Written by Ariele Sieling
A barking Great Pyrenees—what a concept! Pyrs are absolutely known for their endless barking. They are guardian dogs, and one of their primary responsibilities is warning away predators.
They were bred to take care of livestock. Their fluffy white fur helps them blend with a flock of sheep, their ability to act on instinct allows them to protect a herd without a human there to make decisions, and their deep, powerful bark allows them to warn away potential predators without having to fight.
But nowadays, many Great Pyrenees are living the casual, suburban lifestyle. Their flock is their family, and the threats they warn away… aren’t really anything to be worried about.
Take Octavius for example: he barks at people, strangers, the door, birds that are close by, birds soaring high in the sky (he particularly does not like vultures), deer, rabbits, clouds, rustling leaves, the cats, dead animals by the side of the road, and all variety of things. If it seems like your dog is barking at nothing, be assured that they are in fact barking at something. It may be out of excitement, a warning, fear, guarding, intimidation, or need for attention, but there is a reason for the barking, even if you don’t understand what it is.
The first thing I would like to say is that if you want a dog that doesn’t bark—don’t get a Great Pyrenees. Just don’t do it. It is a very rare Pyr that doesn’t bark.
But if you simply want to reduce the barking, it is possible. It is unlikely, however, that you will be able train him to stop barking entirely. The key is instead, to teach him when to bark.
First, identify why your dog is barking. Are they excited? Stressed? Warning you of danger?
Sometimes barking is good. When we lived in the city, we taught Octavius to bark whenever he heard someone knock on the door. This was extremely useful, because knocking almost always meant a package, and we couldn’t always hear the knock. But we could always hear the bark. Which meant we could get our package off the doorstep before the package thieves got to it.
If you know why your Pyr is barking, this well help you determine when and how to respond.
Second, acknowledge the reason your Pyr is barking. If he is barking at something in the yard, take him to see what it is. A piece of trash? Let him sniff it, and then thank him for alerting you to it. You can walk along the fence or border of your property. This will help the dog understand that you are taking them seriously, and not just ignoring whatever it is they are worried about.
As you do this, encourage your dog to be calm. This might mean doing mini-training sessions as you walk and explore whatever it is the Pyr is concerned about. Which leads to…
Thirdly, give your dog something else to do. This might mean doing a training session, using commands like sit and stay (lol). It might also mean taking them for a walk or giving them a toy to play with. Reward the Pyr when they behave calmly. And reward them when they bark at something you want them to bark at.
Fourth, use some consistent vocabulary to help your dog understand what you’re doing. If you can teach your dog to be quiet after paying attention to you, and use a phrase like “leave it” eventually they will begin associating that phrase with not barking, even if you haven’t gone through the process of allowing them to look more closely at whatever is concerning them, and then giving them a training session.
Many trainers also recommend using the crate as part of training, not allowing them to be outside at night, and ensure that your Pyr gets enough activity and mental stimulation during the day.
And don’t forget, you can always hire a dog trainer who specializes in Great Pyrenees dogs—or call AGPR for advice on your specific situation.