The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a native of Turkey, where he was developed as a shepherd’s companion and livestock guardian. He was bred to resemble the size and color of the livestock he defended so predators would not detect him among the flock. Sometimes called the Anatolian Karabash Dog, he’s a fiercely loyal guard dog and a large, impressive breed, weighing 120 to 150 pounds at maturity.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a considered a livestock protector or guardian dog. As such, he was developed to live with the flock and adopt it as his own. He is a rugged, self-confident guardian who knows how much protection or intimidation is necessary in any situation.
The Anatolian has been working independently for centuries, making decisions regarding threats to his property. As a puppy, he adopts whomever he lives with, be it a family or a herd of sheep; as he grows, he takes on the protector gig. It doesn’t matter to the Anatolian whether his “flock” is human or animal–he is extremely protective and possessive.
And he backs up his guardian nature with presence. The Anatolian is a large dog, weighing as much as 150 pounds. He has a short, fawn coat and a black mask. He appears intimidating, and if necessary he is–though he’s calm and friendly with his family.
Not surprisingly for a guard dog, the Anatolian Shepherd is suspicious of strangers and reserved with those outside his “flock.” He takes his job seriously–this dog is no clown–and when his owner isn’t home, he is unlikely to allow even friends or extended family members whom he’s met before to come onto his property.
At the same time, the Anatolian is a very intelligent, loyal, steady working dog. He’s highly trainable, though he’s likely to consider whether or not he will choose to obey a command, due to his independent nature. He needs an owner who is strong, kind, and consistent as a pack leader.
This breed is probably not a good choice as a family pet if you have very young children. Because he’s so large, he could accidentally injure a small child, especially when he’s a clumsy, growing puppy (the phrase “bull in a china shop” applies).
Additionally, the Anatolian typically does not respect children as pack leaders, and he could decide to protect his children from visiting playmates if they’re roughhousing and the dog misinterprets the activity. Generally, the Anatolian is tolerant of older children and is good with them. To him they are, of course, part of the flock that needs guarding, along with the rest of the family.
The Anatolian Shepherd is not the perfect breed for everyone. He can be a fine and loyal companion if you and your family understand his unique qualities and requirements and are ready to take on the responsibility of owning a very large and protective dog.
If you need a dog to protect a flock or herd, find a breeder who breeds successful livestock guardians: you’ll have a better outcome if the puppy or adult you purchase already has successful working dogs in his bloodline.
When looking for a family companion, focus on proper breed temperament. Find a good breeder with experience with this dog’s character, and you’ll be able to look forward to many years of companionship with a loyal, protective guardian for your family.
- It is critical that the Anatolian Shepherd receive proper socialization and training so that he can learn what is normal and what is a threat. Untrained and unsocialized Anatolian Shepherds can become overprotective, aggressive, and uncontrollable.
- Anatolian Shepherds are independent and less eager to please than other breeds. They won’t not necessarily wait for instructions but will act if they think their “flock” is threatened.
- Secure fencing is an abolute must.
- Some Anatolians are champion diggers.
- As guardians of their territory, some can be barkers, especially at night.
- Some Anatolians can be dog-aggressive.
- They shed profusely, especially in the spring.
- Expect a challenge for leadership at some point with the Anatolian Shepherd. Owners must be willing to exercise pack authority consistently and kindly.
- Because they are so large, expect high costs for boarding, medications, and food purchases; you’ll also need a large vehicle for them.
- Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are sensitive to anesthesia. Discuss this with your veterinarian before any surgical procedures.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is named for his homeland of Anatolia in the central part of Turkey, where he is still a point of pride (and has even been honored on a national postage stamp).
It’s thought that the working ancestors of the breed date back 6,000 years. Wandering tribes from central Asia probably brought the first mastiff-type dogs into the area that is now Turkey, and sight hound breeds from southern regions contributed to the Anatolian’s agility, long legs, and aloof character.
Due to the climate and terrain of the area, the local population developed a nomadic way of life, dependent on flocks of sheep and goats. The protection of those flocks, and of the shepherds themselves, was the job of the large dogs who traveled with them.
The dogs became known as coban kopegi, Turkish for “shepherd dog.” The dogs stayed with the animals night and day, and they had to be swift enough to move quickly from one end of a widely scattered flock to the other. They also had to be large and strong enough to stand up to predators.
Severe culling and breeding of only the best workers resulted in a dog with a uniform type, stable temperament, and excellent working ability. Dogs were often not fed once they were past puppyhood. They lived by killing gophers and other small animals, though never injuring their flock. They were fitted with iron collars with long spikes to protect their throats from assailants. You can still find working dogs wearing these collars in Turkey today.
Anatolian Shepherds got their most enthusiastic introduction in the U.S. in the 1970s, although prior to that the Turkish government had given Anatolians to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a gift, for experimental work as guardians of flocks.
But in 1970, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America was formed at the urging of Robert Ballard, a U.S. naval officer who had become fascinated by the dogs while in Turkey, and who began to breed them once back in California. The breed entered the American Kennel Club Miscellaneous Class in 1996. It moved to the Working Group in August 1998.
Males stand 29 inches tall and weigh 110 to 150 pounds. Females stand 27 inches tall and weigh 80 to 120 pounds.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is highly intelligent, independent, and dominant. He thinks for himself–a necessary characteristic for a livestock guardian. He’s very protective of his family and flock, and he considers himself to be constantly on duty.
Though protective, the Anatolian Shepherd is calm, friendly, and affectionate with his immediate family. He is not friendly with strangers and is very reserved with those outside his family, even if they’re friends or relatives of yours.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who’s beating up his littermates or the one who’s hiding in the corner.
Always meet at least one of the parents–usually the mother is the one who’s available–to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you’re comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, the Anatolian Shepherd needs early socialization–exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences–when they’re young. Socialization helps ensure that your Anatolian Shepherd puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.