Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
To entertain a Great Pyrenees, it helps to better understand what this majestic dog breed was selectively bred for and then find activities that will match this breed's interests.
Not all dog breeds are created equally, and therefore, it is quite normal for some dogs to find certain activities more interesting than others. For example, Beagles were selectively bred for tracking scent, so these dogs excel at nose work, while retrieving dog breeds such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers may go bonkers over a game of fetch.
Great Pyrenees are livestock guardians, and therefore, just like the Maremma Sheepdog of Italy and the Kuvasz of Hungary, are working dogs at heart.
A Look Back in History
Great Pyrenees were selectively bred to guard sheep on the steep, mountainous slopes of the Pyrenees mountains found in Basque country, right between France and Spain.
Here, these majestic dogs were mostly used to protect vulnerable flocks of sheep and goats from large predators such as bears and wolves. To carry out this important task, it was therefore fundamental for these dogs to possess strength and stamina.
Temperament-wise, these dogs are required to be calm, confident, and patient, yet they had to be quick to spring into action upon detection of any threat to the flock.
Working independently, away from human guidance, they also had to often make decisions on their own.
While today they are mostly kept as pets, Great Pyrenees make vigilant guardians of the home and family. As guardians, Great Pyrenees are not as overly active as certain other dog breeds.
Outdoors, they spend most of their time patrolling their territory and keeping a watchful eye on their surroundings. In general, Great Pyrenees maintain a "watch and see" approach so as to conserve their energy (and not spook the sheep!), keeping their energy supply for what mattered the most: chasing away any threats.
Several Pyr owners report that their dogs have a tendency to become more active at night when they go "on patrol mode," and bark with their booming voices at any sounds they perceive as intimidating. To stop Great Pyrenees barking, you will need to resort to several strategies.
While Pyrs are rather mellow dogs with low metabolism, they may get sometimes bored too. Owners of this breed may, therefore, wonder how to entertain a Great Pyrenees. There are several activities for Great Pyrenees, but you can only find what your Pyr likes best by experimenting.
How Do You Entertain a Great Pyrenees?
In general, Great Pyrenees need about an hour of exercise a day. However, this doesn’t mean you'll have to take him out for an hour walk. You can actually mix and match a variety of activities, and not all of them have to necessarily involve motor activities, considering that mental games can be equally tiring too.
Keeping your Pyr's mind and body active has several benefits. When dogs have too much energy, they tend to get into trouble because they are forced to craft their own forms of entertainment. These forms of entertainment are often not welcomed by most dog owners. If you provide your Great Pyrenees with acceptable outlets for his pent-up energy, you will help reduce unwanted behaviors.
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On top of this, exercise and mental stimulation help keep your Pyr at a healthy weight while maintaining those muscles strong to support his skeletal system.
Some words of caution are needed though with this breed. Certain high-impact exercises may be hard on a dog's developing joints, so consult with your vet before starting any sports or potential high-impact activities if you own a young Pyr. You may want to wait for when your puppy's growth plates have closed, and even then, some activities may be too much for a large breed dog such as the Pyr.
Exercising in warm weather can also put this breed at risk. While their coat may seem heavy, it is a mistake to shave it down as it's meant to protect them from the harmful sun.
There are several ways you can entertain a Great Pyrenees. Just like people though, each dog may have their personal preferences, so be careful in assessing whether your Pyr is having fun or not. The following are several activities for Great Pyrenees.
5 Activities for Great Pyrenees
1. Fun Training Sessions
While Great Pyrenees are smart and quick to learn, they have a tendency to get bored easily. They'll show their boredom by executing what you ask them in super slow-motion. It is up to you to keep them interested and on their feet.
Avoid repetition (mix in a variety of exercises) and keep training sessions brief and upbeat, always ending them on a positive note. Two to three training sessions lasting a few minutes each day are much preferable to a longer, more tedious session.
Due to this breed's calm nature, Pyrs tend to learn easily to sit/stay and down/stay, but they may struggle with coming quickly when called. Instilling enthusiasm and making training sessions fun and rewarding can help perk them up a bit.
Make sure to start your training in a quiet environment and build from there, gradually offering different environments and situations. Because Pyrs are often hyper-vigilant of their surrounding, asking them to perform obedience exercises or tricks when there is too much stimulation around may cause them to ignore you to go investigate.
2. Entertaining Brain Games
As with other working breeds, Pyrenees need mental stimulation to keep their brains busy. Fail to do so, and they'll likely find their own forms of entertainment and they won't be pretty. Left to their own devices, bored Pyr may engage in excessive chewing, digging, and barking.
Make sure to provide your Pyr with interactive toys such as food puzzles, foraging opportunities and brain games such as hiding your Pyr's chew toys in a pool filled with sand to keep his brain thinking.
3. Walks and Hikes
Pyrs generally don't make great jogging companions because they don't make good long-distance runners. Indeed, if we look at their history, most of their running was dedicated to sending away enemies from their flocks. And even when they chased their enemies, they didn't go much far. Just barely enough to send the enemy away so they could quickly return to the vulnerable sheep.
However, walking is something that this breed may enjoy. But just as with training, variety is the spice of life for this breed. Make sure to change routes and provide different scenarios.
Hikes can also be an enjoyable activity for this breed. As a livestock guardian, the Great Pyrenees was used to roaming up hills and rocky areas. Allowing these large dogs to carry a backpack on walks can help give them a mission in life. Make sure though to always bring extra water in warmer weather and have your A/C already turned on high when you're both ready to come inside. Hot days should be avoided.
4. Games of Fetch
As mentioned, every dog is different so it would be wrong to say that ALL Pyrs have a natural disinterest in fetching. If you toss the ball and your Pyr puppy goes after it and brings it back to you for more, foster this skill and treasure it!
If your Pyr acts disinterested though, you can try with some patience to build a little bit of drive, by scheduling your fetching sessions when your Pyr appears to be active. However, if your Pyr looks at you with a disgusted look on his face every time you toss the ball, you know you have asked too much and are better off offering a different activity.
5. Pulling Small Carts
It may seem a bit odd to attach a Great Pyrenees to a cart, but in Belgium and Northern France, Pyrs were used in the past for pulling carts of milk.
Of course, in order to have your Pyr pulling carts, you will need to gradually get him conditioned to it. Some dogs may dislike the restraint and may panic making the activity far from enjoyable and even potentially dangerous.
In order to help your Pyr succeed, you will therefore need to do lots of gentle groundwork, getting him gradually habituated to wearing the harness and the weight of the cart.
Of course, it's important to research types of harnesses and carts to find the most appropriate and it's fundamental that the carting dog is in perfect physical condition, free of any orthopedic problems and of appropriate age (no developing puppies, ask your vet for advice on when your Pyr can start so to not damage the delicate puppy growth plates).
If your Pyr falls in love with carting, consider that the Great Pyrenees Club of America holds an annual Draft Dog test!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2020 Adrienne Farricelli
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 09, 2020:
Thanks for enlightening us about this magnificent breed of dog. It is good to know about certain breeds before adopting them into a family setting.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 29, 2020:
Hi Devika, you are so right that it's important doing research before getting a dog of a particular breed. This piece of advice alone could save many heartaches.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 29, 2020:
They are not very common to come by. In Italy, we had the Maremma sheepdogs which are also livestock guardians and quite similar. They were popular in areas with herds of sheep. I hope you get to know one, one day!
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 29, 2020:
Hi this is an interesting read about the Pyrenees I am glad you wrote an informative and well-researched hub. Dogs are great pets but only if the owner chooses the right pet. Your step by step guide increased my knowledge.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 28, 2020:
I've never had a Great Pyrenees as a pet. I have had a golden retriever and Labradors. As you say, they do go bonkers over a game of fetch! The Great Pyrenees sounds like an interesting dog. I'd like to get to know one.