A dog with attitude

I am going to answer a Frequently Barked Question, or FBQ, today.

FBQ: Is a Pyrenean Mountain Dog (Great Pyrenees) the right dog for me?

I have to point out that the people asking this question have it back to front. The question should really be: Am I the right person for a Pyrenean Mountain Dog? If you’re offended that I have turned the question round then the answer to your original question is a no!

People who live with Pyrenean Mountain Dogs are generally agreed that we have lots of attitude. I think that attitude is a good thing and I’ve seen lots of quotations saying that attitude is everything, but apparently some humans don’t want attitude from a dog!

My ancestors were bred to look after livestock in the mountains, with little or no supervision from humans. We are confident and think for ourselves. If you think a dog should obey you, without question, simply because you are a human, you are the wrong person for a Great Pyrenees.

We are intelligent and capable of learning quickly. Training needs to begin early and our bipeds usually think they have the perfect puppy for a while, as we pick things up so quickly. But most of us, sooner or later, start thinking about whether we actually want to do the things we’re asked to do. Then we start thinking about ways of avoiding doing the things we don’t want to do. I myself began this phase when I was about eleven weeks old – and I’m not particularly precocious!

We need bipeds who are patient and consistent to work through this with us. A sense of humour also helps! If you have those qualities, we’ll gradually grow to trust and respect you and we’ll do as we’re asked most of the time. Training us isn’t about dominance, we respond to positive reinforcement but we’re not usually as motivated by food as people expect dogs to be. I enjoy a treat or two, but I’m far more motivated by praise or a game.

Bone-shaped dog biscuits, treats

Thank you, but I’m not hungry!

I’m a well-behaved adult and I trust and respect my bipeds – they can take me anywhere with them. But I still occasionally check to see if my bipeds are on their toes by trying to bend a rule. Of course it’s just a coincidence that this happens when I know they’re in a hurry, or that it’s raining and they don’t really want to put on shoes to come outside to fetch me in from the garden! I’ve heard that I’m far from alone in doing this!

If that Pyr-attitude doesn’t worry you, check out “Not the dog for everyone“. For those brave souls who are still with me, here are just a few more things you should know before deciding that you’re right for a Great Pyrenees.

Size

It’s fairly obvious that we’re large, but this has lots of implications that are not as obvious – see “Santa Pups“.

Hair

We have lots of it! We moult heavily once or twice a year, but we’re generous with our hair the rest of the time – see “From hair to eternity“. I hope you don’t like wearing black!

Barking

We have a reputation for barking a lot. Our bark is loud, so it can be a cause for concern. I have barked about this a few times.

General barking – “To bark, or not to bark, that is the question“.

Preparing for the barking – “The calm before the barking storm“.

Barking at night – “Why barking at night can be a good thing“.

Aqua paw print

I hope you find the right dog for you!

See you next Wednesday!

Why barking at night can be a good thing

I’m going to be barking about barking again today. It seems that a number of dogs are keeping their bipeds awake at night, so I’m going to answer the Frequently Barked Question: How can I stop my Pyrenean Mountain Dog (or Great Pyrenees) from barking at night?

I will explain how I came to an agreement with my bipeds about the things that need barking at in the night. I live indoors as a member of the family, things are different for a dog working and sleeping outside.

When I was a puppy I didn’t bark at all until I started to mature and I discovered my protective instincts. I have explained this in “The calm before the barking storm“.

My bipeds worked with me on controlling barking in the daytime first. I have explained how we did that in “To bark, or not to bark, that is the question“.

During this time I slept in the kitchen where I couldn’t see or hear very much of what was going on outside. The kitchen was at the back of the house and the curtains were drawn at night.

They also made sure that I was tired and ready to sleep when I went to bed. They achieved this with plenty of exercise and mentally stimulating activities.

They also continued to socialise me and give me new experiences.

Sometimes they would sit outside quietly with me after dark so that I could listen to what was going on outside. I also got some late strolls in our village. This way I learnt some of the normal sounds that happen after it’s dark.

When I responded well to being told to stop barking in the daytime, they said that I could choose where to sleep. I had been asking to sleep in the hall where I could keep an eye on the whole household easily, so I was thrilled to be allowed to at last!

For a few nights I noticed different things to bark at. When I barked one of my bipeds would get up and check what I was barking about and ask me to be quiet, just as they had in the daytime. It didn’t take many nights for me to learn that my bipeds weren’t interested in hearing that one of our neighbours had come home late or that there was a hedgehog outside.

My bipeds did lose some sleep at first, but now they can sleep soundly knowing that I will alert them on the rare occasion when there really is something to worry about. They know that I don’t wake them unless it is necessary for them to check what it going on.

Clowie, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, sleeping

Do not disturb!

It amazes my bipeds that I can sleep through all kinds of usual sounds, but suddenly be alert and on my paws at the slightest unusual sound. It doesn’t amaze me, this is a skill that my ancestors have been honing for centuries in order to protect what is important to us!

See you next Wednesday!

The calm before the barking storm

I’m going to answer a Frequently Barked Question (FBQ) this week. A few people have asked me the same question: Why doesn’t my Pyrenean Mountain Dog (or Great Pyrenees) bark?

The subject of barking often comes up in connection with Pyrenean Mountain Dogs. At first I was a little surprised to be asked why they are not barking, I’m more often asked how to stop a Great Pyrenees from barking!

In each case, the dog I was asked about is still an adolescent. We are not considered mature until we are about two, or even three, years of age. We don’t generally bark very much, if at all, until we are approaching maturity. This is because our main reason for barking is when we perceive danger – something that doesn’t worry us at all until we start to feel protective of our families.

Once we do start barking, many of us are quite enthusiastic about it – some would say too enthusiastic! We discover that we like the sound of our voices and barking can be fun. I was more than a year old when I began to bark regularly, but other Pyrs may start earlier or later than I did.

Before I tell you about ways to prepare for the barking phase, I’d like you to watch this educational video. It contains a message for bipeds and for dogs. There may be a test later!

Bipeds, I’m sure you noticed that the dogs did have a very good reason for barking, even though the humans with them didn’t understand what it was.

Doggies, where do I begin? Many of you will already know that humans tend to think we’re just making a noise, but this may surprise you younger dogs. Barking louder and longer really doesn’t get our message across to them!

All is not lost, we need to learn to listen to each other better. This brings me to my advice to adolescent Pyrs and their bipeds, but these things could be useful for other dogs.

When we are barking it can be difficult to get our attention, so training with us to get and hold our attention will be helpful. This can be done by attracting our attention with a click of the fingers or a word such as “look” and giving us a treat, or use a clicker if you train together that way. When we are used to the idea of getting the treat for giving our attention, gradually make us wait a moment. This can be very useful to take our focus from whatever we’re barking at.

A Pyr who is barking at full volume may not hear you – we can be quite loud! My bipeds found it useful to get my attention by touching me, but I was already relaxed about them touching me when I wasn’t expecting it. This is fun to train, keep some treats handy and at odd times just touch the dog and then give a treat.

Socialisation is extremely important. The more experiences that a Pyr has had, the less things there will be that worry him, or her. Although he’ll probably bark at everything when he discovers his bark, with patience and consistency the barking can be reduced and this is a lot easier if the dog is confident and well socialised.

Training together and positive experiences through socialisation build a strong bond between dog and biped, which means we will trust you when you tell us there’s nothing to worry about.

I wrote about some techniques for when the barking begins in “To bark, or not to bark, that is the question“.

I have also written about reducing barking at night – “Why barking at night can be a good thing

See you next Wednesday!

To bark, or not to bark, that is the question

This is a Frequently Barked Question.

FBQ: How do I stop my Pyrenean Mountain Dog from barking?

Clowie: All dogs bark and there can be lots of different reasons for barking. The most common reasons are anxiety, boredom, excitement, or a perceived threat. Everyone has their own ideas about how much barking is acceptable, but most of us have neighbours and have to control our urge to bark sometimes. As it’s such a big topic, I am going to concentrate on my main reason for barking and how I trained my bipeds to understand me, so that I need to bark less.

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