Akbash: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Akbash dog standing in a field

 

JazzIRT / Getty Images

The akbash, a native breed of Turkey, is a larger breed that was originally bred to guard livestock. While this can make them independent, it also makes them effective watchdogs. Their loyalty and sense of guardianship also makes them a choice breed for some groups that train service dogs for the disabled.

Breed Overview

Group: Guardian Dog (UKC)
Height: 
27 - 33" (males); 27 - 31" (females)
Weight:
90-140 lbs (males); 80 - 120 lbs (females)
Coat:
Double coated, either short or medium length
Coat Color:
White; They may have biscuit or gray coloring around the ears
Life Expectancy:
10 - 11 years

Characteristics of the Akbash
Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Low
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Low
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Akbash

The akbash is an old breed of dog first dating back to between 750 BC to 300 BC. It is such an old breed that historians believe it helped in the formation of mastiffs as well as sighthounds. It was developed in the area now known as modern day Turkey. As the ancient inhabitants of this land began to domesticate livestock they also began to breed dogs to guard their livestock from local predators such as wolves. The akbash is the largest of the Turkish guardian dogs, a group which also includes the Anatolian Shepherd and the Kangal. Some anatolian shepherds may resemble either the akbash or the kangal, and this has led to a controversy surrounding whether the akbash and kangal were bred to create the anatolian shepherd. When the three breeds are lined up the akbash will be easily recognizable because of how much larger it is.

The akbash was first introduced to the United States in the 1970s. In 1998 it was recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) and classified in the Guardian Dog Group. While not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), owners can still show their dogs in American Rare Breed Association (ABRA) shows and International All Breed Canine Association (IABCA) shows.

Akbash Care

Since the akbash was originally bred to be a guardian dog and not a herding dog, they don't have extreme exercise requirements. These dogs weren't bred to herd sheep but rather to lazily watch over them from a hillside. Their low energy requirements can make them prone to weight gain, though, so taking your akbash for a 30 - 60 minute walk at least once a day is still warranted. Their low energy requirements may also make them less inclined to play endlessly with energetic children.

The akbash was bred to have a double coat to insulate them against the elements while they watched over their flocks. Even if your akbash has a shorter coat, brushing at least once to twice a week is recommended. Brushing will help pull out dirt and debris as well as loose fur in their undercoat. Expect some shedding from your akbash, especially in the warmer months when they are blowing their winter coat. Increased frequency of brushing during heavy shed months can help keep your home as fur free as possible. Your akbash may also need their ears cleaned out every so often to prevent any ear infections. Keep your akbash's nails trimmed short to prevent them from snagging or breaking on anything.

The akbash is known for being an intelligent breed. They can pick up new tasks quite easily. They are also known for being independent, though, and this can sometimes make them stubborn with their training. Since the akbash was originally bred to be a guardian dog, they may be suspicious of new people and they may have a strong instinct to protect. Alarm barking at strange people (and pets) can be common among this breed. With proper training and socialization, though, your akbash can act appropriately around house guests. Their intelligence and sense of guardianship makes them good candidates for service dog training and some groups list the akbash as their preferred breed for trained service dogs.

Common Health Problems

Although a relatively healthy breed, there are some illnesses and medical concerns that can be more common in an akbash. Some of these can be seemingly benign while others can be life-threatening.

  • Hip Dysplasia: A degenerative disease of your dog's hip joint, wherein your dog's hip socket is malformed. This can lead to pain and arthritis.
  • Hypothyroidism: A endocrine disease where your dog's thyroid gland stops making sufficient levels of thyroid hormone. Although not curable, like in people, the symptoms of hypothyroidism can be managed by daily or twice daily medication.
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): This is a disease associated with the heart. Reputable breeders will screen their dogs for this disease and will not breed dogs that have it.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV/Bloat): This is an emergent medical issue in which the stomach fills with food or air and then rotates on itself, cutting off circulation to both it and other vital abdominal organs. GDV is life threatening and requires immediate veterinary attention. To prevent a GDV from occurring, some veterinarians will 'tack' the stomach of female dogs that are of a breed prone to GDV during their spay surgery.

Diet and Nutrition

Akbash puppies should be fed a food specifically formulated for large breed puppies. This will help their long bones grow and develop at a proper rate and help prevent a condition known as panosteoitis, or 'growing pains'. As adults, an akbash will do well on most brands of quality commercial dog food. Due to their low energy requirements, they may need less food in a day than you might initially think. Sticking to a regular feeding schedule, where meals are given at specific times of the day and food is not left out for your dog to eat of his/her own free will, and also limiting the number of treats in a day can help keep the extra pounds off your akbash. If you notice that your dog is still gaining weight, discuss your feeding routine with your vet. They can give you recommendations for types of foods to feed, how much to feed, as well as tips to helping your akbash lose the extra weight.

Pros

  • Intelligent
  • Loyal
  • Independent

Cons

  • A larger, sometimes noisy dog that may not be suitable for an urban or apartment home
  • Can be a heavy shedder, requiring frequent brushing
  • Can be wary of new people, pets, and situations

Where to Adopt of Buy an Akbash

This breed, although recognized by the UKC, is still a relatively rare breed. There are groups, though, that can help you locate a reputable breeder. The Akbash Dog Association of American and Akbash Dogs International are both organizations that can help you find a breeder near you. If you are looking to rescue an akbash, there is also the Akbash Dogs International's Rescue Network that can help you find local rescue groups. You can also check with your veterinarian for local breeders or rescue groups and check local animal shelters as well.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before you add an akbash to your family, thoroughly research to see if one will be the right fit for your home. If you're interested in similar breeds, look into the following to compare the pros and the cons.

There are so many different breeds of dog out there. It can seem overwhelming picking the right one, but with a little research you can determine which is the best fit for your family.