Anatolian Shepherd Dog History, Health And Care

Introduction Anatolian Shepherd Dog

The Anatolian Shepherd Dog, also known as the Anatolian Karabash Dog, the Anatolische Herdershond, the Coban Köpegi, the Kangal Dog, the Anadolu Kopek, the Karabas, the Turkish Guard Dog, the Turkish Sheepdog and the Karabash Dog, is an ancient guardian breed with its origin in Turkey. The breed was developed to withstand harsh climatic conditions and thrive in the lifestyle of nomadic shepherds, by guarding their flocks of sheep and herds of goats. Loyalty, hardiness and independence are the most valued characteristics of this breed. These dogs first came to America in the mid-1900s. Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are faithful to a fault, highly intelligent and obedient when well trained. They were admitted to the Working Group of the American Kennel Club in 1995.

This definitely is not a dog for everyone. If not properly socialized and trained, Anatolians can become unmanageable with strangers, and sometimes even with their owners. Anatolian Shepherds do best in large homes with lots of space, and they enjoy being outdoors where they can be on their best watch. These are intensely alert and territorial dogs, bred to be wary and watchful. Their strong protective instincts must be channeled properly to make them agreeable members of the canine community.

Anatolian Shepherd Dog Breed Quick Facts

Affection Level 3/5
Apartment Friendly 1/5
Barking Tendencies 4/5
Cat Friendly 1/5
Child Friendly2/5
Dog Friendly2/5
Exercise Need 3/5
Grooming Needs 2/5
Health Issues 2/5
Intelligence 4/5
Playfulness 2/5

Anatolian Shepherd Dog – Appearance & Grooming


The AKC standard state that Anatolian Shepherd Dogs should, “appear bold, but calm, unless challenged. He possesses size, good bone, a well-muscled torso with a strong head.” Though large and powerful, Anatolians are very agile animals. The skull is wide and the muzzle is rectangular, with a blunt profile. The ears are small, pendant (hanging) and V-shaped. Anatolians’ small eyes range in color from gold to brown. They have long tails which curl up and over the back of the dog when he’s alert. The Anatolian Shepherd Dog’s coat is only about an inch long, with a thick undercoat. Some individuals may have feathering on the ears, legs, and tail. The coat comes in many colors, including pinto, white, and brindle, and fawn with a black mask is the most common.

Size and Weight

Anatolians are large dogs, standing from 27 to 29 inches at the shoulder. Their weight can vary greatly from dog to dog and ranges from 80 to 150 pounds, with females averaging in at 100 pounds and males averaging 130. When judging, the AKC looks at the dogs general balance and preferred rectangular appearance, more so than the actual size of the dog.

Coat and Color

The Anatolian Shepherd Dog’s coat is only about an inch long, with a thick undercoat. Some individuals may have feathering on the ears, legs, and tail. The coat comes in many colors, including pinto, white, and brindle, and fawn with a black mask is the most common.

Grooming Needs

Anatolians are naturally clean animals and are very low maintenance in the grooming department. Their short coats shed throughout the year, but regular brushing can keep things from getting out of hand. They are not prone to “dog odor,” so unless the dog takes a romp in the mud, baths are only required a few times per year.

Anatolians’ ears hang, which can make them prone to infection. Weekly cleanings with cotton balls and a veterinarian-approved solution will kelp keep harmful bacteria at bay.

Anatolian Shepherd Dog – History and Health


The Anatolian Shepherd Dog originated in Turkey, and it is estimated that the breed may be as many as 6,000 years old. It originally was used as a combat dog for fighting and hunting large game, including lions and horses. The breed eventually was used to protect livestock from wild predators, and its size, coat and color evolved so that the breed would blend in with the flocks that it guarded. Anatolian Shepherds were bred to have a strong and independent nature, so that they could manage and protect livestock without constant attention from their owners. The breed’s strength and speed are legendary, and they can thrive in both hot summers and cold winters.

In 1967, Lt. Robert Ballard of the US Navy acquired a pair of working shepherd puppies when he was stationed in Turkey. He brought them to America upon the end of his duty, where they produced their first litter in 1970. Their offspring became the foundation for the Anatolian Shepherd Dog in the United States. The Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America was formed in 1970. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1975 as being eligible to show in its Miscellaneous class starting in 1996. In June 1998, the AKC gave full recognition to the Anatolian Shepherd Dog effective June 1999, as a member of the Working Group. There is some dispute as to the precise origin of the breed.

Dog enthusiasts within Turkey dispute that the American Anatolian Shepherd is a true Turkish flock guardian. Instead, those experts recognize three distinct regional flock-guarding breeds: the Akbash in the wes of Turkey, the Kangal in the central region, and the Kars in the east. The American Anatolian Shepherd is thought to have derived from Turkish flock-guarding dogs of varying type, temperament and coloration, which initially did not breed true to type. While this debate goes on even today, many authorities agree that there are four distinct Turkish flock-guardian breeds: 1) the Anatolian Shepherd Dog, which has been refined in America, crossed with true-breeding Kangal Dogs and now itself breeds true; 2) the Akbash Dog; 3) the Kangal Dog; and 4) the Kars Dog. Turkish canine experts remain of the belief that the American Anatolians are highly variable in type, despite the addition of many Kangal Dog crosses.

The Anatolian Shepherd Dog has spread throughout the United States into Canada, Mexico, Japan and Europe. They still vary in color – some have black heads, while others are white-headed. Their tail tends to hang low until they are excited, when it quickly curls up over the back in typical spitz-like fashion. While with firm and careful training Anatolians can become trusted pets, their instinct is to be distrustful of strangers and to treat them all as a significant threat. According to one author: “When arriving at our home, neither long-term friends nor strangers would be foolish enough to get out of their cars. They must sit there patiently and await the arrival of the dogs’ owners.” Today’s Anatolian Shepherd Dogs retain their traits of being naturally imposing, ferociously strong and intensely protective.


The average life span of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is 10 to 13 years. Breed health concerns may include cancer, ear infections, entropion, hip dysplasia and hypothyroidism. Otherwise, they appear to be healthy, hearty dogs.

Anatolian Shepherd Dog – Temperament & Personality


Anatolian Shepherds are truly a working breed. Designed to be protectors of livestock, these dogs take work very seriously. Excellent watchdogs with a loud, deep bark; neither fox nor burglar will get past an Anatolian Shepherd. They are independent and stubborn, but devoted to their family and are an ideal working dog for farmers. This is not a family dog, but a working dog, and potential owners should do as much research as possible before committing to an Anatolian Shepherd.

Activity Requirements

This large breed should not live in an apartment. Though Anatolian Shepherds need less exercise than other breeds of comparable size, they still need plenty of walks and daily time to run. Organized games of catch or fetch don’t interest this breed. If they don’t have livestock to work with, their desire to work can be satisfied by pulling a sled or cart, or engaging in tracking activities.

Farms are the ideal living space, as they have an inborn desire to work and protect flocks, and benefit from the open space to run. Families with small children should think twice about adopting an Anatolian. While they will bond well with members of their own family, they often don’t react well to children they do not know.


Anatolian Shepherds are easily trained by a confident leader, but are not for first-time dog owners. They are stubborn, dominant dogs, and a strong and consistent hand is necessary to establish leadership. This breed will take over the house if given even a little leeway. Their innate desire to protect can not be “trained” out of them, but their behavior can be kept within limits. While you may not be able to keep an Anatolian from barking to alert a stranger’s presence, he can be taught when to stop barking.

Behavioral Traits

The Anatolian was bred to be a livestock protector and he will grow to become fiercely protective of his flock, including family members. Wary of strangers, an Anatolian can quickly develop aggression if not kept in check. Early socialization to new people and experiences, as well as firm leadership can keep aggression from developing. Anatolian Shepherds determine on their own who is a “safe” visitor and who is not. New visitors to the home should never try to pet an Anatolian without a proper introduction, and though Anatolians bond well with children in their own family, other children can be perceived as a threat.

Additionally, as flock protectors, they instinctively drive away all animals that aren’t part of his flock. Should a neighbor’s dog wander into his territory, an Anatolian can cause serious injury, or even death.

Anatolian Shepherds have a reputation for barking at night. When they hear sounds in the distance, they are often set off, and their booming bark can wake up a neighborhood.

If not simulated enough mentally, Anatolian Shepherds can become destructive when bored. A large dog with a strong jaw, they can easily rip through drywall or destroy furniture. Commitment to an Anatolian’s need to work is impartive when adopting this breed.

Photo Library of Anatolian Shepherd Dog

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