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Great Pyrenees Temperament

This article was written by Birte Breijl, who is a long-time Great Pyrenees owner, breeder of "Pyr-Ami" Great Pyrenees in Denmark and also a Judge for Great Pyrenees at Expositions

Pyrenean temperament

Should we, could we or have we already changed it? I am going to present this item for you not as an ethnologist and not as an expert dog behaviourist, but as an ordinary Pyr owner. The reason why it is I who am presenting this is, I guess, that it was I who suggested that temperament should be on the program.I have owned Pyrs since 1965. I very early became concerned about temperament as we did have problems when we started with the breed in Denmark. Out of the first 10 males imported to Denmark eight were put to sleep because of aggressiveness. Since I have often wondered how we could go on with the breed. I am going to point out different things and I am going to ask several questions, but I am not going to give any answers and I do not think we can come to any agreements as much more as I cannot even make up my own mind. This world conference (held by the P.M.D.C. of GB in England 1996) on the Pyrenean is in part a result of the divergences in opinion of the standard; and indicates a wish to minimise the differences. In this context, I feel it is necessary to discuss the temperament as well. I do not think there are great differences in the definition of what a good temperament is; and we all have a general idea on what we want the Pyrenean’s mental set-up to be. But we know that show breeding, even if not intending to, can change the temperament of breeds. It has happened that breeds have been divided into working types and show types; and certain breeds have split into two entirely different breeds. Some breeds, that used to be easy-going rather lazy fellows, changed to energy bombs as a result of breeding for show winners. Demand from society on how dogs are supposed to behave has also changed. In many places in the world the freedoms and accepted actions of dogs have become very restricted.Temperament that was appreciated 100 years ago might give troubles today. As an example I can mention my first Pyrenean bitch. When I got her she was seven months, very shy and prepared to defend herself. When I went shopping, I used to take her with me, but I always chained her in a place where nobody could accidentally come too close to her. Then my own daughter was born and I could now use the baby pram to hide the dog. During this period there was a case where a baby was stolen and hidden by a woman for several months upsetting everybody. Suddenly my vicious dog had turned into a faithful and courageous dog that protected the baby so well; this was not due to changes in the dog’s nature but by circumstances in society that had nothing to do with dogs.I mention this as I have a feeling that good guard dogs were more appreciated a few decades ago and statements on dogs from earlier time can be influenced by that.

© U. Hock-Henschke