Day Five/January 12

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucius

There are so many things to learn with a Great Pyrenees living in your house. First, I’ve learned how to spell Pyrenees…something I struggled with for the first few days, but now after much practice, I’ve figured it out and my paws know instinctively how to type it on the keyboard.

But aside from spelling Great Pyrenees, we’ve also learned a bit about the breed first by reading information and then by observing that information come to life in Max.

I love reading about breed temperaments on various websites. For instance, for a labradoodle like myself they use words like sociable, friendly, non aggressive, intuitive and that just makes me laugh. Yes, I can be sociable and friendly to those I know, but I am also a bit anxious and fearful with those I don’t know. And I must admit, I can be aggressive at times though more out of fear than anger. Perhaps the only thing they got right is that I am very intuitive, which makes me overly sensitive to things like loud noises, sudden, aggressive movements, and skateboards!

So when we read about Max’s “breed standard” for temperament, we read it with a bit of skepticism. Ironically, most of what was listed turns out to be exactly who we’re finding out Max to be.

For example:

Courageous, very loyal, and obedient — It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on with Max and his body, but he clearly has difficulty moving and just to get up and change positions takes a great deal of effort and therefore courage.

He is loyal — especially to Ann who he will walk across the yard just to sit next to even though she’d gladly walk to him.

As for obedient — I’ll get to that in a bit, but suffice it to say, he has potential for obedience but he has yet to be asked to do much.

Next — Gentle and affectionate with those he loves.

Definitely. The key here though is to read between the lines. Gentle and affectionate with those he loves, but a bit stubborn and willful with those he doesn’t. It’s subtle, let me tell you, but since Gretchen is the one to make him do all sorts of stuff — get in the car, walk across a field, go for swimming and massage, stretching exercises and such — she is often in the “those he doesn’t love” camp. Whereas Ann — who gets to come home and just cuddle with Max — he is truly gentle and affectionate. His tail thwaps most loudly and happily whenever Ann is about and she can get him to do things that Gretchen cannot … like get up and go outside.

Next, the GP is described as a serious worker, but very independent and here’s my favorite part of the description…be patient with training as it may be rather difficult.

That is perhaps the biggest lesson we’re learning — Max is stubborn and willful at times. If he doesn’t want to do something, he’s not going to do it. In fact, if he wants something — like attention and affection — he’s not going to do whatever it is you want until he gets what he wants first.

This is probably why he loves Ann and finds Gretchen annoying — Ann sits with him and rubs his belly. Gretchen makes Max get up, go outside to do his business, navigate the walk and stairs with only some assistance, does his range of motion exercises and stretches all first and then she rubs his belly.

When Ann approaches the look in Max’s eyes is pure and simple love. When Gretchen approaches he has a look of skepticism and I can hear him mumble under his breath…”Oh Dog. Not this again!”

Which is perhaps why this description — When not provoked, GP are calm and well mannered, and somewhat serious — fits Max to a T.

Not that we do any provoking, but Max would much rather lie in the lap of a loving human than go for a walk (completely opposite of me). So when he is asked to get up and do something — go for a short walk or do his exercises — he sees this as provocation and that’s when his willful streak appears.

And yes, all of it is done in a serious manner.

That’s why today I had an idea: Let’s get Max to play.

It’s been cold here lately, but luckily the sun has been out and Max is, after all, a flock guarding breed who must endure all sorts of inclement weather… so for our afternoon exercise we went out to the yard and played, which meant that Max lumbered out to his favorite spot in the yard and I practiced my agility work with him…or should I say over him.

Yep, Max became my jump and I practiced drumming up my courage to actually go over the top of the big guy. (In these photos I tended to go towards his back end, but by the evening, I was going over his shoulders and head without a problem.)

You might think this is cruel, but let me tell you, I heard Max laugh every time I went up and over. In fact, he was so comfortable with my antics, he laid on the grass and watched the red-shafted flicker in the tree while I worked on my timing.

If Confucius is correct — that we learn by reflection, imitation, and experience — and that the hardest of all three is experience then everyone at this house, Max included, is on a very step learning curve.

Max has good days and he has not so good days. Today, dare I say, was not his best, but we all persevered and by the evening, Max was a bit more himself. We have a vet appointment on Sunday to check out possible issues — bladder infection? skin rash…neuro versus muscular concerns — so we’ll report back the findings or speculations as well as next steps.

Perhaps our favorite description of Great Pyrenees is this: This is not a breed for beginners. Yes, well…we’re remaining hopeful and optimistic and so appreciate all of you (some we know, some we don’t) who have sent us encouragement in your words and your thoughts.

“Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”  ~Plato

Until tomorrow,

Rubin and Max

2 Replies to “Temperament”

  1. Rubin, thanks for taking such good care of Max. Praying that the visit to the vet will shed new light on what is going on with Max. Big hugs for you all!!

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