Breed Group: Working
Temperament and Behavior
The Anatolian Shepherd excels at guarding livestock independent of a shepherd. They frequently use their booming voice to issue warnings, and the intended recipient better take that warning to heart. These highly protective dogs aren’t just first rate watchdogs. They intend to back up any warning they issue. Though not overly affectionate, they possessively protect their family deciding who is friend and who is foe. Children are considered part of the flock. But a resident Anatolian Shepherd will likely view his role more as an overseer than a playmate. However be aware it is not uncommon for the dog to misread parental correction or roughhousing with playmates as a threat to his charges. They accept any animal as part of the family including dogs, rabbits, birds, or cats. But woe be unto any creature that intrudes on territory he thinks is his to guard, including strangers. They are “easy keepers” for their size. They require no more exercise and are no more active either inside or out than most dogs. Although they prefer to be outside where they can watch over ‘their domain’, they should not be deprived of human companionship. But constraining them can be a challenge. Some are fence climbers and all dig deep holes to lie in. Fences must be at least six feet high and secured two feet or deeper at their base.
Physical CharacteristicsAnatolian Shepherds are large, tough dogs. Their most common color is fawn, with a black mask. Other colors include brindle, tricolor, and white. Males weigh between 110 and 150 pounds, with females weighing 80 to 120 pounds. In height, males range to about 29 inches, females to 27 inches. They have good cold tolerance and an average tolerance for heat. Brush their thick coat at least two times a week, more during their twice yearly heavy seasonal shed.
Trainer's NotesAnatolian Shepherds generally train well but are independent and have a stubborn streak. Instinctively they know they are guardians and require little training in this regard. But they must be well socialized to refine the decision-making process that determines who is friend and who is foe. If owners don’t take charge when the dog is a puppy, during adolescence many will challenge for leadership. Without ongoing socialization and guidance from an owner experienced in handling challenges from a dominant dog, the dog will seize control. Clearly, this is not a breed for a meek or a first-time dog owner. Valued for their utilitarian characteristics rather than their looks or charm, they are sought after by people who need a loyal, effective guardian who is also social with their families.
HealthAnatolian Shepherds have only one significant genetic health concern which is Hip Dysplasia. This crippling disease affects about 1 out of every 10 dogs. Entropion is but a minor concern. Owners should note that, like sight hounds, this breed is more sensitive to anesthesia than most other dog breeds. If you own an Anatolian Shepherd be watchful for injuries the dog may ignore as a result of its high pain tolerance and stoic attitude. In this regard, it is worth remembering they are subject to contracting ear infections. Their normal lifespan is between 10 and 13 years.
PopularityThe Anatolian Shepherd is ranked 114 in popularity by the AKC which registers between 300 and 400 dogs in a year.
Breed HistoryThe breed spread throughout the area now referred to as Mesopotamia as a result of their ability to protect nomadic shepherds and guard their flocks against both thieves and predators which included wolves and bears. But the Anatolian Shepherd’s roots most likely extend back much further than that to the Tibetan Mastiffs and Roman Molossian war dogs that were brought to Turkey more than 4,000 years ago. Arriving in America in the 1950’s, they frequently guarded livestock against attack by coyotes and mountain lions in the western part of the US. Unknown to the general public until the late 1970’s, the AKC accepted them for full registration in 1996.
Additional InformationThe name “Shepherd” is inaccurate because these dogs were never used for herding but for guarding livestock. This description probably came from the translation of its Turkish name which means “shepherd’s dog.” The National (US) Breed Club is the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America.