Trying to decide between getting a Golden Retriever and a Great Pyrenees?
These two breeds of dog may look a little similar in the face, but are actually quite different, so there’s a good chance one will suit you much better than the other.
By understanding each breed’s traits, you can ensure you’re choosing a dog that will mesh well with your lifestyle and personality.
We’ll begin by looking at an overview of both Golden Retrievers and Great Pryenees, and then compare the two breeds on a variety of categories, including:
- Energy levels
- How good they are with kids
- And more!
Golden Retriever Overview
Golden Retrievers are intelligent, friendly dogs who love nothing more than being with their family.
They typically like meeting new people and are beloved for their sweet, easygoing personalities.
This breed was originally created to be a hunting companion and was bred to retrieve a shot bird to the hunter.
Because of this, Goldens usually enjoy working closely and cooperatively with their humans.
While some are still used for hunting, most Golden Retrievers these days are family pets, service dogs, therapy dogs, and dog sport partners.
They are medium to large-sized dogs, with a wash-and-wear feathered coat, which can range from a light cream to a deep red in color.
Goldens are an active breed, and they need consistent exercise and attention or else they can develop some unwanted habits out of boredom.
They are also very intuitive, smart dogs who learn very well with positive reinforcement-based training to give them the skills they need to thrive in a modern, human world.
Great Pyrenees Overview
Great Pyrenees are a kind of livestock guardian dog known for their calm, protective nature.
They are devoted and affectionate with their family and can be wary of strangers.
This breed has been around for thousands of years, protecting flocks of sheep from predators such as coyotes, wolves and bears.
They patrol the territory and are often found laying among the sheep, keeping a watchful eye for any danger.
Pyrs can be quite zen and unbothered, but will quickly move to action if there is a threat.
Great Pyrenees are working dogs and many still serve as livestock guardians, while others are loyal family companions.
Though they are very large, they also have an elegant appearance with their thick, long coat that’s either all white, or mostly white with some patches of color.
Pyrs are not a very active breed, as they tend to conserve their energy until it’s needed.
For millennia, these dogs have lived and bonded with the flock, and they do their job without any human guidance.
This means they are independent thinkers and often don’t see the point in seemingly arbitrary things like “sit” and “heel.”
These are loyal dogs who can be especially gentle with children and small animals, with the right introduction.
For most Golden Retrievers, 60 to 90 minutes of exercise each day is enough to satisfy their energy needs.
They really enjoy being outdoors, so walks, hikes, swimming, and playing in the yard are all great ways for Goldens to get in some good exercise.
Goldens can have a lot of endurance and often make great running and biking pals.
Energy levels can vary quite a bit within the breed, so make sure you find a line of Golden Retrievers that have the amount of energy that you’re looking for.
Pyrs require about 30 minutes of exercise per day.
They don’t have nearly as much endurance, and aren’t as energetic as a Golden Retriever.
But this does not mean they want to spend their whole day lounging on a sofa.
Great Pyrenees love to spend time outside, watching their surroundings and sniffing the air.
Being outdoors provides them with mental stimulation that’s just as important as physical exercise.
So even though they are lower energy, they will not thrive being an indoor couch potato.
Golden Retrievers require more exercise than Great Pyrenees and are a much more energetic breed.
Goldens love engaging with their humans, and this makes them willing students.
They are highly trainable and often “eager to please.”
This breed is also very in-tune with their owner’s emotions, making them quite intuitive.
One training challenge that many Golden Retriever owners face is getting their pup to behave politely around other dogs and people, as they are often very social.
Pyrs are much more independent and not as eager to engage in obedience training.
This doesn’t mean that they can’t learn or that they’re stubborn, but they’re simply genetically wired in a completely different way from a Golden Retriever.
While Goldens were bred to work closely with humans, Great Pyrenees were bred to do their job independent of their human family.
People needed Pyrs to guard the flock and property even through the night without humans present.
You can see how a breed designed to live outside with the flock for protection isn’t going to be the type of dog that’s hanging on your every word and looking to you for direction.
They can absolutely be trained, but it will require patience and creativity to make it fun and worth their while.
Golden Retrievers are definitely more trainable than Great Pyrenees.
If you’re looking for a dog that is eager to work with you, the Golden is more up your alley.
Golden Retrievers are quite adaptable and can do well in a range of lifestyles.
You have to ensure you are meeting their exercise and mental stimulation needs, but a Golden can do well on a farm, in a city, or suburbia.
Most Goldens have a happy-go-lucky personality and cope well with a variety of environments.
They usually aren’t overly sensitive to noises, motion and social situations.
Great Pyrenees are less of a lifestyle chameleon than Golden Retrievers.
The ideal living setup for a Pyr would be on a large farm with acres of land to patrol and a flock of sheep to watch over.
Their temperament is less well-adapted to our modern human world, and life in a city or even a suburban neighborhood could prove difficult for a Pyrenees.
This is a guardian breed, and without real threats to protect against, they might decide that your guests are unwelcome, and that the neighbor’s dogs are intruders.
Great Pyrenees do not do well in an apartment or condo; they need space to be outdoors and can be big barkers, which your neighbors likely won’t appreciate.
Certainly there are some Pyrs that are more adaptable than others, so it’s important to talk with breeders to find out if their lines are better suited to farm life or if they can thrive in a more populated environment.
Also, with their thick coats, they aren’t well-suited for hot weather.
Golden Retrievers can succeed in a pretty wide set of circumstances, in terms of living situation, space and weather.
If you’re looking for a “go anywhere, do anything” kind of dog, the Golden Retriever is what you’re looking for.
Great Pyrenees are not as flexible, and it takes the right home and lifestyle for a Pyr to really thrive.
How Are They With Other People?
Most Goldens tend to be pretty social and enjoy making new human friends.
While shyness and reactivity do exist in Golden Retrievers, they’re typically highly social and love getting attention from people.
It’s important to teach your Golden Retriever how to appropriately greet people, so they don’t accidentally hurt someone with their eagerness to say hello.
Pyrs can be more standoffish with people that aren’t their family members.
There can be a wider range of human sociability when it comes to Great Pyrenees.
Some are content to just hang out and not interact with new people, while others might use their size and huge bark to intimidate strangers.
There are also some Pyrs that do well as therapy dogs, as their zen energy and lush coat can be comforting.
But it’s more likely that Golden Retriever has what it takes to be a great therapy dog, than a Pyrenees.
Depending on what you like, either of these breeds could be better suited for you in terms of how they are with other people.
If you want a dog that enjoys being around people and is likely to welcome them with a smile and wagging tail, a Golden Retriever is the one for you.
While some Pyrs might be friendly with strangers, it’s not a strong trait with the breed, and it’s more likely that they will be wary of people as a protective guardian.
Are They Good with Kids?
Golden Retrievers can make great family dogs, and usually enjoy being around children.
They can be wonderful playmates for kids, and love the extra fun and attention that kids can give.
Even though Goldens are a sweet, loving breed, it’s critical for children to be taught how to treat dogs with respect, and to be supervised when they’re together.
No dog should be expected to tolerate unwanted behavior from a child.
Golden Retrievers are also larger dogs and, in their excitement, might potentially knock a little kid over, which is why supervision is key.
Great Pyrenees are also great family companions, with their laidback, calm personality.
Even though they’re large, they tend to be gentle and affectionate with their family, including children.
Many Pyrs will watch out for kids and jump into action if they’re in danger.
With their lower energy, they may not be up for silly games and running around.
And because safety is so important, it’s worth repeating that kids should always be taught how to treat dogs respectfully, no matter how chill or tolerant they are.
Kids and dogs should always be supervised if they’re together.
Both Goldens and Great Pryenees can be good options for families with kids.
Golden Retrievers are best known for their good-natured, happy personalities.
A well-bred Golden should be confident and able to roll with the punches, not anxious or reactive.
They can tend to be a bit sensitive, which makes them very intuitive with their family’s feelings and behavior.
Goldens are devoted, even-tempered and affectionate.
This is a very human-oriented breed and they adore spending time with their families no matter what you’re doing.
They’re up for just about anything so long as it’s with you.
Pyrenees are strong-willed, yet very loyal dogs.
They are gentle and affectionate with their family, but are also independent and protective.
Pyrs are calm and well-mannered, and tend to lay around for periods of time unless a threat arises.
Goldens and Pyrs have very different temperaments.
While they both adore their families, a Golden is more enthusiastic and engaged, and a Pyr is more of a reserved, stable presence.
The American Kennel Club provides the following ranges for female and male Goldens:
Females: 55 to 65 lbs, 21.5 to 22.5 inches tall
Males: 65 to 75 lbs, 23 to 24 inches tall
For Great Pyrenees, the American Kennel Club gives the following size ranges:
Females: 85 lbs and up, 25 to 29 inches tall
Males: 100 lbs and up, 27 to 32 inches tall
Pyrs are significantly larger than Golden Retrievers, so depending on your preference, the size factor might sway you one way or another.
Great Pyrenees are very strong dogs, bred with the capability to fight off a wolf and even a bear if needed.
Leash training will be extra important so that you aren’t pulled over by such a big dog.
According to the American Kennel Club, a Golden Retriever’s life expectancy is 10 to 12 years.
Bernese Mountain Dog
The American Kennel Club states that Great Pyrenees’ life expectancy is also 10 to 12 years.
Goldens are Pyrs are evenly matched when it comes to life expectancy.
Golden Retrievers are moderate to heavy year-round shedders.
They have double coats, so they’ll need routine brushing (every 1 to 3 days) to keep it under control.
They tend to shed more heavily in the spring, and will need extra brushing at that time.
Pyrs are also moderate to heavy shedders, but because they are very large, that often means you’re dealing with a lot more fur.
They need to be brushed once or twice a week.
Prys also blow their thick double coat in the spring, so you can expect even more shedding during that season.
Both breeds shed and need consistent brushing each week.
Because Prys are larger, it will take more time to stay on top of their grooming, and there will be more shedding in general.
Golden Retriever puppies range from $1,000 to $3,500 depending on the individual breeder and their location.
Great Pyrenees puppies range from $1,000 to $2500, also depending on the breeder and location.
Goldens can be a bit more expensive on average compared to Pyrs.
A cheap puppy should be taken as a red flag, rather than a bargain.
It may be a sign that the parents were not health tested, and that the breeder is not breeding for healthy, temperamentally sound puppies.
Golden Retrievers and Great Pyrenees are very different breeds, which is why it’s so important for you to consider your own lifestyle and preferences.
Dogs are not balls of clay that we can mold to completely suit our needs.
Genetics matter a lot when it comes to how your dog will act and how well-suited they might be to your life.
Golden Retrievers have more energy and will require more physical and mental exercise than a Great Pyrenees, who are more calm and reserved.
But Pyrenees really need a lot of outdoor time (and space, ideally) to feel content.
If you are very active and see your dog as your adventure sidekick, a Golden Retriever is definitely the better choice.
If you enjoy having company over and want a dog that can engage happily with guests, the Golden Retriever is also probably the one for you.
If you’re looking for a dog with a serene, grounding presence who is content to relax nearby and have a leisurely stroll, the Great Pyrenees might be the breed for you.
Likewise, if you’re interested in a dog with protective instincts, the Pyr is the one for the job, as most Goldens will happily welcome just about anyone onto your property.
As you make a decision, consider which factors are most important to you and then assess which breed most closely fits your list.
And remember that there can be a lot of variety within a breed, so seek out a breeder who is producing dogs who are thriving with families who have a similar lifestyle to your own.
Do you have one of these two breeds?
What’s your experience been like?
Let us know down in the comments!
See other breed comparisons here:
- Golden Retriever vs. Labrador
- Golden Retriever vs. Irish Setter
- Golden Retriever vs. Golden Doodle
- Golden Retriever vs. Border Collie
- Golden Retriever vs. Beagle
- Golden Retriever vs. Husky
- Golden Retriever vs. Rottweiler
- Golden Retriever vs. Bernese Mountain Dog
- Golden Retriever vs. German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever vs. Australian Shepherd
- Golden Retriever vs. Boxer
- Golden Retriever vs. Cocker Spaniel
- Golden Retriever vs. Doberman
To learn more about whether or not a golden retriever is right for you, take the Golden Retriever Quiz!
And if you’ve decided on getting a Golden Retriever, check out this article on how to raise a Golden Retriever puppy.
- Puppy Starter Kit: 17 Essentials For Your New Golden Retriever Puppy
- 300 Golden Retriever Name Ideas
- 9 Golden Retriever Characteristics That Will Surprise You
About the author:
Alisa Healy is a professional dog trainer in the Chicago suburbs, with a wide range of training experience from shelters to in-home training to dog sports. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and is passionate about helping people and dogs live fulfilling, harmonious lives together.