Vital Stats:Dog Breed Group: Working Dogs
Height: 2 feet, 3 inches to 2 feet, 5 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 80 to 150 pounds
Life Span: 11 to 13 years
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.
Anatolian Shepherds are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Anatolian Shepherds will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Anatolian Shepherds, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don't display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this is also a degenerative disease. It's believed to be caused by abnormal growth and development, which results in a malformed and weakened joint. The disease varies in severity: the dog could simply develop arthritis, or he could become lame. Treatment includes surgery, weight management, medical management, and anti-inflammatory medication.
- Demodectic Mange: Also called demodicosis, this malady is caused by the demodex mite. The mite can't be passed to humans or other dogs; only the mother can pass this mite to her pups, which usually happens in their first few days of life. Demodex mites live in hair follicles and usually don't cause any problems. If your dog has a weakened or compromised immune system, however, it can develop demodectic mange. This disorder can be localized, occurring as patches of red, scaly, skin with hair loss on the head, neck and forelegs. It's thought of as a puppy disease and often clears up on its own. The generalized form covers the entire body and affects older puppies and young adult dogs. In either case, you should take your dog to the vet for a checkup and treatment. The American Academy of Veterinary Dermatology recommends neutering or spaying all dogs who develop generalized demodectic mange, because it carries a genetic link.
- Hypothyroidism: This is a disorder of the thyroid gland. It's thought to be responsible for conditions such as epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma, and other skin conditions. It is treated with medication and diet.
- Entropion: Entropion is the inward rolling of the eyelid, which usually affects the lower eyelids of both eyes. It is irritating and causes impairment of vision. It generally occurs before a dog turns a year old, but treatment should be held off until the dog reaches adulthood. Treatment consists of multiple surgeries performed over time so that the dog isn't at risk for ectropion, which is a rolling out of the eyelid.
The Anatolian Shepherd is a hardy dog and can adapt to living outdoors, indoors, or both. He does not do well living in a kennel or at the end of a chain, however. He should be kept in a securely fenced yard — a fence at least six feet tall is required for this big breed — not only for his protection but also for the protection of dogs or people who might inadvertently enter his turf, which he will defend with all his might.
Because he is naturally wary of new people, animals, and situations, the Anatolian Shepherd must be socialized right from puppyhood. Obedience training and consistent leadership are also essential, because the Anatolian is so strong-willed. This dog has his own ideas, and he won't cater to his owner's every whim.
The Anatolian Shepherd will guard and protect without any protection training; in fact, attack training is not recommended for this breed. His protective nature grows as he matures; by the time he's about 18 months old, he usually voluntarily takes on the role of guardian.
Recommended daily amount: 4 to 6 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Keep your Anatolian Shepherd in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
Coat Color And Grooming
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog's coat is short (about an inch long) with a thick undercoat. Sometimes there is feathering on the ears, legs, and tail. His coat comes in many colors, including pinto, white, and brindle, but fawn with a black mask is common.
The Anatolian Shepherd is naturally clean, so he' no big handful in the grooming department. The breed's short coat requires minimal brushing, but you can expect profuse shedding several times year. Extra brushing during those times helps remove dead hair. Minimal bathing, three to four times a year, is all that's needed.
Brush your Anatolian Shepherd's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim his nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you're not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your Anatolian Shepherd to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children And Other Pets
The Anatolian Shepherd is loving with his family, including the children, with whom he's calm and protective. But because of his large size, he's probably better suited to families with older children. He's unlikely to respect young children as leaders, so all interactions between the Anatolian and children should be supervised by responsible adults.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
The best chance of the Anatolian Shepherd accepting other dogs and pets is to raise him with them from puppyhood. As he grows, he'll naturally accept them as part of his "flock."
Anatolian Shepherds are often obtained without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Anatolian Shepherds in need of adoption and/or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club, and they can point you toward a Anatolian Shepherd rescue organization.
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Anatolian Shepherd.