Saint Pyrenees

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Saint Pyrenees
Rachel Larson /

When we think of designer dogs, we tend to think of small and fluffy handbag pooches; something which the Saint Pyrenees is far from! Breeding together the gentle ‘nanny’ dog that is the Saint Bernard and the alert, protective Pyrenean Mountain Dog has produced a cross-breed that can inherit characteristics from either side of its family tree. Most are more laid-back and tolerant than the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, though maintain the fierce devotion they have for their families.

A furry ‘monster’, the Saint Pyrenees is a giant dog with a big skull and impressive jaws. There is nothing small about this hybrid. Despite their imposing physical attributes, as long as they are well socialised and have their exercise needs met, they should not be overtly hostile. Their thick fur protects them from the elements and makes for a plush comforter on chilly nights in!

About & History

Saint Pyrenees are a recent creation that are not seen much, with pintsized dogs being much more popular nowadays. Not only is this due to the large amount of space they require, but also the increased costs associated with giant breeds and their reduced lifespan in comparison to their smaller peers. While only a few breed members exist, we can learn more about the Saint Pyrenees by reading about their parents.

The St Bernard

Saint Bernards are quite the Hollywood darlings, having been made famous in movies, such as Peter Pan and Beethoven. In the movies, they are portrayed as soppy and gentle, the perfect companion for children. In real life, this is an apt description and these dogs will take it upon themselves to fiercely protect the little ones in the family.

Their name comes from the ‘Saint Bernard’ monks of Switzerland and they were bred from Swiss Mountain Dogs, amongst other local breeds in the Swiss mountains. There, in the treacherous, freezing conditions they put their heightened sense of smell to great use and would participate in search and rescue missions, locating stranded people who were buried in the snow. The typical Saint Bernard teddy bear or figurine will always have a small barrel of whiskey around its neck, which they were said to offer to those they rescued in an attempt to revive them!

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog

Pyrenean Mountain Dogs are large, herding whose ancestors are thought to have occupied Europe for several thousand years. Not only was it important for them to be athletic enough to constantly patrol their territory, but to also give chase to any predators who would attempt to target the livestock that they were guarding. A dedicated worker, most were kept primarily as ‘farm hands’ rather than true pets so act somewhat less domesticated than other breeds and can be quite independent.


Saint Pyrenees Large Photo
Rachel Larson /

The Saint Pyrenees is best-known for its impressive stature, towering over most other breeds. They have an enormous skull with a broad forehead and deeply set eyes that have distinctive ‘eyebrows’ above them. Their ears hang tightly to their face and can be relatively petite in comparison to the rest of their body. They have moderately loose jowls and a remarkably large mouth with powerful jaws. Their neck is thick and they often have a protective ‘mane’ of fur. They have a deep chest and a relatively long body, with straight limbs. In fact, their muscular body is more reminiscent of an animal, such as a lion, rather than a dog! They carry their tail proudly and it is covered in luxuriously thick fur.

An adult Saint Pyrenees grows from 63cm to 76cm and tips the scales at anything from 54kg to 77kg. As is typical of giant breeds, the male is frequently noticeably heavier than the female and there is always the chance for certain individuals to grow far larger than their peers, beyond the average measurements. The dense fur of the Saint Pyrenees proves almost irresistible and you will find yourself cuddling up to them at any opportunity. They have a double coat that is medium in length and can come in a variety of colours, including white, brown, black and cream. Typically, dogs will have lighter bodies and dark markings on their face and ears.

Character & Temperament

A dog that is devoted to its family, the Saint Pyrenees puts its owners above all others and will protect them at all costs. Naturally territorial, they will also guard their property, even if not asked to do so. While this can be useful, we do need to train these dogs well to avoid any hostility, especially for situations when they need to be handled, such as at the vets.

Laid-back and docile, the Saint Pyrenees is tolerant of young children and other dogs. However, supervision is essential as they weigh a tonne and a bite (even if a warning bite or a play bite) from such a mighty mouth is no joke. Most individuals are lazy and will happily relax around the house for most of the day. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t need space to run (or lollop!) around in or that they don’t need walks or play time just like any other dog.


A dog of this size is one that requires intensive training from day one. Not only because we need to rule out any aggression but also because they have to quickly understand that it is not okay to jump on people, eat off tables or jump on furniture. While these behaviours may be ‘cute’ when young, they are certainly not appropriate in an adult Saint Pyrenees.

These dogs are ‘worker bees’ by nature so will be responsive and willing to learn. Some can be stubborn, especially if the training is not an exercise they are interested in. Hold their attention with treats to use as rewards when they perform the desired behaviour.


Unfortunately, it is generally accepted that giant breeds have shorter life spans and are plagued with health issues during their lifetime. This is due to the fact that they have been bred to be bigger than they were originally intended and also as their gene pool tends to be small as larger breeds are less common.

Hip Dysplasia

Screening programmes that assess hip health are a must when it comes to maintaining the health of a new designer dog, such as the Saint Pyrenees. Dogs who are tested and proven to have hip dysplasia should be neutered and not bred from.


Osteochondritis Dissecans is an abnormality of the cartilage within the joint that is seen in younger, larger-breed dogs. The abnormal joint results in pain, arthritis and a progressive lameness. Imaging tools, such as MRI or CT scans, are usually best at diagnosing this condition. Arthroscopy (a keyhole surgery) may then be performed on the joint if the diagnosis is positive.


Bloat is a disease that progresses very quickly; often within hours. The dog’s stomach bloats up with air and liquid, meaning their abdomen appears suddenly much larger and is tense when palpated. The vet will initially stabilise the dog, usually giving them intravenous fluids and decompressing the stomach, then they will perform the corrective surgery.


Haemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma are two of the most common cancers seen in the Saint Pyrenees. With many cancers, the sooner they are diagnosed, the better the prognosis, so it is good to be vigilant and monitor pets closely as they age.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Dogs that have been bred to work, the Saint Pyrenees likes to be kept busy during the day, otherwise they can become grouchy. A minimum of 90-minutes of steady walking is ideal and they enjoy time spent off lead. As they have a thick coat, it’s important to only exercise them during sun down in the hot summer months.


While thick, their coat is surprisingly low maintenance and is not particularly prone to matting. A good brush once or twice a week should keep it in tip top shape. They can be prone to dermatitis of the face due to their excessive drool levels which can lead to moist skin. To avoid this, wash and dry their face regularly.

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