Evaluating A Breeder

If after researching the breed thoroughly you still want a Great Pyrenees, take your time and resist impulse buying. While the Internet can be an excellent place to make the initial contact, remember that you must still do all the proper investigation and ask the same questions. We urge anyone planning to buy a Great Pyrenees to research the breed and the breeder carefully, and to be patient and cautious. IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH A BREEDER THAT HAS ELIMINATED THE ABILITY TO VIEW THEIR "REVIEWS" FROM THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE THEN BE VERY, VERY CAUTIOUS. 

The first available puppy or the lowest price may not be the best choice. Well-bred Pyrs are not constantly available, and purchasing the right pup may mean being willing to wait a while. Well-bred Pyrs are not inexpensive, and the price may vary somewhat depending on what area of the country you live in. Carefully bred and properly cared for Great Pyrenees puppies are not inexpensive. While prices may vary, people who sell pups for much less than the average for your area probably have not put as much time or care into the breeding or rearing of their pups.

Please be sure you are willing to make a commitment for the next 10 to 12 years to meet the physical and emotional needs of a Great Pyrenees. These dogs are living, breathing, sensitive creatures who should not be discarded simply because they have become an inconvenience, or your living arrangement or personal life has changed. Any number of Great Pyrenees end up in rescue each year because people did not research the breed thoroughly or did not take this commitment seriously. Don't let the Pyr you buy become one of the statistics — THINK BEFORE YOU BUY.

If possible, visit the breeder personally and see the puppies even if this means a long drive. This will enable you to meet the breeder and see the conditions in the kennel. Although elaborate equipment is not necessary, the facilities can and should be clean. To be healthy, the puppies should be kept clean with a warm, dry pen and a clean bedding area. See the mother of the puppies and the father, if possible. This will give you some idea of what to expect in terms of appearance and personality.

While it may be the best choice to purchase your companion pup from a breeder who is within driving distance, many wonderful pups have been purchased sight unseen and arrive by airplane. If you are interested in buying a puppy from a breeder who you cannot visit, be prepared to spend a lot of time talking on the phone. Ask to see recent pictures of both the Sire and Dam. Be cautious of breeders who do not show recent pictures of the parents. Request written information from the breeder and a copy of the contract that you will be expected to sign. Also ask for referrals to prior puppy buyers and references from other breeders. 

Look for a pup that is sociable, strong, sturdy and healthy. Make sure that you have the right to take your new pup to your own veterinarian for a check up and the right to return it if it is not healthy. And be sure that you do this within the first few days after you get your pup. A small investment in a vet visit could save a large investment in future care. If you are purchasing a family companion, you are entitled to a sound, healthy dog with a good temperament. If you are purchasing a dog for show or breeding, you are entitled to an animal of superior quality and that is fully guaranteed to be so. The visit to the kennel also gives the breeder the opportunity to get to know you.

Ask if the breeder performs the Puppy Aptitude Test (PAT) and at what age. This indicates that the breeder is genuinely concerned with the puppy's outcome in placement and not just in it to sell a puppy to the first buyer irregardless of situation and temperament. No one knows the puppies better than the devoted breeder who has spent countless hours with them, and this person is the best person to pick the puppy that best suits your personality and will fulfill your "wants" and "plans" for it's future. You can expect that a good breeder would also ask you about your plans and your own facilities for your Great Pyrenees. In fact, buyers should be cautious of breeders who do not ask questions. It often indicates that the breeder is not very concerned about the future of their pups. Other questions that they might ask are:

  • Do you have a well-fenced area? Pyrs are roamers and MUST be kept either in your home, confined to a securely fenced area, or on leash. Underground or invisible fencing is not appropriate for Pyrs. Very often it will not keep them in; if they want out badly enough they will routinely withstand the shock to do so and even if it does keep them in, it will not keep other animals or people out. Remember, Pyrs are guardian dogs.
  • Do you have neighbors who may complain about a barking dog? Pyrs are barkers, especially at night.
  • Do you have the time to give your dog regular discipline, basic obedience training, proper socialization, and grooming? All dogs, but most especially large livestock guardian dogs, need regular day-to-day discipline, basic obedience training, companionship, and attention to ensure that they become a pleasure and not a problem. Pyrs do shed a lot and need regular brushing and nail clipping to keep them in good condition.
  • Do you own other dogs? If so, what breeds and sexes? Pyrs are territorial dogs. Male Pyrs will seldom tolerate another large male dog in their territory, and females sometimes will not tolerate another large female in her territory. If you should have this experience, do you have the ability to keep the dogs separated for the rest of their lives?
  • Can you afford to own a giant breed dog? While adult Pyrs are not big eaters, growing pups require more, good quality food. And while basic routine vaccinations may not cost more for a large dog than they do for a small dog, a large dog does require a higher dosage of medications and anesthesia than a smaller dog and this can add considerably to your vet bill. It also costs more to board a large dog.
  • Do all family members want this pup? It is a mistake to buy a dog for the kids when it requires the management of responsible adults to care for a dog. It is also unfair to the pup if a family member resents his presence in the home.

A puppy from an AKC registered litter is eligible for registration with the American Kennel Club. When buying a puppy one should be given either the AKC registration application with the litter number on it, or the AKC registration certificate with the individual dog's name and number on it, and these should be properly signed. The AKC has two different types of registration certificates. Regular AKC registration allows the dog to compete in all AKC events and for it's offspring to be registered with the AKC. Limited registration papers are used by the breeder for puppies they do not want to be used for breeding or shown in conformation. No offspring of a dog for which Limited registration has been granted is eligible for registration. If for some reason, the breeder cannot provide the AKC registration application at the time of sale, get a promise of these papers in writing. The breeder should also provide such pertinent data as whelping date, sire, dam, pedigree, immunization and worming records, and the recommended diet and feeding schedule.

AKC registration in no way indicates the quality of the puppy. Quality is usually roughly graded on three levels: pet/companion quality, show, and breeding quality. A dog deemed to be pet/companion quality very often may have some very minor fault which may not even be visible to the novice person, and that in no way diminishes the attractiveness of the dog or in its ability to live a long, normal, healthy life. If you are buying a pet/companion pup, do not be surprised if the breeder requires that this pup be neutered. This is a requirement that most responsible breeders have in their contracts. A show prospect puppy is one that meets the breed standard approved by the AKC, exhibiting virtues of the breed with the absence of faults. Such show prospects may or may not eventually make good breeding stock. A breeding quality dog should generally be a superior representative of the breed as well as being free of all serious hereditary defects or faults (even if the faults are not visible in a show ring).

The AKC does require that all breeders keep full and accurate records of their litters. Any breeder should be interested in the progress of all the puppies he sells. If for some reason you are unable to keep your Pyr, the first person you should contact is the breeder. Most responsible breeders will specify this in their contracts and will often request that the dog be returned to them.

Source:  Great Pyrenees Club of America

Here is a link to a list of REPUTABLE dog registries and "knock off" dog registries.  Fake dog registries will "register" – for a fee – any dog from any source.  These fake dog registries create a "certificate" and may, or may not, have the dog's lineage but they ask for NO proof of the dog's lineage thus the breeder can make up any ancestry.  These fake dog registries are frequently used by puppy mills and backyard breeders = BUYER BEWARE.

Did you know?  Experts state you should NEVER buy a puppy from an ALL WHITE litter:
Although many breeders know breeding all white to all white can result in  Pyrs that are smaller in size, weak or missing pigmentation and recessive alleles becoming dominant resulting in a genetic train-wreck, they will still breed an all white male to an all white female to obtain a litter consisting of ALL SOLID WHITE puppies. 

One must ask: Knowing the genetic implications, why would a person intentionally breed "all white to all white"?  Sadly, they do this because they know "All White Sells".  They know buyers have a preference for Big, Solid White, dogs and, in order to meet that market demand, they will breed all white to all white to sell puppies irregardless of the genetic associations with such a breeding.  Litters should consist of a mixture of badgered puppies and all white puppies.  If the litter consists of ALL solid white puppies, RUN, DON'T WALK!  More information can be found: http://gpcaonline.org/jeillustrated.htm

As a Breeder of Great Pyrenees I take my role as "Gate-Keeper of the Gene Pool" very seriously. If we have a Pyr that does not conform to the Breed Standard, they are spayed/neutered and, simply, not part of our breeding program.  As a 'Breeder' I am devoted to this breed and I only want the best genetics to persevere. I only want to breed the BEST the breed has to offer. All too often people 'just breeding dogs' call themselves a Breeder. There is a difference between a Breeder and a person that is just breeding dogs. A person that is 'just breeding dogs' has a male and female but they breed without regard to health or conformation. This dilutes this Majestic breed and waters down the gene pool.  Even perfect dogs can throw faults hidden in their genetic background. Devout breeders evaluate the pairing of a male and female to ensure they are bettering the breed and not hurting it. A devout Breeder is concerned with maintaining conformation to the Breed Standard and will not use sub-optimal dogs as their breeding stock. A person 'just breeding dogs' will breed because they have a male and female with no regard to quality.

So, how does a person know if they are buying from a "Breeder" or just 'somebody that is breeding dogs'?

The answer is: JUST LOOK!

Look at the Sire and the Dam  All puppies are cute "Balls of fluff" but look at the parents:

  • Do they have sagging jowls or drooping eyes (mixed with mastiff)? Unregistered dogs, or dogs registered at one of the phony registries listed above in order to tout "registered", are usually a mix breed being presented as a purebreed or else they WOULD have AKC registrations!
  • Are they big and still proportionally correct? They should be longer than they are tall, have a straight back-line and NOT be down on pasterns.
  • Do they have an under-bite?  Are you able to see the lower jaw when looking at the Sire or Dam straight on or is the lower jaw recessed and hidden by flapping jowls?
  • Are the ears too high-set?   The earset should be equal to the outside corner of the eyes to give a nice rounded crown. If the earset is too high, it flattens the top of the head. The ears of Great Pyrenees should be at eye level and not sit atop the head.

Don't get caught up in "cute puppy syndrome".  If the parents do not look like a Pyr then the puppy will NOT look like a Pyr as an adult. I see so many ads touting "Best of the Breed Standard", "Superb Quality", "Descend from Champion Bloodlines" and the Sire or Dam does NOT even look like a Pyr!  Just because a dog is AKC registered does not mean it is of breeding quality. Just because a person uses these keywords in an ad, does not make it so!  Anybody can allow a male and a female to mate and have puppies but that does not make them a Breeder but, rather, just a person breeding dogs. Knowing the difference can equate to a healthy, temperamentally sound puppy from superior genetics.

Look at the Litter  Is it a litter of entirely solid white puppies? 

Marked dogs and bitches are essential to a sound breeding program because they are advantageous to the maintenance of large size and good pigmentation in the breed. People that are breeding all white to all white are either not educated enough to know this breeding can result in a genetic train-wreck or they do know and just don't care because all  white puppies sell. Yes, you can look at the Sire or Dam and/or look at the litter and easily see what motivates the person to breed.  Is it Breed Preservation or the ability to sell popular puppies?

Knowing and asking the right questions are critical to making an informed puppy selection decision. Although not a complete list, the following questions are an excellent starting point to help you become better informed about your breeder and the particular litter you are investigating. Breeders will appreciate your well thought out questions. The only wrong way to buy a puppy is not to ask any questions at all.

Topics on this page include:

  • Visit the kennel; What to look for and observe.  
  • Evaluate the breeder  
  • If you are looking for a Livestock Guardian
  • Questions the Breeder may ask you
  • What a Breeder offers their puppy buyers
  • Health Guarantee and Contract

Visit Kennel
If at all possible, you should go visit their kennels. You can tell a lot about a breeder by seeing where their dogs live and how they are kept. With long distant placements this can be hard. In this case make sure you have references to contact that have first hand knowledge of the conditions where their dogs live. Ask if the Breeder can send you some RECENT pictures of the sire and dam (ask them to include a prop -like a soda can- so you know these are RECENT photos of the sire and dam) or if they have a website that shows the kennels and their dogs. Look at the sire and dam for correct conformation: Do the jaws sag? Not correct Pyr conformation. Do they have blocky heads? Not correct Pyr conformation. Do they have a short stout muzzle? Not correct Pyr conformation. Do the dogs have a high ear-set or short ears? Not correct Pyr conformation. Anybody can breed a Great Pyrenees but only a reputable breeder is concerned with passing on superior genetics. A back yard breeder just breeds because they have a mating pair with no consideration to whether their breeding stock, or your new puppy, conforms to the Breed Standard.

For long distant purchases you need to ensure you are not buying from a puppy mill. Here are several questions you can ask to learn about the Breeder's practices:

  • Ask if the Breeder specializes in other breeds. A breeder with several different classes of breeds is usually a puppy mill.
  • Ask how many female breeding dogs the Breeder has at present and then ask how many the Breeder has had, in total, over the last five years. This will give you some insight how devoted the Breeder is to their dogs (if they are not devoted to their own dogs they sure won't be devoted to yours once you own it). Breeders who have bought and sold numerous breeding bitches in the last five years indicates they toss them away when they are no longer "useful". A breeder who is devoted to their breeding stock retains their breeding females even after they are retired.
  • Ask how frequently the mother is bred and when she produced her last litter. This will give you an idea if the Breeder is breeding for sound health of the mother and her pups, and not breeding every heat cycle, or if the Breeder is churning out puppies with every heat cycle. Dogs are not meant to be "puppy making machines". For the health of the mother and her offspring, the mother needs off cycles. A reputable breeder is truly interested in creating quality NOT quantity.

Kennel Conditions
Some breeders have their pups in an area of the house, some have outdoor runs and exercise yards. In both cases it should be clean and free of excrement. Is goes without saying that the puppies should also look healthy and clean. Human contact is very important in the first few weeks of life in order for the dog to behave well around humans. Ask how much human contact that the puppies receive. For the health of the puppies, many breeders do not allow visitors until the puppies are four weeks old and their immune systems are a bit stronger and can tolerate outsiders.

Watch how the dogs act around people.       

  • Are they shy and reserved?
  • Or do they buzz around the newcomers, begging for attention?
  • Observe the other dogs on the property. Are they friendly and appear happy and healthy? Are their coats clean and brushed? (In the case of livestock protectors it's reasonable to see some dirt on these dogs, given their surrounding. But they should appear; well fed, bright eyed, healthy and not so matted they appear miserable.
  • Are their kennels clean and is there fresh water provided? 
  • Are they aloof (wary) of you as a stranger, yet accept you once the breeder introduces you? 
  • Friendly and outgoing toward people? A well bred Pyr is not aggressive, they are "aloof" or wary of strangers, but they should never be aggressive without provocation.


Pay particular attention to older dogs. You will want to meet the parents of the pups. Some breeders do not own the sire and he is not readily available. But you most DEFINITELY want to meet the dam. As she will be the one teaching the very important early lessons to her pups...like bite inhibition. If she seems grumpy or aggressive in any way, say thank you very much, and leave.  If the sire is not available, then you will want to ask for the information to contact the owners of the sire.



Evaluate The Breeder

Choose a breeder that you feel comfortable with. Are they easy to talk to? Do they answer your questions readily and honestly? Remember, there are NO stupid questions. Any good breeder with nothing to hide, will NOT be offended and will answer you honestly. In fact they will see you as someone trying to be a responsible dog owner. A responsible breeder will try to educate you, rather than berate you for some ignorance about the breed.

***Although, hopefully you will have been responsible enough to have done some research yourself, before contacting a breeder***

  • Do they appear to be very knowledgeable about their breed? 
  • Do they appear to care a lot about their dogs well-being?
  • Do they try to educate you on the breed?
  • Do they try to help you choose which puppy would best suit your personality and family situations?
  • Do they perform Temperament and Aptitude testing on each puppy to ensure the right puppy gets placed in the right home situation?
  • Does the breeder only place puppies that are at least eight weeks of age?
  • Does the breeder seem more interested in you, and your home environment, then you are about them? A responsible breeder will be more concerned about where their pups will be going, then about selling them to you.

A good breeder will try and pick the pup that they feel will be a good match for you. Not all pups will be good in every home.  Some will have a more dominant (guarding)
instinct then others...this pup would be great for a livestock guard placement, but one with a more amiable temperament would be better suited for a companion home with kids.

If you are looking for a Livestock Guardian:

Don't shy away from breeder who also offer's show dogs. Just because the parents were brought up with sheep, or they were brought up in a mansion, they are guardians at heart. And a good knowledgeable breeder can tell you which pup from the litter has the temperament to make a good guardian.


Beware of a breeder who tells you ALL the pups from this litter will make good guardians. This indicates that they are not as knowledgeable about the breed as they claim. Yes, they all will have that instinct to some extent. They are natural guardians and this is ingrained and not taught. But some will be more suited to the job. Some will be less likely to leave their charges. For example, an excessively shy pup, won't be reliable as a guardian, and can developed future fear aggression.  You want an all around good "farm dog". Pet and guardian.


On the other end of the spectrum, be cautious of a breeder who claims that every pup from this litter is "show" quality. That is just not possible. Even if it was, no breeder can fully guarantee, what this 8 weeks old pup will turn out like as an adult. A knowledgeable breeder can tell you that, do to their experience, a particular pup has all the qualities that one looks for in a show puppy....so far.


Questions the Breeder May Ask You:

They will ask you a lot of questions. PLEASE do not get on the defensive and think they are being intrusive! Instead consider their curiosity as they genuinely care about their puppies, and want only the best for them. This is the ONLY type of breeder you want to get your pet from!  They will probably want to know if:

  • Have you educated yourself somewhat about the breed?
  • Do you have a fenced yard?
  • Will the dog be living in house?
  • How many children? What are their ages? Have they been taught the importance of respecting animals?
  • What are your plans for the dog? (companion/livestock guarding/show/breeding)
  • Will you provide proper veterinary care? They may want a vet reference. As well as a personal reference.
  • Are you familiar with proper nutrition?
  • Do you understand the importance of socialization, training, obedience classes? If not they will explain this to you.
  • The importance of spaying/neutering (if applicable) If the dogs will be a companion or guardians they will insist that the pup be spay/neutered. Neutering will NOT effect the guardian's instinct to guard. In fact, it is HIGHLY recommended to have your livestock guards neutered. They will be far more reliable to stay with their flock, if some female down the road comes into heat. With females, the heat cycle can cause them to totally ignore their duties, and go in search of a male.....any male!
  • Additionally, the breeder may want you too keep in contact, to see how the pup is progressing. They may also want to visit the pup, in their new home.



A responsible Breeder will offer their puppy buyers:

  • Information about the breed.
  • Advice on puppy care and feeding instructions. Advice on grooming and training. Some provide a puppy kit, with puppy care information, breed information, recommended reading, basic training, sample food etc.
  • They will explain the genetic problems in the breed.
  • They will provide the registration papers and pedigree of the puppies. In the USA, it is perfectly acceptable for some breeders to withhold the papers until proof of spay/neuter is shown. 
  • The Breeder will be available to offer advice and support for the life of the dog.



Health Guarantee and Contract:

A responsible breeder will provide you with a written guarantee regarding the health of the pup against genetic defects. This guarantee should be for at least one year. Their guarantee will include a statement to the effect; That they will take back the dog, at anytime in their lifetime for any reason. Most will actually insist, that you MUST give the breeder first right of refusal if you can no longer keep the dog. All responsible breeders will have a contract for their new puppy owners to agree to. These will differ from breeder to breeder, but most will have stipulations such as:

  • If not already spay/neutered, you agree to have the pup spay/neuter and to provide proof to the breeder that this was done. (if not for show/breeding)
  • You agree to provide the proper shelter, care, food, veterinary care required for the pup.
  • You agree to provide the proper fencing required to keep the animal safe, and agree never to allow dog to roam free unattended.
  • They usually insist that you agree: If at any time in the future it becomes necessary to give up ownership of this dog, the breeder will be notified and will have the option of reclaiming this dog at no charge. Or that the breeder must approve of the home that this dog will be given to.
  • They will also stipulate that you agree that at no time will this animal be turned over to the pound, humane society, rescue, or animal shelter. 
  • That any violation of their contract by the owner, will give the breeder, the right to reclaim the dog. 


Again, don't be offended with these stipulations. The breeder is not trying to control you. Their main concern is the puppies welfare, they are being responsible....and this is the ONLY kind of breeder you want to acquire a puppy from.

In conclusion, getting a dog from a reputable breeder is your ONLY line of defense from future problems. Please note, that it is impossible to breed the perfect dog. It is also impossible for any breeder to 100% guarantee that nothing will go wrong with the animals it produces. But with a responsible breeder you will be guaranteed that they will do everything in their power to make it right. Furthermore, good breeders make it a priority to only breed the best of dogs. No breeder wants to take back a 2 year old dog with health or temperament problems, that they can't place or may have to euthanize. So they will do everything in their power to see that that does not happen. By thoroughly researching their breeding lines, and only breeding the best possible specimens. The likelihood that something will go wrong is far less with such a breeder, than with one that does not.


Source:  Sariena Foley