Published on June 18, 2011
- Height: 27 to 29 inches or more at the shoulder
- Weight: 80 to 150 pounds
The Anatolian Shepherd is a livestock guardian breed from Turkey. He still has strong working instincts, but he can be a family companion or show dog as well. He is a member of the American Kennel Club’s Working Group. He is a giant breed, weighing 80 to 150 pounds.
The Anatolian Shepherd has many good qualities, but he is not the easiest dog to live with. If you want the calm, confident dog that is the Anatolian at his best, be prepared to do your due diligence to find him, and put in plenty of effort training and socializing him once you bring him home.
The Anatolian is quiet, watchful and protective of his family, including other pets. He is suspicious of strangers and can be aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know. Anatolians bark loudly at anything or anyone that appears to be suspect, and will act to protect their people and property.
Begin training as soon as you bring your Anatolian Shepherd puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. That 20-pound puppy will quickly grow much larger. A nothing-in-life-is-free program, requiring puppies to “work” for everything they get by performing a command before receiving meals, toys, treats or play, works well with this breed. It’s always a good idea to take an Anatolian Shepherd to puppy kindergarten followed by basic obedience class, especially if you are working with a trainer who understands the Anatolian Shepherd mindset.
Early, frequent socialization is essential to prevent an Anatolian Shepherd from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different. Purchase an Anatolian Shepherd puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes. Continue socializing your Anatolian Shepherd throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, visits to friends and neighbors, and outings to local shops and businesses. This is the only way he can learn to be discriminating, recognizing what is normal and what is truly a threat.
The Anatolian Shepherd needs daily exercise in the form of a long walk or the opportunity to run in a safe, traffic-free area. A dog park is not a good choice, though, since he may be aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know. He is best suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least five or six feet high. This is a territorial breed, and he must learn his boundaries. Do not rely on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. The shock it provides is nothing to this tough dog, and he won’t let it deter him from leaving the yard.
Like any dog, Anatolian Shepherd puppies are inveterate chewers and because of their size can do a whole lot of damage. Don’t give them the run of the house until they’ve reached trustworthy maturity. And keep your Anatolian Shepherd puppy busy with training, play and socialization experiences. A bored Anatolian Shepherd is a destructive Anatolian Shepherd.
The Anatolian Shepherd can live outdoors, but he should spend plenty of time with his family. Chaining an Anatolian Shepherd out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior.
The Anatolian Shepherd has a fawn-colored double coat that sheds. Brush him at least once a week to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy. Clean the ears and trim the nails as needed, and bathe the Anatolian on the rare occasions that he’s dirty.
Other Quick Facts
- Once you’ve earned an Anatolian’s loyalty, he will guard you and whatever you have on your property with his life.
- In Namibia, Anatolians guard livestock from cheetahs, protecting the livestock from predation and the cheetahs from being shot by angry farmers.
- The Anatolian’s double coat sheds heavily. Some people have given up the dogs to rescue groups because of it.
- All color patterns and markings are acceptable, including white, fawn, brindle, or fawn with a black mask. Often, his coloration or markings echo that of the livestock he is guarding to help him blend in.
The History of Anatolian Shepherds
In his homeland of Turkey, the Anatolian is known as the Coban Kopegi (cho-bawn ko-pay), or “shepherd dog.” Protecting property and livestock from animal and human predators is what the Anatolian Shepherd Dog does best. The breed originated in the rugged terrain of Anatolia, a region of Turkey, where it is believed to have existed for thousands of years, protecting flocks of sheep from wolves and other predators. The dogs typically slept in the village during the day and guarded flocks by night. The Anatolian still works in this capacity today, being seen more often as a working dog than in the show ring.
The Anatolian’s prowess at defending his charges has taken him to the African nation of Namibia where he helps to protect endangered cheetahs—by preventing them from killing sheep or other livestock. Dr. Laurie Marker, co-founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, discovered that placing Anatolians with Namibian farmers was highly effective in reducing livestock losses to the big cats and instituted a breeding and placement program for the dogs. With Anatolians on the job, cheetahs leave the sheep alone and farmers are less inclined to shoot them.
Anatolians first came to the United States in the 1930s, presented to the U. S. Department of Agriculture by the Turkish government. Archaeologist Rodney Young imported some Anatolians in the 1950s, but the first recorded American-bred litter wasn’t born until 1970, from a pair of dogs imported by then-Navy Lieutenant Robert C. Ballard, who had been stationed in Turkey.
The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1999 as a member of the Working Group. Anatolians rank 109th among the breeds registered by the AKC, up from 122nd a decade ago.
Anatolian Temperament and Personality
The Anatolian is a large dog with a protective and territorial nature. He is intelligent, serious and stubborn, intent on doing his job. Despite his heritage as an independent flock guardian, however, he is not a solitary dog and appreciates the companionship of his family, including other animals — when he is raised with them. Strangers and strays will not receive any kind of welcome, though. Warn the neighbors that if their pets come onto your property, they may not leave it alive.
Because of his heritage — a past that involved sleeping in the village during the day and guarding flocks at night — the Anatolian has something of a nocturnal nature. But don’t let him fool you. He may look as if he’s sleeping, but he always knows what’s going on. If something alarms him, he rouses instantly, ready to defend against any threat. The Anatolian is constantly observing everything going on around him, checking for anything that might be a danger.
A securely fenced yard is essential for an Anatolian. If he is free to roam, he will claim the whole neighborhood as his property. Taking a young Anatolian to a dog park is a good opportunity for socialization, but once the dog turns a year old, the visits should cease. Adolescent Anatolians start becoming protective at that age and may interfere with other dogs playing at the park.
Introduce the Anatolian to other pets in the home while he is still very young. Anatolians who are brought up with other animals from puppyhood become protective of them, but an adult Anatolian brought into the family is unlikely to bond with other pets.
Anatolians are highly protective of children in their own family, but that doesn’t necessarily carry over to other people’s children. Always supervise the Anatolian when visiting children are around. If the dog sees the neighbors’ kids roughhousing with your kids, he may interpret their play as a threat and intercede.
Be firm, confident and consistent when training this breed. The Anatolian needs a leader he can respect. That doesn’t mean taking a heavy hand. Hitting should never be an option. The breed responds well to tone of voice. And avoid roughhousing. Never permit the Anatolian to play roughly with or put his teeth on other animals or people, especially children.
It’s also important to give the Anatolian a job. A bored Anatolian is a destructive dog. If you don’t have livestock, put him to work guarding the other animals in the family. For people who live where coyotes and mountain lions have a presence, an Anatolian can help protect smaller dogs and cats from predation.
Anatolian puppies should go to their new homes by eight weeks of age so they can start receiving intensive socialization, a process that should continue throughout the dog’s life. The more experiences an Anatolian has, the better able he is to make decisions about what constitutes a threat. An Anatolian with little experience of other people, animals and places is likely to overcompensate when deciding how to react to something.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Without the right upbringing the Anatolian can be hard to control. Too often, people believe they can change the breed through training. That’s not realistic. But for the family who understands this dog’s nature as a guardian and respects his power and intelligence, he is a treasure well worth the effort.
What You Need to Know About Anatolian Health
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
The Anatolian is long-lived for a large breed. It has a typical lifespan of 11 to 13 years, with some living longer. Orthopedic problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia are the main concern in the breed. Also seen in the breed are ankyloglossia, a condition affecting the tongue, carpal laxity syndrome and congenital deafness.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
Ask the breeder to show evidence that a puppy’s parents have hip and elbow clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). The Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America code of ethics says owners and breeders must x-ray all dogs before breeding them.
If a breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Not every Anatolian visit to the vet is for a genetic problem. Common injuries and accidents include snakebite, poisoning with rodent or snail bait, heatstroke and, in rural areas, gunshot or trauma from being hit by a car.
Anatolians may also be prone to bloat, a condition in which the stomach distends with air. This can become the more serious condition, gastric torsion or gastric dilatation volvulus if the stomach twists on itself, cutting off the blood supply. Gastric torsion strikes suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, trying to throw up but without bringing anything up, and signs of pain. Gastric torsion requires immediate veterinary surgery, and most dogs that have bloated once will bloat again. That means it’s wise to opt for the procedure known as "stomach tacking," which will keep the stomach from twisting in the future. This procedure can also be done as a preventive measure.
Because they are large dogs, it’s important to wait until the Anatolian’s skeletal growth plates have closed before starting this slow-maturing dog on any high-impact activity that involves running or jumping. Walking or hiking are good ways to condition a younger dog.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping an Anatolian at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
Basics of Anatolian Grooming
This is a double-coated breed that sheds heavily. Grooming the Anatolian requires at least weekly brushing — daily during the twice yearly shedding season — and dogs with a thick, plush coat may need to be brushed more frequently. That comes as an unpleasant surprise to some people. It’s even one of the reasons owners give up Anatolians to rescue. On the plus side, baths are rarely necessary. Brushing usually keeps the coat clean, and the dog has little odor.
Anatolians have drop ears, so they can be prone to ear infections. Keep the ears clean and dry to prevent bacterial or yeast infections from taking hold.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Brush the teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath.
Finding an Anatolian
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Choosing an Anatolian Breeder
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Anatolian and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the ASDCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the ASDCA or the American Kennel Club. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Many reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of an Anatolian puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a working or companion home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Anatolian might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
Adopting a Dog From an Anatolian Rescue or Shelter
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for an Anatolian your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Anatolians available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for an Anatolian. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Anatolians love all Anatolians. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Anatolian Shepherd Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Anatolian rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring an Anatolian home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Anatolian, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Anatolian to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.