While we’re out and about with Patronus, we get a lot of questions about him! He’s not a very common breed where Luke and I live, so people often want to know what kind of dog he is and what living with him is like. I decided it might be helpful if I took the time to sit down and write a post detailing the answers to some of the questions we get asked the most. Here goes!
What kind of dog is he?
Contrary to popular belief, he’s not a St. Bernard, white Newfoundland, oversized Golden Retriever, or a polar bear. Patronus is a Great Pyrenees. The breed’s name originates from the Pyrenees mountains, where they have served as livestock guardian dogs for many years. [source]
How much does he eat?
Assuming they don’t approach us just to tell us how expensive our dog’s food must be, one of the first things people ask us is how much he eats. The exact amount he likes to eat varies a bit based on the weather and his activity level that day, but on average, he likes to eat around 6 cups of food per day.
Does he have a lot of energy?
Many people assume that Patronus is a high energy dog, but the truth is that while he does love to play and appreciates regular walks or hikes, he’s actually pretty lazy compared to most dogs. Pyrs are known for being low energy dogs, so when he isn’t busy exploring, playing, or warding off potential predators, he can usually be found laying in front of the door pretending to sleep while occasionally barking at anything and everything.
Where did you get him? Where can I find a Pyr?
We adopted Patronus from a local dog rescue that specializes in the Great Pyrenees breed. This proved to be a great experience, because not only were we able to provide a home to a dog in need of one, the people at the rescue were incredibly knowledgeable on the breed and its quirks and able to provide tons of helpful advice and training tips.
There are breed-specific rescue groups located regionally, and many choose to post available dogs on their websites, or on sites like Petfinder. Animal shelters are another place to look. If you are interested in finding information on a breed-specific rescue, or purchasing a puppy directly from a breeder, definitely check out the Great Pyrenees Club of America website to explore your options.
Do you think a Pyr would be a good dog for me?
Before making any commitments, definitely spend some time doing research on the breed to make sure it is a good fit for your personality and lifestyle! Check out websites, blogs, books, and Instagram accounts, or even talk to a few Pyr owners to learn about the pros and cons of the breed.
I’m going to be 100% honest when I say that Patronus is an incredibly loving, loyal, intelligent dog who would do anything to make sure that we are safe and happy. He’s also big, stubborn, drooly, hairy, and loves to be covered in mud.
If you’re willing to take the time to train your dog, and to enforce everything your dog has learned from training in a consistent manner (yes, even if you’re tired, even when you’re busy, and even when you “don’t feel like it”), a Pyr can be a wonderful companion. But, if you’re a huge neat freak, have very little patience or experience when it comes to teaching, and are lacking a sense of humor, you might want to reconsider.
Was he expensive?
This is kind of a weird question that I never really know how to answer because it’s so subjective. The initial cost of any dog kind of depends on your location and whether you’re adopting from a rescue or shelter, or selecting from a breeder. For budgeting purposes, your best bet is to speak with specific animal rescues, shelters, or breeders directly, or contact your local breed club to get an idea of what’s reasonable. As a broad generalization, adoption fees are generally lower than purchasing from a breeder, include shots and spaying/neutering, and allow you the opportunity to give a dog a second chance at a happy life. A reputable hobby breeder can be a great choice if genetic testing, adherence to the breed standard, and getting a puppy at a very specific age are of high importance to you, although the initial price of the dog will likely be higher as to cover the costs of responsible breeding.
If you’re interested in a giant breed dog, also keep in mind that in addition to adoption fees or purchase price, they do require a larger cage, more food, in some cages larger toys, etc. than a smaller dog would.
How much does he weigh and how big is he?
I’m not going to lie, Patronus is a pretty big dog. At his last vet appointment, his weight was just under 120 lbs and still growing. Just to give you an idea of his actual size, here he is sitting side by side slouched over next to Luke, who is approximately 6’3.
Does he shed?
Ohhhhh yeah. If you’re interested in owning a Pyr I would highly recommend investing in a good vacuum AND a robotic vacuum. I think the best way to describe what a Pyr blowing coat looks like is to let this photo speak for itself.
How do you train such a big dog?
In all honesty, I don’t think size matters much when it comes to training.
Like a lot of dogs, Patronus is incredibly motivated by treats and loves attention, so he typically responds very well to positive reinforcement as a training method. He definitely has a mind of his own and is able to think for himself, so knowing what he wants in a given situation and offering it to him as a “reward” for doing what he’s asked is the best way to motivate him to follow through on a command.
It also helps A TON to be consistent with commands, rules, and structure. Before we even met Patronus, Luke and I sat down together and discussed what we wanted the house rules to be so we could make sure we were consistently holding him to the same standards and expecting him to respond to the same commands.
One of the most helpful pieces of training advice we were given on the day we adopted him was that a Pyr WILL test you, and the best way to handle this is to basically “out-stubborn” him. As a example, because we didn’t want him shoving his way through open doorways, one of the rules that Luke and I agreed upon was that we wanted Patronus to sit and stay until he’s permitted to go through a door. Every time he wants to go outside, we wait for him to sit down before we open the door. If he tries to get up to go through the door before we’ve given him permission, we close the door, wait for him to sit back down, and try it again. I will admit that this does require a ton of patience, but it is so worth it!
Is he friendly?
In case you’re wondering, the “standard” personality for the breed is described like so:
In nature, the Great Pyrenees is confident, gentle, and affectionate. While territorial and protective of his flock or family when necessary, his general demeanor is one of quiet composure, both patient and tolerant. He is strong willed, independent and somewhat reserved, yet attentive, fearless and loyal to his charges both human and animal. [source]
Patronus is a friendly dog. He is extremely affectionate and loves attention, however his natural guarding instincts make him wired to be a bit more cat-like in personality than most dogs. He usually will not go out of his way to approach and befriend most random strangers until he feels that they are worthy of his trust, but he definitely does appreciate a good ear scratch. During our time in Banff, there were so many people who wanted to pet him or take pictures next to him that he really started to ham it up, though!
He tends to like other dogs, and he loves to play with cats. His best friend is our friends’ Maine Coon cat, Gunner. He also had the chance to meet some horses on our hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse in Banff, and he seemed to be cool with them as well.
If you encounter a Pyr in public and are interested in meeting him, I would highly recommend asking the owner how the dog likes to be approached first. This is a good idea when meeting any dog, and especially a breed with guarding instincts. You never know what kind of experiences a strange dog has had or what his opinion of you people might be.
If you’re interested in owning a Pyr, they do require a lot of practice in social situations as young as possible, so be prepared to spend a lot of time taking your dog around other people and animals.
What do the cats think of him?
Did I mention Patronus loves cats?
There was a bit of an adjustment period for the cats when we first brought Patronus home, but now that Max and Moritz are used to having a dog around, they definitely treat one another like siblings. Their favorite bonding activity is definitely making mischief together, but they do occasionally like to play tag and take naps.
What kind of name is Patronus?
Brace yourselves, the answer to this one is kind of nerdy.
We decided to name him Patronus after the expecto patronum spell in Harry Potter. For those who haven’t read the books, the definition of a Patronus given by Pottermore is as follows:
The Patronus Charm, introduced in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is a defensive spell which produces a silver, animal guardian, used to protect a witch or wizard against Dementors.
If you haven’t read the books or watched the movies, you probably don’t know what a Dementor is either, so here is the definition the site gives for that:
The guards of Azkaban, they feed on human happiness and can extract souls with their Dementor’s Kiss.
In other words, Patronus earned his name because he serves as our guardian and also helps protect us from the things that feed upon our happiness. He’s pretty great at his job in case you were wondering.
How old is he?
As of the date of this post, Patronus is one year old. Yes, he’s still growing. Yes, I know he’s really big.
What is their lifespan?
There are a lot of factors, such as genetics, environment, and diet, that can affect any dog’s lifespan. For Great Pyrenees in general, the lifespan is about 10-12 years, so roughly the same as a medium or large size dog.
Does he sleep in your bed?
In all honesty, Patronus prefers laying on floors and using his dog bed as a pillow. The colder and harder the floor is, the better!