Agression or normal Pyr behavior

by Sherry Ochoa
(Chicago, IL )

Hi, We rescued our Pyr when she was approx 4-5 months old from a high kill shelter. She was afraid of most new people including us when we met her. This progressed to her becoming very protective of our home as she grew bigger.

She is now a little over 2. We have been working with her and she has made great progress. We are able to get her to calm down fairly quickly if she becomes upset at someone or something she sees outside.

My problem is that I am wondering if her behavior is pretty normal for her breed? This is our first Pyr. We had a lab before so a very different aesthetic.

I feel like a lot of the time she is doing her job watching our house when she is barking growling.... We did/do still have an issue with her letting anyone in our house as well, which we continue to work on. As long as they come in and do not make eye contact or try to approach her she will eventually go to them. She is still very cautious of them and checks on them often and if they get up or make fast movement she will growl or bark.

I should also say that at the recommendation of our vet we saw a veterinary specialist who prescribed anti-anxiety medication for her which allowed us to work with her and provide positive reinforcement and rewards for good behavior. We are in the process of weaning her off of it to see if she continues with success.

I'm just wondering how much of this is the Pyr aesthetic. We really do not want to keep her on medication unless it is absolutely necessary. Thank you for your help!

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Mar 05, 2016
by: Donna

Her behaviour is not normal for this breed. They are not aggressive by nature. They will do everything to warn predators about coming onto their territory before any acts of aggression are put in place.

If you are not home and someone, unknown to them, tries to come into the house, they will stop it pretty quick. Their size and bark is usually enough to deter someone. If someone keeps trying to come in, they will position themselves beside the person, not move a muscle and give a deep growl. They will do nothing aggressive unless absolutely necessary.

The problem with these dogs, such as yours, is they have never had the necessary socialization and handling by many different people from almost birth and for the first 13 weeks of their life. Without that, she will never have the confidence required to be a regular Pyr (note that yours is a mix). She is fearful and this can be dangerous.

You are absolutely doing everything right with her but she will always be this way.

They are guardian dogs so do bark more than most breeds. However, a well-socialized Pyr, from birth, will always allow invited guests into the house. Always allow her to growl. This is a warning. Without being allowed to warn, they will just go for the bite.

They are aloof dogs by nature so don't need the same attention as other dogs. Again, yours is a mix and I'm not sure with what. That can also cause issues since wires can get crossed.

She will always be like this, unfortunately. You will need to keep her on leash when guests come over to avoid a bite. Guests should toss treats to her and is she looks like she wants to visit with them, allow it, on leash. Still, no petting unless she looks for it.

You can read up on the true Pyr traits (which proper socialization and handling from puppyhood):

You may have to keep her on medication. Her original people did not do the work required to have a good canine citizen.

Thank you for doing the right training with her. Reward for good behaviour and redirect for unwanted behaviours.

Mar 05, 2016
Doggie prozac works
by: Anonymous

Our rescue would pace from door to door to door for several weeks. After thinking of everything from lavendar spray to thundershirt, the vet prescribed 40 mg of Prozac. OK, it's not instant but after a month, the behavior stopped. He is down to 20 mg a day and I am hoping to stop it completely in the next few months. I have no idea what he did in his previous life but I think he loves his new home, he's happy, gets lots of walk, visits a nursing home regularly. I can't get inside his doggy brain but he seems to be doing quite well.
PS> Don't bother telling people about the prozac. It costs about $5 a month and people just look at you strangely but hey, He has a much better life than before and he is a super dog.

Mar 05, 2016
On the right track
by: Ed A from NJ

I sounds like your trying hard to help her. I would add just two suggestions. 1) you might consider the help of a trainer to help train you as to handle her. You want a trainer who will show you how to work the dog, you should always be the end trainer of your dog. And 2) your Pyrenees will assume the role of alpha unless you do.if you show him you are in the lead he will be far less aggressive and more likely to follow your leer. And remember possative reinforcement training is the only kind to use with Pyrenees.

Mar 09, 2016
Aggression or not?
by: Pyrenees

This is not aggression. Great Pyrenees are loud creatures, and instead of fighting the enemy, they'd rather scare them away. They are stubborn as well as free thinkers, and most likely will not listen to you when they bark up a storm. If you can't stand a loud dog, you should not have gotten a Great Pyrenees. They will bark at the slightest thing, from a deer to a human being. Your dog is only trying to protect you, it's very common for this breed.

Mar 10, 2016
by: Sherry Ochoa

Thank you so much for your input and comments. I am in tears as I read the first response by Donna. I had also been told and read about being properly socialized the first 13 weeks of life and how detrimental it is. It breaks my heart that she was mistreated and not given this proper socialization and now she will suffer with anxiety for her lifetime.

She has made tremendous strides since she came to us at 4 months old (she is now about 2). But she does get very upset if she sees/hears anything outside to the point of growling and barking. I do not mind the growling and barking if it is "normal" behavior and understand this is a trait. But it is hard to discern if it is anxiety/fear or a normal trait.

I should have mentioned that we do put her in a kennel when we are not home as 1. I think she is comforted by it 2. Because she gets upset if anyone is near our house and she can see or smell them she gets pretty intense and I fear for that if no one is there to calm her down. 3. She does still chew things if no one is watching once in a great while.

Her kennel is very large and she is hardly in it to be honest as my husband works in the evening and I during the day so someone is almost always home. Also we have taken her to daycare a few times a week beginning shortly after we got her to help exercise and socialize her. She still goes a few times a week and thoroughly enjoys it. We are also able to board her at her daycare and she does well because she is very used to it.

The days she doesn't go to daycare my husband walks her a couple times a day and we have several mind/skill toys that also tire her out. My husband has established a great trust with her when they are walking and she will give him looks or move toward him if she is uncomfortable with a human or animal that it is time to leave. She is much more tolerant outside of our home of these things. He has also been able to take her to a remote area and let her off leash to run and has trained her to return to him or stop if he commands.

We struggled with the decision to give her medication but decided to use it so that we could work with her on her fears and give positive reinforcement. I believe the medication did allow for that.

However, she still has anxiety, usually in the evening, where she gets a crazed look on her face and pants and walks around the house even when she has had quite a bit of exercise. I was hoping this would calm down but really has not.

Some days are better than others. We are in the process of weaning her off the Prozac as well but I am wondering if this is the right decision... We love her so much and will continue to work with her. I just wish we could take away her anxiety and fear :(

Any other suggestions are welcome. The end decision may be that she will need to stay on the medication if that is best for her...

We love her so much! Thanks again for all your help and input.

Mar 11, 2016
by: Anonymous

Sincere kudos to both of you for your loving care for this dog.
One thing I found interesting is that she seems to do well when she is with your husband, on their walks together. Anxiety usually is present all the time. Levels vary according to what is happening at the time.
It would be an interesting experiment for you to follow along when he walks your dog, at a distance, notebook in hand. Observe like a scientist, every detail of their interaction together. Compare this very carefully with your own interactions with your dog.
Men do seem to be more matter of fact when reacting to anxiety. Women go fairly quickly into soothing sounds and huggys. Somewhere in there is a tiny key. Paying undo attention to emotional upset of any sort sometimes accelerates the behaviour. She's a lovely dog. My personal feeling though, in her eyes there's that question we see so often in rescues "is everything OK?"..."am I doing what you want?" Confidence grows slowly. She is young and alone in her guardianship of you and your home.
Have you considered a companion canine for her? If she is comfortable with other dogs, carefully observe the character of the dogs she hangs out with, so you know what to look for.
Have you tried to settle her down into her crate (bed) in the evening before she becomes anxious and starts to pace and pant?
In theory, there seems to be no reason to not medicate her, especially if it helps. Find the dose which uses the least but is still effective. Be her strength 24/7. Sometimes its as simple as being quiet, remembering to breathe. Sit with her without touching her and read a book while snacking something yummy and casually share it with her. She will naturally begin to concentrate more on you and the food and forget to be anxious.
Good luck with her. She has the best chance because she has your love.

Mar 15, 2016
aggressive new Pyr
by: RC

We just adopted a female 3 year old Pyr. She was raised with a family and the family gave her up because there was an altercation with a pit bull also belonging to the family.

She was doing great, very social, then yesterday she started growling and barking aggressively at my female room mate. Who she previously was very affectionate to. Of course, this has freaked us out, as she is large and we have only had her a couple of weeks. I am wondering if she is trying to establish a pecking order with herself above my room mate?

She has been very friendly to male guests entering the house. So, she doesn't seem to be aggressive to everyone. This behaviour started yesterday morning and continued last night. Today, she is not smiling and hasn't finished her dinner from last night.

Any thoughts?

Thank you

Jun 13, 2016
Pyr purpose
by: Anonymous

Totally normal for a pyr to be more active or agitated at night as that is when most of the preditors they were bred to protect livestock from come out. They are meant to be a working dog that lives in the field with the herd. They like to stay with the "herd" at all times. If she had a small companion,even a cat with her 24/7 she would feel like she was doing her job

Apr 10, 2022
Aggressive with other pet in the family
by: SharleneAnonymous

Our Great Pyrenees is 2 years old , a male
The other pet is a male small breed poodle mix he is 3 years old. Both have been neutered
As a puppy the Great Pyrenees got along great with the smaller dog but at about 18 months old the Great Pyrenees aggressively turned on the poodle mixed and we have not been able to let them even see each other without the great Pyrenees trying to attack him. We keep them apart as we are not wanting to have something happen to the smaller dog.
This has gone on for a good 6 months
Do you have any suggestions?
P.s. we also have an older dog (19 year old westy)
The Great Pyrenees is very good with him no problems.

Apr 13, 2022
Male and Male
by: Donna

We always recommend the opposite sex when having two dogs. Some can get along depending on the dogs' personalities and where they stand in ranking.

Some think if they get a pup of the same sex that things should be fine as they mature, but, as you see, this doesn't always happen.

You can't make them get along. It's six months now. You'll have to continue to keep them separate if you want to keep both dogs.

Perhaps someone else has a suggestion.

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