The Great Pyrenees breed has a full, double-layered coat that is fairly self-cleaning; while these dogs shed a good bit, they don't require a lot of grooming. See below for details on maintaining a GP's coat, on how to properly brush, and on optional Great Pyrenees haircuts.
A Great Pyrenees is large-sized, with a double-layered coat that is typically white (or white with darker markings)--and logically, this type of coat would normally need a lot of care. Not so with dogs of this breed, however. Great Pyrenees grooming is not a time-consuming process. GPs' coats are dirt-resistant, so they only require baths every 2-3 months; though GPs shed a lot, the hair doesn't mat or tangle frequently, so their coats need brushing (described in more detail in the "Brushing" section) only once or twice a week to remove dead hairs. And, depending on your preferred hairstyle, a GP will need a "touch-up" clipping or scissoring about every three months.
Bathing should only happen intermittently, and should always be preceded by a thorough brushing. Using an outdoor hose and a kiddie pool is best; make sure to use canine shampoo (and conditioner, if desired--both of which are available at pet stores). Drip a line of shampoo/conditioner along the dog's topline, lather thoroughly, then rinse well. Towel- or blow-dry, then finish with another quick brush-through.
GP haircuts are only occasionally required. Many people mistakenly believe that shaving this large breed in warmer months keeps the dog cool--when in reality, shaving a GP can do more harm than good. Shaving its hair close can cause a GP to suffer skin irritation and sunburn; furthermore, just as its undercoat traps heat in cold weather, the outer coat reflects sunlight to keep the dog cool in hot weather. In any case, it's recommended that all GP owners consult with a professional groomer, who can provide tips on how to groom a Great Pyrenees dog for summer, and grooming in general.
Dogs of this breed typically need brushing once or twice per week. The best brush for a Great Pyrenees is a large slicker brush; having a medium-toothed comb to work through stubborn mats (which, fortunately, isn't very common with these dogs) is a good idea as well.
Begin by wetting the coat with mist from a spray bottle. Starting at the neck and working backward, use the slicker brush to go through the hair section by section. Brush in the direction of hair growth; be sure to "lift" the hair with each stroke, as doing so will allow the skin to breathe and will regulate the GP's body temperature. Follow the body brushing by doing the tail, then the legs. If you encounter any mats, first separate them into successively smaller mats (using water from the spray bottle, if desired), then work them out using the comb.
If you plan to bathe the dog, make sure to give it a thorough brushing first, and do another quick brush-through after towel- or blow-drying.
If you have one of these dogs, you know the tangles that can occur. If you are planning to adopt a Great Pyrenees (GP), you should know that tangles and mats are practically inevitable — unless you plan to sit around brushing your big mountain dog all day! Along with the massive food bill, a great amount of space, and some ample activity, you'll need to budget in not just time for daily grooming but a fair amount of proper grooming tools.
The thick double-coat of the Great Pyr tends to fend for itself. The natural oils are known to help keep these dogs remarkably clean. The first time he tears through a mud puddle, you'll be amazed at how a simple walk afterward will work wonders. The smell of the mud might remain, but the fur should be clean. Still, it's best that you be ready for a thorough brushing session when you do return home from any walk or outdoor activity. Otherwise, you could wake up to the beginnings of some Great Pyrenees matted fur that will quickly cause huge problems.
If you are looking for a be-all, end-all comb, there is none for this breed. There are some very good ones that can do nearly everything, however, and a couple of them are de-matting combs and de-matting rakes for long coats. It's a matter of taste which one you will want, of course. Both are highly recommended by many owners and groomers of these gargantuan dogs.
You'll also want to have on hand some de-tangler. It will allow a comb to glide through the untangled hair as well as to help undo those tangles and mats, especially in the hard-to-get places such as behind the ears, under the tail, and around the ruff. Spray the de-tangler over the entire coat before combing or brushing, and you'll have a much better and less painful grooming session.
If you do happen to have a situation with a GP whose coat is heavily matted or taken with tangles, don't shave the coat. You should first attempt to get out as many tangles and mats as possible. This could take a couple or more hours, and if that doesn't work completely, it's time for a trip to the professionals. If that major step doesn't get out all the problems, only then should a shave be seriously considered. While cutting off the coat can get rid of the matted and tangled coat, it will present more problems later, and they may never go away. The GP coat has evolved over centuries to be somewhat resistant to mats and tangles if the coat is kept in shape. Shaving off the coat will result in a coarse coat that is prone to tangles and mats regardless of the grooming. This in turn will allow for skin problems occurring more frequently and easily.
Finally, when bathing, be sure to use a proper shampoo meant at least for dogs with thick double-coats coats. Be sure to always brush out the dead hair before bathing, as loose dog hair will mat when made wet.
How often should you bathe a Great Pyrenees? Fortunately, these dogs' coats are "self-cleaning"; the oils in their coats, in other words, don't let the hairs "hold" dirt like with other breeds. Overall, a Great Pyrenees bath will only need to happen every three months or so--unless, of course, the dog gets especially dirty and stinky and an "emergency bath" is in order.
It's important when bathing a Great Pyrenees to use canine shampoo (and conditioner, if desired), as the kind made for humans has a different pH and can irritate a dog's skin. Since these dogs have white coats, some owners like to use whitening shampoo on their Great Pyrenees dogs to give the coats a bit of extra sparkle. The best shampoo for a Great Pyrenees includes brands like Espree, Gold Medal Pets, and Burt's Bees, all of which carry whitening shampoo products.
How to bathe a Great Pyrenees: first give the dog a good brushing. You can bathe your GP in a bathtub (which hopefully has a spray nozzle attachment), or in an outdoor plastic pool using a garden hose. Wet the coat thoroughly, then apply a generous amount of Great Pyrenees shampoo to the dog's back. Lather well, working downward and outward as you go. (And don't forget the legs, underbelly, and tail!) Clean the dog's face, head, and ears with a washcloth, then rinse the coat completely. Repeat the entire process with conditioner if desired.
Towel-dry the coat next. You can let it air-dry the rest of the way if you want, or you can continue drying with a hair dryer on its lowest heat setting, brushing the hair out with the pin brush as you dry. Finish by giving the coat another quick brush-through to make it look neat and clean.
Like all big dogs, the Great Pyr (GP) requires particular attention to small parts of his body as they tend to bear large loads in daily life. His nails and his teeth are where a lot of wear and tear tends to occur and which you must help maintain with hands-on care.
The Great Pyrenees teeth are notorious for being the site of many health problems. These dogs are high on the list of breeds that are highly likely to have problems with their teeth, gums, etc. You should start handling his inner mouth — gently! — when he's a puppy. This will get him used to having his teeth brushed, and this is done with your finger to "brush" them and his gums. By getting your Great Pyr ready for gum care and teeth-brushing when his adult teeth come in, you can do a lot too help prevent plague buildup, which is the root of most GP dental issues. While he's a pup and has just puppy teeth, use your finger to carefully "brush" his teeth so he gets used to this. In the meantime, start looking into a canine toothpaste he'll like. Never use human toothpaste.
His nails are another potential problem. Left to grow unclipped, the undue pressure put on his legs unevenly can cause bone structure issues, backbone complications, and other health problems. If you prefer to not trim his nails yourself, be sure to have a professional groomer do them whenever you start hearing his nails click on hard surfaces when he walks. If you do wish to learn how to do this, go online or sit in at a groomer's shop or window. You'll need to learn how to not cut into the quick as well as which type of trimmer you and your GP will like. Before all that and when he's a puppy, be sure to gently handle his paws for a few minutes at a time so he gets used to this later. As he will be a big dog, and there are many trimmers from which to choose, this is not always an easy task.
The types available for gigantic dogs are the guillotine, the scissors, and the the grinder. Some people say the first two require more care even if they are much quicker. On the other hand, some folks say the grinder type, while safer, takes longer, is louder, and can cause stress. As such, many pro groomers and GP owners swear by the either the Epica Professional (a scissor-style clipper) and the Dremel Pet Nail Grooming Tool (a grinder). You''ll also want to have on hand at least one towel and either a styptic stick or powder, or an alternative: flour, cornstarch, flour, baking soda, or a bar of soap.
Some other less serious care concerns are drooling and their ears, both of which can be dealt with using cotton balls, warm water, and a rag or paper towel to wipe off, wash, and dry so as to prevent a crusty fungus from occurring.
Many owners like to give their Great Pyrenees a haircut in the warmer months, as they think the shorter hair will mean a cooler dog. Actually, the opposite can be true. A shaved GP can get irritated skin and sunburns, while a full coat can act as natural insulation--it keeps warm air in during the winter, and deflects heat during the summer. Still, here are two optional Great Pyrenees hairstyles (both of which have been modified a bit from typical dog haircuts to account for longer body hair for this breed):
- Puppy Cut: In this style, the dog's hair is cut relatively short (2-3 inches) all over. Some owners choose to leave the hair on the neck, chest, legs, and tail a bit longer. Can easily be done at home with instruction from a groomer.
- Lion Cut: This cut looks particularly impressive on this large breed. The hair on the neck, chest, and front portion of the body is left long, while the rear of the body, the legs, and the tail (except for a "pom-pom" furball on the tail tip) are cut short (about 2 inches). Best done by a professional groomer.