible to deal with. Any ideas or even idea where he goes? Thanks.
cacarr on March 12, 2019:
I have a 5/8 Anatolian X 3/8 Great Pyr -- my God, does she ever bark. We have her in a rather over-stimulating city environment, so it's not her fault. Don't have any worry about anyone coming into the yard or house uninvited, but our neighbors probably secretly hare us.
Vic Davis on February 26, 2019:
I’ve raised from puppy and have rescue Pyrs. Neither 100%, but best results for both were by going out to where the dog is barking and claiming the responsibility for the ‘threat’ in a quiet, confident, reassuring way, essentially guarding the area as their alpha/teacher. Now,Instead of ten minutes of window shaking barking, I get three or four ‘woofs’ and they get an ‘attaboy’. We go for a one to two hour walk/patrol daily. They do bark and keep cougars, bears and coyotes away but if a wayward possum, raccoon, rat or mole makes it way on my property, there is rarely any sound, just a trophy in the morning. Oddly, they don’t go after cats or rabbits, they treat them like entertainment, and just watch them.
They are primarily nocturnal. They are also the best guardian on earth, nurturing, gentle and loyal. One other big point, even though they can be classified as mastiffs (mollusars), I have yet to find a record of one biting, let alone attacking a human. Intimidating yes, attacking no.
Yeah, I’m biased, but they are incredible creatures.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 23, 2019:
Joanne, I think providing him with a job to do will certain make him happy, especially since guarding livestock is something this breed was bred to do. While it may to a certain extent perhaps cut down on barking due to boredom, I am not sure if it will curb his barking totally, also considering that if he bonds with the chicken and takes his job seriously, he may bark when he's inside to be let out, upon hearing the slightest noises.
JoAnn Cox on February 15, 2019:
Im thinking of erecting a tall wooden fence my our couldn't see through. Then I would put a small flock of chickens for him to "guard. "
He would be out in the fenced area perhaps 3-4 hours daily.,then in the house.
Would this cut down on outdoor barking (having him with other animals)?
Laurie Hedlund on January 07, 2019:
Our Great Pyr (no mix) Hunter is now 3 yrs. old. Had him since he was 1 and raised with puppies & dogs. He is very protective, good with our horses, I walk him everyday before watching the horses tied up. Off leash he has his own mind and doesn't listen. Wanders our foothills. If we leave in the car, he wants to come and digs to get out! And he has ruined part of a good fence and got out. Always comes home! His new thing is to bark a lot, even tho we let him in the house for people time.
Charles on January 04, 2019:
I found this info on barking very helpful. The part about keeping their mind busy during the day rang a bell with me.l have to g.p s They are brothers. Iam lucky my friend is home during the day while Iam working to make sure they behave! When its important I give them a strong comand so they know I mean buisness. This works with them.I say this to maybe help other owners. Thank you Charles
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 09, 2014:
Oh, no! I feel awful for those dogs who undergo that procedure. Not to mention, it doesn't stop them from making noises, which for some can be far more annoying than the barking itself.
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on April 08, 2014:
I love your suggestions. I best like the fact that you didn't advise people to take the dog to the vet to get the voice chord cut off. That is cruelty to a dog. Dogs need to communicate, and their voice is their power, their ability to do their job, which is to protect and warn their flock. Great hub.