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Great Pyrenees vs Golden Retriever: Which One to Choose?

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Great Pyrenees vs Golden Retriever

The fluffy, adorable puppies of a Great Pyrenees or a Golden Retriever make excellent pets, but deciding between the two is challenging. The Great Pyrenees belongs to the working group class of dogs. While mellow, these powerful, intelligent dogs were bred to guard flocks of sheep. As a pet, Great Pyrenees will guard your home and your family with equal vigilance.

By contrast, the Golden Retriever belongs to the sporting dog class. This exuberant, eager-to-please dog has been among the most popular breeds for decades. If you’re undecided about choosing a Great Pyrenees or a Golden Retriever as your next dog, we’re here to help. We’ll give you an honest overview of both dogs so you can make the best decision when adding a new furry member to your family.

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Visual Differences

Great Pyrenees vs Golden Retriever side by side
Image Credit: Left – jathomas, Pixabay | Right – SasaStock, Shutterstock

A Quick Overview

The Great Pyrenees and the Golden Retriever have a lot of similarities, but they also have unique characteristics.

Great Pyrenees
  • Average Height (adult): 25–32 inches
  • Average Weight (adult): 100+ pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–12 years
  • Exercise: Moderate energy, love outdoors
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: Difficult, though highly intelligent
Golden Retriever
  • Average Height (adult): 21–24 inches
  • Average Weight (adult): 55–75 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–12 years
  • Exercise: High needs
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes, highly social
  • Dog-friendly: Yes
  • Trainability: Excellent, highly intelligent

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What Makes a Great Pyrenees So Great?

Great Pyrenees earn their title of “great” for their majestic stature and impressive size. Males are bigger, weighing over 100 pounds and standing between 27 to 32 inches at their shoulders. Females weigh at least 85 pounds and are 25 to 29 inches tall. Great Pyrenees have an elegant white coat that may contain markings of badger, gray, reddish-brown, or tan. They have kind faces with a black nose and dark brown eyes.

Great Pyrenees
Image Credit: jathomas, Pixabay

Mountain Dog History

To fully appreciate the Great Pyrenees, you must understand their history as a livestock guardian. The Great Pyrenees dates back to ancient times, perhaps as far back as 3,000 B.C. when they accompanied shepherds into what today is known as the Pyrenees Mountains along the border of Spain and France.

For centuries, the Great Pyrenees sat among the frigid mountain landscape, keeping a steady watch over the flock for predators and unwelcome humans. They became known for being fearless protectors.

Calm, Independent, and Affectionate

The Great Pyrenees have incredibly calm demeanors. As a pet, the Great Pyrenees is gentle with everyone in your household and is even caring toward vulnerable animals. Their affectionate nature results in pawing at you to get your attention. However, in return, they’ll give you their unconditional love. Be aware that your Great Pyrenees will most likely disregard their size and settle into your furniture and bed.

Great Pyrenees are known for being independent and smart. They’ll need to be kept on a leash, or their curious mind and independent streak will lead to wandering.

Guard Dog

Given that the Great Pyrenees haven’t left their guardian heritage behind, you’ll gain a guard dog that takes their job seriously. Early socialization is vital if you want anyone beyond your family to visit your home.

Your Great Pyrenees will guard you with powerful barking day and night, regardless of the time, whether you need it or not.

Training Woes

Great Pyrenees can be challenging to train. They require owners that are consistent and can exude authority. Despite their higher intelligence, Great Pyrenees will disregard your training efforts with a bored attitude and delayed, lackluster responses.

Moderate Exercise

Although not a highly active breed, Great Pyrenees still retain their ability to act quickly and with swift speed when a perceived threat is present. They need a moderate amount of exercise and enjoy joining you on walks. Great Pyrenees can also compete in cart-pulling and obedience trials.

Great Pyrenees dog protects sheep_
Image Credit: Ingrid Curry, Shutterstock

Grooming and Shedding

Great Pyrenees have a double coat with a soft undercoat and a long outer coat. Despite all their hair, grooming is relatively easy. Seasonal shedding in the spring can present the biggest challenge, and you may think it snowed white hair inside your house! Regular brushing with a pin or slicker brush will remove excess hair and reduce shedding.

Since they are bred to tolerate low temperatures, the Great Pyrenees, with all their abundant fur, do not care for hot weather. However, their coats should never be clipped because they keep them cool and protected from the sun.

Health Issues

Great Pyrenees have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. Although they eat a relatively small amount for a dog of their size, they are susceptible to bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).

To prevent GDV, give your Great Pyrenees multiple small meals per day and avoid vigorous exercise before and after mealtimes. Great Pyrenees also tend to suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia, eye disorders, luxating patella, neurological and immune-mediated disorders, and certain cancers.

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Going for the Gold: Why to Choose a Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are known for their lustrous, gold coats. They have medium, muscular bodies, feathered tails, broad heads, short ears, and straight muzzles. Their warm, friendly eyes express kindness and intelligence. While males are larger than females, Golden Retrievers weigh between 55 and 75 pounds and stand about 21 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are a lot of Golden Retriever mixes. Among the most popular ones are the Boxer-Golden Retriever, Golden Retriever-Corgi, and the Golden Labrador.

smiling golden retriever
Image Credit: Weinholdphotography, Pixabay

History as Scottish Gundogs

Golden Retrievers have their roots as Scottish gundogs. They were deliberately developed by Dudley Marjoribanks, the first Lord Tweedmouth, during the mid-1800s. He worked for 50 years to create the ideal gundog for his Guisachan estate in Highlands, Inverness-shire, Scotland.

The Golden Retriever originated from breeding a yellow Labrador retriever with the Tweed Water Spaniel, now extinct, as well as with the Irish Setter and the Bloodhound.

Playful, Outgoing, and Eager-to-Please

You probably won’t find a more playful, outgoing breed than the Golden Retriever. While the Great Pyrenees is mostly business, the Golden Retriever is joyful and friendly. But don’t mistake all those puppy-like behaviors for lack of intelligence. Golden Retrievers can quickly learn new skills.

This trustworthy canine often works as a search-and-rescue dog. Goldens also have a compassionate temperament and provide unconditional love. Golden Retrievers make devoted, loving family dogs and reliable service and therapy dogs.


Keep in mind, if you adopt a Golden Retriever, you’ll need to be mindful of their tendency to carry objects around, as well as eat anything left out. Fortunately, Golden Retrievers are known for their “soft” mouths, which can pick up anything from a raw egg to a hunted duck without causing damage.

Easy to Train

Golden Retrievers are relatively easy to train. You’ll want to expose your Golden to early socialization and puppy training classes. Golden Retrievers want to please you more than anything else. Obedience training only strengthens the bond between you and your Golden.

Tan Golden Retriever Puppy
Image Credit: RetyiRetyi, Pixabay

Active and Athletic

Golden Retrievers are best suited for active families. They need plenty of daily exercise, or they can exhibit negative behaviors. Goldens enjoy outdoor play, including swimming, fetching, and accompanying you on long runs and bike rides. They also enjoy getting their exercise on hunting trips and participating in canine sports such as agility, obedience, and tracking.

Grooming: Regular Brushing

Be prepared to brush your Golden Retriever with a slicker brush once or twice a week to remove excess hair, but they’ll need daily brushing when heavily shedding. Golden Retrievers have a water-repellant double coat that sheds moderately throughout the year and more intensely in the spring.

Healthy Dogs

The good news is that Golden Retrievers are healthy dogs. Equal to the Great Pyrenees, they have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. Some Goldens may become overweight due to indulging in too many treats. Their other health issues include elbow and hip dysplasia, eye conditions, and heart diseases.

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Hopefully, after reading through the descriptions of the Great Pyrenees and Golden Retriever, you have a better understanding of each dog. While some traits are similar between the Great Pyrenees vs Golden Retriever, there are undoubtedly several differences that can help you better decide which dog to choose for your family.

The Great Pyrenees is a larger dog than the Golden Retriever. While both dogs have beautiful coats, the Great Pyrenees has a thicker, mainly white coat that sheds a bit less than the Golden Retriever’s shiny gold coat. The Great Pyrenees require less exercise and have a calm, affectionate disposition, while Golden Retrievers prefer to be active daily and have a playful, eager-to-please personality.

Both dogs have less-than-appealing habits. The Great Pyrenees are difficult to train and tend to bark often, even at night. Goldens may give your ears a rest, but you have to provide plenty of exercise time.

Whichever dog you choose, the Great Pyrenees and the Golden Retriever each make fantastic pets and excellent additions to your family.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: (L) Beatrice Foord-St Laurent, Shutterstock | (R) Caleb Fisher, Unsplash

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