The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a native of Turkey, where they were bred as a shepherd’s companion and livestock guardian. They were created with specific traits to resemble the size and color of livestock they defended so predators wouldn’t detect them among the flock.
Sometimes called the Anatolian Karabash Dog or Kangal (which is considered a separate breed by many kennel clubs), they’re a fiercely loyal guard dog and a large, impressive dog breed, frequently weighing 120 to 150 pounds at maturity.
Novice pet parents beware. Not only are dogs of this breed big; they’re generally known to be stubborn. Anatolian Shepherd Dogs require firm, consistent trainers with experience handling dogs. Also, be ready to clean up all the fur they shed throughout the year.
A trained and well-socialized Anatolian Shepherd is a friend and guardian for anyone they consider to be their “flock,” which includes the human members of their family. They’re even friendly with their human children; although, their size makes it easy for them to knock over a kid during vigorous play. They may also chase other pets or animals if their humans don’t train them properly.
Therefore, socialization and behaviour training should start early on, ideally in puppyhood. If you’re willing to stay firm with training, you have the strength to handle a large pooch, and you’re willing to put in the time and dedication, then an Anatolian Shepherd Dog will be your friend and guardian for life.
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.
Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
All Around Friendliness
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash like this one in public!
Health And Grooming Needs
If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool here!
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.
If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!
Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.
Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.
Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.
Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Dog Breed Group:Working DogsHeight:2 feet, 3 inches to 2 feet, 5 inches tall at the shoulderWeight:80 to 150 poundsLife Span:11 to 13 years
More About This Breed
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a considered a livestock protector or guardian dog. As such, they were developed to live with the flock and adopt it as their own. They are rugged, self-confident guardians who know how much protection or intimidation is necessary in any situation.
The Anatolian has been working independently for centuries, making decisions regarding threats to their property. As a puppy, they adopt whomever they live with, be it a family or a herd of sheep; as they grow, they take on the protector gig. It doesn’t matter to the Anatolian whether their “flock” is human or animal. They are extremely protective and possessive.
And they back up their guardian nature with presence. The Anatolian is a large dog, weighing as much as 150 pounds. They have a short, fawn coat and a black mask. They appear intimidating, and if necessary they are—though they’re calm and friendly with their family.
Not surprisingly for a guard dog, the Anatolian Shepherd is suspicious of strangers and reserved with those outside their “flock.” They take their job seriously—this dog is no clown—and when their owner isn’t home, they are unlikely to allow even friends or extended family members whom they’ve met before to come onto their property.
At the same time, the Anatolian is a very intelligent, loyal, steady working dog. They’re highly trainable, though they’re likely to consider whether or not they will choose to obey a command, due to their independent nature. They need 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 they’re so large, they could accidentally injure a small child, especially when they’re a clumsy, growing puppy (the phrase “bull in a china shop” applies).
Additionally, the Anatolian typically does not respect children as pack leaders, and they could decide to protect their 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 them, children 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. They can be a fine and loyal companion if you and your family understand their unique qualities and requirements and are ready to take on the responsibility of owning a very large and protective dog.
If you’re looking to adopt an Anatolian Shepherd, meet them first and consult a breed expert to make sure you are ready for the challenge and responsibility.
- It is critical that the Anatolian Shepherd receive proper socialization and training so that they can learn what is normal and what is a threat. Untrained and un-socialized 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 good shelter or rescue that will vaccinate, provide veterinary care, and require applicants to meet with dogs beforehand to make sure they are a good match.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog breed is named for their homeland of Anatolia in the central part of Turkey, where they are still a point of pride (and have 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. They think for themselves—a necessary characteristic for a livestock guardian. They’re very protective of their family and flock, and they consider themselves to be constantly on duty.
Though protective, the Anatolian Shepherd is calm, friendly, and affectionate with their immediate family. They are not friendly with strangers and are very reserved with those outside their 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. If you want to adopt, you may prefer to choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who’s beating up their littermates or the one who’s hiding in the corner.
Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when they grow up, though that may not be possible if you are adopting from a shelter or rescue.
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 them in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly and taking your dog to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help them polish their 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.
In Anatolian Shepherds, you may see conditions like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, or von Willebrand’s disease. Here is some more information about conditions that may appear in dogs of this breed:
- 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.
- 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, they 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. They do not do well living in a kennel or at the end of a chain, however. They should be kept in a securely fenced yard—a fence at least six feet tall is required for this big breed—not only for their protection, but also for the protection of dogs or people who might inadvertently enter their turf, which they will defend with all their might.
Because they are 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 their own ideas, and they won’t cater to their 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. Their protective nature grows as they matures; by the time they’re about 18 months old, they usually voluntarily take on the role of guardian.
An Anatolian Shepherd Dog diet should be formulated for a large- to giant-sized breed with average energy and exercise needs. You should consult your veterinarian or professional nutritionist for advice on what to feed your Anatolian Shepherd and the correct portion sizes. Their dietary needs will change as they grow from puppyhood to adulthood and senior age. Stay on top of these nutritional requirements.
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. Their 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 they’re 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 they see the nail clippers come out. So, if you’re not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
Their 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 they’re a puppy. Handle their paws frequently—dogs are touchy about their feet—and look inside their 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 they’re 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 family, including the children, with whom they’re calm and protective. But because of their large size, they’re probably better suited to families with older children. They’re 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 they’re 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 them with them from puppyhood. As they grow, they’ll naturally accept them as part of their “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, and 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.
- Anatolian Shepherd Dog Rescue League
- National Anatolian Shepherd Rescue Network
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Anatolian Shepherd.
- Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America