Anatolian Shepherd dog breed is a Turkish working dog now used in the capacity of a security dog to afford protection to the family. It is very loyal and devoted to the family to which it belongs, but extremely suspicious of strangers. This makes it a highly effective guard dog. Though tough in build and large in size, this dog is very affectionate and easy going, and readily becomes a lovable family dog.
As the name implies, the Anatolian Shepherd dog breed originated in Anatolia in Central Turkey, where these tough dogs were used for guarding livestock and fighting off their predators. That is one duty they took very seriously, fearlessly taking on their enemies that included wolves and bear. Their ancestors are traced to the Tibetan Mastiff and Roman war dogs.
This breed reached the United States in mid 20th century, but here its role as a watch dog of livestock capable of taking on ferocious predators was not put to good use. Instead, these dogs were bred for protecting the family of their owners. Even though they developed as a separate breed in the US, they retain many characteristics of the common shepherd dogs of Anatolia, such as Kangal. Hence the name Kangal is sometimes used to refer to Anatolian Shepherds.
They got official recognition from the American Kennel Club only in 1996, and are now included in the working group. The Australian National Kennel Club counts both Kangals and Anatolian Shepherd dogs as one breed.
There’s wide variation in not only color, but size also, among Anatolian Shepherd dogs. The nomadic nature of the shepherds of Anatolia where the dog originated is thought to be the reason for these variations. They generally have a sand-colored coat with a black coloration around the mouth. They are also called Anatolian Blackhead or just Blackhead or Karabas.
This breed was originally developed to be an independent worker, taking out the master’s flock to pasture and then going in pursuit of potential predators to prevent them attacking the sheep. All this was generally done without the active involvement of the master. The ability of the dog to take decisions on its own and act independently was highly valued. Even after its role has changed from a guard dog of livestock to a guardian of its human family, its inherent sense of independence has not changed. This may pose problems for the owner as the dog may chose to disobey orders.
They are known to have wanderlust too, as they used to roam far and wide at will while performing their original role. It may be necessary to have them fitted with some tracking device in case they take off unexpectedly.
Early socialization is essential to make them suitable as a companion dog. They should be introduced to other pets in the family while they are still puppies.
Grooming and exercise
They have a tough double coat that requires thorough brushing once or twice weekly. They may shed excessively during warm weather, so the grooming frequency may have to increase in the summer months.
Given the history of active outdoor life, this working dog breed requires its daily quota of exercise. They like to run and hike, but they are not interested in chasing a ball or fetching things even as puppies. They tend to enjoy long runs without leash, but wherever that is not practical, they should be taken for a jog on leash with their owners.
Anatolian Shepherds are typically outdoor dogs and they have no difficulty spending most of the time out in the open except in extremes of temperatures. Nevertheless, being much attached to the family members, they may want to sleep indoors. They are not suitable for small spaces and not an ideal pet for apartment dwellers.
Common health issues of Anatolian Shepherd dog breed
Anatolian Shepherd dog breed is relatively long-lived with an average life expectancy over ten years. Their long history as working dogs guarding livestock in open country has made them a tough breed with very few serious health issues. They are prone to hip dysplasia and an eye condition called entropion. Testing for these two potential problems should be part of their regular health checkups.