How to feed a Pyrenean Mountain Dog

I am answering a couple of Frequently Barked Questions about food today. The first part of the post is about the appetite of an adult Great Pyrenees and the second part will tell you about feeding puppies – they eat a lot more!

Adults

FBQ: Do Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, or Great Pyrenees, eat a lot?

Clowie: When we’re fully grown our appetite is quite modest for our size. As a rough guide, we usually eat about the same as a working Border Collie or an adult Labrador should eat.

We usually spend a large part of our day in a comfortable spot where we can see as much as possible of what is going on without needing to move. This means we don’t use as much energy as dogs that like to keep on the move all the time.

We are not generally greedy. Although you will find a few Pyrenean Mountain Dogs who like their food too much and have to watch their weight, you are more likely to encounter a Pyrenean Mountain Dog who is slightly fussy about his food.

I have days, especially in the hot weather, when I don’t want to eat at all and this is not unusual for my breed. It is nothing to worry about in a healthy adult if it’s a day here and there.

I like to have a light breakfast and eat more in the evening – my evening meal is about double my breakfast in size. I know that a number of my relations agree with me on this.

Puppies

FBQ: How should I feed a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, or Great Pyrenees, puppy?

Clowie: The short answer to that is lots and lots of top quality food!

Pet food bowl

My bowl is empty – again!

It isn’t surprising that we need a lot of food while we’re growing when you consider how fast we grow. I reached most of my adult height by the time I was six months old. It takes young humans more than a decade to grow that much.

From the time I went to live with my bipeds as a small puppy I had four meals a day, until I was six months old. Our vet said that it’s important to have frequent meals as our digestive system is working at its peak to process enough food to grow so rapidly. The size of my meals gradually increased during that time. Our vet advised allowing me to eat as much as I wished at mealtimes.

My appetite peaked at about five months of age. My bipeds made rude jokes about shovelling food in at one end and clearing up what came out at the other end!

Wheelbarrow

Guess what the bipeds said they needed this for!

When I was about six months old I began rejecting the second meal of the day, so my bipeds fed me three times a day. I ate a little more at each meal, but the quantity for the day had stopped increasing.

When I was about nine months old I lost interest in the second meal of the day and my bipeds changed to two meals a day. From then my appetite gradually decreased until I was about eighteen months old when it reached a steady level.

This may seem a strange way of doing things, but my bipeds were advised by a number of people with lots of experience of my breed that the best way was to allow me to decide how much I needed to eat and when to change the number of meals. This is because we mature and grow at different rates and have growth spurts needing extra food at different times. A rigid plan cannot cater for the differences between puppies. When it comes to food requirements, a Pyrenean Mountain Dog puppy knows best!

My bipeds weighed and measured me every week to keep an eye on my progress. When I was too heavy to lift and weigh at home they took me to the vet’s office every week to weigh me on the scales in his reception area. That meant lots of fuss for me from the receptionist and sometimes the vet had a spare moment and came to pet me! He would have a quick chat with my bipeds while he stroked me, he gave them reassurance that I was growing and progressing as I should.

Many brands of dog food have a special food for large breed puppies. Not only are the pieces larger so that we have to chew rather than gulp our food down, but attention is paid to the nutrients we need to grow healthily at the rate we do.

I’m not going to say very much about raw feeding – it’s a topic in its own right. I just wish to say that if you decide to go that route while your dog is a puppy then make sure you do your research thoroughly and take advice from people familiar with the breed. Dogs of different ages and sizes have different nutritional needs.

I have read some old books about my breed, written before commercial dog food was widely available. They included some eating plans for growing puppies created by experienced breeders. Each plan included supplements for strong bone growth and substantial amounts of top-quality meat such as best, lean, beef steak.

My bipeds said it was expensive keeping me in kibble while I was growing, but I think those juicy steaks would have cost them a lot more!

Kibble

Kibble

I’m sorry this post is a bit dry but, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, kibble is as kibble does. And I can assure you that kibble is dry!

See you next Wednesday!

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Swan or enemy?

I was travelling through the Lake District, North West England, with my bipeds and we decided to take a break and stretch our legs. We stopped by a lake and the male biped said he’d join us soon, but he wanted to rearrange some of the luggage in the car as something was making a noise. I was keen to investigate, so I set off with the female biped.

We made our way down to the shore and strolled along. I found some interesting smells to sniff, but my biped said I should leave it as it was only duck poop – as though I didn’t know what I was sniffing! After about fifteen minutes we began to wonder why the male biped hadn’t caught up with us and we turned back to find out. A strange sight met our eyes!

A swan trying to get food from a person

Crisps aren’t good for you!

The male biped was standing on a rock, keeping his crisps out of reach of a swan! The female biped laughed and took a photograph.

The male biped said, “It isn’t funny! He’s quite aggressive and it hurts when he pecks me!”

When I saw the swan move and peck the biped’s legs, I decided I should go and help. So the female biped decided she needed both hands free to make sure that I didn’t, which meant she couldn’t take any more photographs.

The male biped said, “The swan suddenly appeared and tried to snatch the crisps. I turned and started walking away and then he came at me making a hissing noise, with his wings flapping, so I hopped up here thinking he’d get bored and go away. But that doesn’t seem to be working!”

As he was speaking, another swan came waddling up and joined the first one. Things were getting serious! So I made another attempt to go to his aid, but the female biped told me to wait.

The male biped said, “I think it would be better if you took Clowie back up to the car.”

She said, “Okay, we don’t want a bad situation getting any worse, but what are you going to do?”

The male replied, “I’m thinking about a small distraction and then legging it as fast as I can!”

The female biped asked, “Distraction?”

The male biped waved the packet of crisps and said, “I didn’t want to give him any as he’ll think he can go around mugging people for food, but I can’t think of anything else to do.”

The female said, “He already knows he can mug people for food!”

I wanted to stay to help the male biped, but I walked back up to the road as requested. We saw the male biped make a show of dropping a few crisps on one side of the rock to get the attention of the swans. As soon as they bent over to get the crisps, he hopped down on the other side and started running towards us.

When he reached the steps he paused to look back. He should know that you never look back! Sure enough, the swans had eaten the crisps and were following him. I gave a warning woof and the male biped realised his mistake and ran up the steps, leaving the hissing and flapping swans behind.

Swan on water

Swans look much nicer in the water!
Attribution: By Mihael Grmek (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The usual reason for a swan to be aggressive is in defence of a nest, but the bipeds said that they weren’t planning to stay and explain to these swans that they shouldn’t be mugging people for food!

See you next Wednesday!

Creative design

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question (FBQ) this week.

FBQ: Are Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, or Great Pyrenees, destructive?

Clowie: My short answer to that is that a contented and trained adult Pyrenean Mountain Dog is not destructive. I have not damaged anything in the house or garden since I was about nine months old.

However, we are capable of doing a lot of damage in a short space of time, so I can see why some people would say that we are destructive. Early training is very important so that we learn not to chew on the furniture!

Some of my creative efforts, when I was a puppy, have been misunderstood and my bipeds have said I’ve made a “terrible mess”. I believe that’s what they said when I gave the bathroom a makeover in the space of about ten minutes!

I never once chewed a shoe as a puppy. Oh, my biped has just peeped over my shoulder and said that’s because they kept them in the cupboard until I knew better and reminded me what I did to the table and benches in the kitchen – again my intentions were misunderstood!

Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Clowie

Chews taste better than shoes!

There was an incident with a baby gate they’d put across a doorway. It was hardly my fault that some of the door frame came away when I pushed the gate out of my way – the door frame must have been quite weak!

I tried to chew my way through a door – and I was doing quite well when they stopped me, but that was before I knew any better. I also chewed a chunk of plaster from the wall, but you don’t know you can’t eat something until you try it. I only did that once because it tastes awful!

I’m quite skilled at gardening and made the lawn much more interesting than just flat grass. My bipeds were so impressed that they gave me a corner of the garden to landscape as I pleased.

I did rearrange some plants that unfortunately died, but every gardener has to learn through experience – I didn’t know the roots were meant to be in the ground! They were mostly quite small plants as they are the easiest to move, but I did move a few shrubs and a small tree as well.

A large beech tree

My idea of a small tree!
Attribution: Philip Halling [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I was accused of wrecking a water feature, but that was a misunderstanding – they kept putting plants in my outdoor drinking bowl!

I will make no excuse for sending the freshly-laid turf flying – that was lots of fun!

I think all of that is fairly normal puppy behaviour – I wasn’t unusual for a Pyrenean Mountain Dog puppy.

I’ve said that a trained and contented adult Great Pyrenees is not destructive, which is true. But if a bored adult does decide to nibble on the furniture they are obviously going to do a lot of damage very quickly. Early training to establish desired behaviour patterns is very important, as is sufficient exercise and time with our bipeds.

It is also important to prepare a Great Pyrenees to spend some time alone – we are just as prone as any dog to suffer from separation anxiety. It is better to avoid this than to remedy it. A distressed adult Pyrenean Mountain Dog has a lot of weight to throw about and most internal doors will not resist for long!

If our delight in digging hasn’t been controlled or directed in some way, you could end up with a copy of the Pyrenean Mountains in your back garden – my ancestors did create that range of mountains!

What do you think? Would you describe a Pyrenean Mountain Dog as destructive?





Aqua paw print

See you next Wednesday!

Carry on socialising

I’m answering a Frequently Barked Question today.

FBQ: My Great Pyrenees (Pyrenean Mountain Dog) is nine months old and shows no signs of being protective. He wants to be friends with everyone and everything we meet. Should I stop socialising him to encourage him to be protective?

Clowie: Carry on socialising! When he’s a little older, he will be protective if there’s danger. That’s the short answer, now I will explain.

It’s important to continue socialising him. Socialisation will not prevent him from being protective of his family when it’s necessary, but it will enable him to make sensible decisions about when you need his protection.

The fact that he’s friendly and relaxed shows you’ve done a great job of socialising him so far. You should continue to give him as many new experiences as you can.

Clowie , Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees, smiling

I like to be friends with everyone, but I’m always watchful

Nine months old is still very young, Great Pyrenees are not considered mature until two or three years old. Our protective instincts are very strong, but the age at which they’re first noticed varies from dog to dog and depends on circumstances.

An insufficiently-socialised dog worries about too many situations and becomes too protective. An adult dog that is nervous and overprotective can be difficult to handle – we are large and very strong.

A well-socialised adult Pyrenean Mountain Dog will be relaxed and confident in most situations, although he will always be alert to the possibility of danger and ready to act if needed.

Many people have been surprised at how quickly their relaxed and friendly Great Pyrenees acted when he saw danger to his family. Our presence is often enough to keep danger away from our loved ones. We like to find a pleasant spot where we can observe everything that is going on, so that we are the first to know if there is any danger and we can act if we need to.

We are very good at multi-tasking, whatever we’re doing you can be sure that some of our attention is reserved for keeping an eye out for danger. I had to reprimand a naughty Border Collie who had his nose in my biped’s bag at obedience class when I was not quite two years old – my biped thought she had my complete attention doing heel work!

I think my biped was less surprised when I warned the pushy man who tried to stop her from closing the front door, as I was more mature then and she knew how watchful I am.

My bipeds laugh because I can sleep through all kinds of normal household activity, but I will be wide awake and on my paws in an instant if there is the slightest unusual sound.

Clowie, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, sleeping

Don’t be fooled by my snoring – I can still hear everything!

Keep up the good work and continue socialising as much as you can – it really pays dividends for you and your dog. However soft and friendly a Great Pyrenees is, he will always protect those he’s close to when there’s danger.

See you next Wednesday!

Crawling for beginners

Pippin, the cat, still keeps telling me that he isn’t speaking to me after the tale I told recently. I pointed out to him that every time he tells me that, he is in fact speaking to me – he wasn’t amused! He said that I should be doing some crawling if I want to get back into his good books.

I know he meant it in the sense of being extra nice to him and not literally, but it reminded me that I have found it very useful at times to be able to crawl. I’ve already told you about being able to crawl through the dog gates at the side of some stiles.

I’ve been meaning to explain how I learnt to crawl. I said it was quite easy, but when I thought about explaining it I realised that it was only easy once I had the idea that my biped wanted me to shuffle forwards without getting up. It was then a case of doing a tiny bit more each time for the treat, but getting started was a little harder.

My biped asked a trainer for tips on how to teach me to crawl when I was still a puppy. The advice was for her to sit on the floor with her knees raised while I was in the down position.

Stick figure seated on floor

Like this, but both knees raised

She was told to hold a treat under her knees just out of my reach. There were only two problems with this! I was already too large to wriggle under her knees without knocking her over. And it was still tricky to be on the floor with me because I didn’t yet have the good manners that I have now! My biped tried a couple of times, but it was a failure and she decided to wait a while.

We had lots of short training sessions and I learnt lots of new tricks. One of my favourites was taking a treat when told! We also fitted in all the things I found boring, such as the “down” position.

Sphinx of Hetepheres

A sphinx demonstrating the classic “down” position
Attribution: By Jon Bodsworth [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

She would often bend over me and touch my shoulders or my back. If I kept still I would get extra treats, but if I tried to turn it into a game by grabbing her sleeve she would take her arm away and ask me to do something else.

A few months later she did start getting on the floor with me again when I was in the “down” position. She would offer me a treat but it would be just out of reach!

Cartoon dog and bone

Down with a treat just out of reach

My first reaction was to get up to get it, but that wasn’t what she wanted – I didn’t get the treat. She would put her hand on me when she saw me about to get up. We had a number of sessions where I was trying to understand. It can be quite frustrating as a dog when you want that treat and can’t figure out what to do to get it! My biped must have been watching my body language quite carefully because as soon as I started to get frustrated she would ask me to do some easy and fun things – guaranteed treats!

The day I decided to shuffle forwards a fraction to get the treat, I hit the jackpot! After I’d eaten the treat I was given a few more. She told me how clever I was and we had a game of football – that’s my favourite game!

From then on I was keen to shuffle forwards. She gradually expected me to move a little bit farther and added the word “crawl”. It wasn’t long before I could crawl a few feet. She would stand close to me when I was crawling to encourage me. Some dogs may find it intimidating to have someone standing over them and may need to practise together to feel relaxed before trying to learn to crawl.

It isn’t difficult to crawl – the hard part is understanding what the bipeds want, but that is so often the case!

See you next Wednesday!