Are Great Pyrenees Smart? (Vet Tech Answers)

Are Great Pyrenees Smart

Great Pyrenees are large working dogs that have been around for thousands of years. These dogs make amazing ranch dogs and loyal family dogs. Great Pyrenees are known for many personality traits, such as protectiveness, gentleness, and aloofness. One thing Great Pyrenees aren’t always known for is their intelligence. However, many Pyrenees enthusiasts would argue that these dogs are intelligent.

So, are Great Pyrenees smart?

Great Pyrenees aren’t traditionally hailed for their intelligence. Despite this, their working dog instincts make them very smart in certain ways. Gaurdian dogs are often good decision-makers and have instinctive intelligence. Great Pyrenees also have working intelligence that allows them to understand geographical boundaries and makes them good listeners.  

If some of the words above seem a little foreign to you, stick with us. We’ll explain how dogs can have different types of intelligence and what category Great Pyrenees fall into.

Are Great Pyrenees Smart?

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to rate how smart a dog is. Dog intelligence is a lot more profound than we may think. We’ll talk more below about the three categories of dog intelligence that were identified in the 90s. These categories are much more inclusive of the great Pyrenees, and what their intelligence is.

As it stands, it seems Great Pyrenees aren’t considered to be one of the smartest dog breeds. Canine psychologist Stanley Coren ranked dog breeds based on intelligence in a book he wrote called, The Intelligence of Dogs. On this list, Great Pyrenees made it into the 64th place. Unfortunately, this ranking was pretty low as the last was only made up of 79 dog species.

Based on these surveys and the data gathered Great Pyrenees don’t seem to be smart. Great Pyrenees took longer to learn tricks, and only listened about 40% of the time. But, we know a lot more goes into “dog smart” than just listening to humans. Part of the great Pyrenees is their willingness to listen (or not listen), which may be due to their stubborn streak.

Are Great Pyrenees Just Stubborn?

Great Pyrenees can be known for their stubborn attitudes. Many Great Pyrenees seem to have their own agenda and don’t always feel inclined to listen to their owners. Since listening to commands and intelligence are linked for dogs, a stubborn attitude could make it seem like Pyrs aren’t smart.

But, it could also just mean that your furry friend has made up their mind and they’re going to do what they want to do, regardless of your commands!

What Kind Of Smart Is A Great Pyrenees?

We’ve already mentioned him once, but canine psychologist Stanley Coren is sort of an expert in the dog intelligence world. Coren suggests that there are three main types of intelligence that we can look at when deciding whether or not a dog is smart.

In humans, we tend to look at things like numerical ability, logic, reasoning, and other factors. For dogs, the categories are different! Some of these deciding factors vary based on breed, and some vary based on the individual.

Let’s talk about what these categories of intelligence are, and how they relate to the Great Pyrenees.

Instinctive Intellignce

Instinctive intelligence describes the intelligence inherited from breeding. A working dog has instinctive intelligence if they’re able to do their job well. In order to decide whether Great Pyrenees have instinctive intelligence, it’s important to look at their past.

Great Pyrenees are one of the oldest recorded dog breeds.  Fossils show evidence of their remains dating back to thousands of years B.C. Initially, great, Pyrenees were bred to guard flocks of livestock in the mountains. They lived outside with their animals 24/7 and took their jobs very seriously.

Eventually, the Great Pyrenees transitioned into being guard dogs for humans. For a short period of time, Great Pyrenees were considered the royal dogs of France. Since then Great Pyrenees have been loyal and protective family dogs, as well as continuing to work as guardian dogs for farm animals.

Now, Great Pyrenees are categorized as livestock guardian dogs. Livestock guardian dogs don’t tend to be as smart as herding dogs but still have pretty complicated jobs. They stay alert and even stay awake at night to protect their families.

By this definition, it’s easy to assume that Great Pyrenees are smart, and do have instinctive intelligence.

Adaptive Intelligence

Adaptive intelligence is a category of canine intelligence that describes the ability to learn and solve problems.

This category varies greatly based on the individual. That being said, you can look at breeds in general and see some large patterns. Adaptive intelligence might be shown by a dog solving a puzzle to get its food, or by a dog learning how to open a cabinet to get to their treats.

There does seem to be a way in which Great Pyrenees have a lot of adaptive intelligence.

Great Pyrenees are natural wanderers. They instinctively want to push the boundaries in their area so that they can make sure everything is safe nearby. Sometimes this means that Great Pyrenees like to jump and climb over fences.

If you’ve ever had a Pyr that wants to wander, you know how hard it can be to keep them in. One of the cons of owning a Great Pyrenees is how much space you need to give them because they will find a way to dig under or jump over a fence.

The fact that these dogs can adapt and figure out how to get through a fence line shows some level of adaptive intelligence. However, Pyrs probably aren’t as smart in this category as a police dog is able to use a scent to track down a suspect.

Working Intelligence

Working intelligence is also called obedience intelligence and is the last way to measure intelligence in dogs, according to Coren.

Working intelligence is close to the type of intelligence we measure by learning in school. If a dog is intelligent in this way it means that they can demonstrate through a response that they understand what is being asked of them. Basically, if you ask your dog to sit, and they said they have some level of obedience intelligence.

As you can imagine, this sort of intelligence varies greatly based on training and upbringing. But, just like all the other categories of intelligence, obedience intelligence also relates to breed.

In the video below, you can see a great example of an extremely smart dog, exhibiting a high level of working intelligence.

Great Pyrenees aren’t the smartest dogs when it comes to training. They can be easy to train, but they can also be very difficult to train. It always seems like Great Pyrenees are interested in something else besides what you’re asking them to do.

How Do You Know If Your Great Pyrenees Is Smart?

Based on the three categories of canine intelligence above, you can see why it’s hard to say whether or not Great Pyrenees are smart.

In some ways, Great Pyrenees are very smart. They have strong guardian instincts that often carry into their day-to-day lives. Some of them can be great problem solvers and can be very obedient but that tends to vary amongst individuals.

If you have lived with your furry friend for a period of time, you probably know how smart they are. Just try and think about how they respond to a new stimulus and whether they try to solve problems or they just stop when they become overwhelmed. You can also think about how obedient your Great Pyrenees is, and how strong their instincts are.

If you’re still not convinced that, you’re a great Pyrenees is smart, there are some ways to test their intelligence.

Ways To Test Your Great Pyrenees’ Intelligence

There are a few fun methods you can use to see if your great Pyrenees is a smart cookie. These tests can be carried out at home and you can decide for yourself what the results mean.

This test is called the IQ test and you can find out more about it on the Hills Pet Nutrition website. Each of the tasks below is scored out of 3 points and at the end you can total your points to determine whether your Pyr is smart or not.

1. The Blanket Method

The first part of this smart test is to place a blanket over your entire dog. You’re scoring your dog based on the amount of time it takes for them to free themselves.

If they get out within 15 seconds, they get 3 points, after 15-30 seconds they get 2 points, and over 30 seconds they get 1 point.

2. The Cup Task

In this part of the test, you’ll grab three cups and place them upside down. While your dog is watching you can hide a treat under one cup. Give it a minute, and then let your dog go toward the cups.

Your dog gets 3 points for picking the cup with the tree out right away, 2 points for a second correct guess, and 1 point for the last guess being right.

3. The Furniture Test

Take your dog out of the room for a second while you rearrange the furniture. In this task, you’re observing whether your dog goes back to his favorite spot or is confused after the furniture has moved.

For 3 points in this task, your dog will go right back to his favorite spot, sniffing for a little bit before heading there will earn them 2 points, and if they pick a new lounge spot entirely, they only get 1 point.

4. The Treat Search

Now, you can place a treat underneath a piece of furniture that your dog can reach with its paw.

Give 3 points if your dog takes under one minute to retrieve the tree with its paw, and give 2 points if your dog tries to fit its head in the small space or uses a combo of mouth and paws to get the treat. Finally, give only 1 point if your dog gives up on the treat,

5. The Leash Test

This part of the test will evaluate if your Great Pyrenees is smart enough to understand the connection between their leash and walk time. Pick up your dog’s leash during an odd hour of the day and observe them.

If they’re excited right away, give them 3 points. If you have to walk towards the door to get them excited, give them 2 points and give them 1 point if they’re just confused.

6. The Barrier Test

The last part of the IQ test is a barrier test. If you’d like more information on how to build a barrier visit the website we mentioned above, but basically this part of the test measures whether your dog will problem-solve to get through a barrier or if they’ll just bulldoze their way forward.

Your dog gets 3 points for going around the barrier, 2 points for taking longer to get around the barrier, and just 1 point for busting through the barrier.

All these tests, add up your dog’s score. Basically, a score of 15 means that your dog is a genius, and a score of six or lower means that you do not have the smartest dog.  But, if you’re not looking for a working or a show dog, it doesn’t mean that your low-scoring dog doesn’t love you just the same.

How to Make Your Great Pyrenees Smarter

The best way to increase your Great Pyrenees’ intelligence is to spend time with them. Give them enriching activities, puzzles, and plenty of new smells to enjoy. Always make sure to start training young for your dog so that they’re mentally stimulated when they’re listening to you.

Final Thoughts

While Great Pyrenees might not be the smartest dog breed around, that doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent. Great Pyrenees are highly instinctually intelligent and some individuals may also have high levels of obedience and adaptive intelligence. Either way, most of us end up adopting these gentle giants for other reasons besides their big (or not so big) brains!

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