Anatolian Shepherd: Dog Breed Profile

Anatolian Shepherd Dog Breed

irinaorel / Getty Images

The Anatolian Shepherd is a large-breed dog known for its ancient lineage, strong independent streak, and affinity for the working lifestyle. Anatolian Shepherds can be quite introverted, often preferring to do their jobs without human guidance or interference. They can make good family pets, though it is advised that socialization with both humans and other animals starts early. Anatolian Shepherds without proper socialization can easily become aggressive and therefore pose a risk to people and animals. Because of their intelligence, they may be resistant to training, but are often obedient dogs who are loyal to the needs of their guardians.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Working Group (AKC)

HEIGHT: 27 to 29 inches tall

WEIGHT: 80 to 120 pounds (female); 110 to 150 pounds (male)

COAT AND COLOR: Short in length with a thick undercoat and occasional feathering around the tail, legs, and ears. Colors include white, brindle, and pinto, but most common is some variant of fawn coloring with a black muzzle.

LIFE EXPECTANCY: 11-13 years

Characteristics of the Anatolian Shepherd

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium-Low
Kid-Friendly Medium-Low
Pet-Friendly Medium-Low
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium-High
Intelligence Medium-High
Tendency to Bark Medium-Low
Amount of Shedding Medium-Low
Ali Çobanoğlu / Getty Images
Santiago Urquijo / Getty Images

History of the Anatolian Shepherd

The Anatolian Shepherd is an ancient dog breed stretching back as many as six centuries. The breed’s origins are in the Anatolia region of Turkey, also referred to as Asia Minor, where they are thought to have developed from a line of Shepherds (the Coban Kopegi, or “shepherd’s dog”) who were bred specifically to protect and herd livestock. Other accounts trace the Anatolian Shepherd back to hunting dogs of Mesopotamia. In both cases, it’s understood that these types of Shepherds were bred to work, and in particular to work on farms and ranches guarding livestock from fast-paced predators like wolves and cheetahs.

Interestingly, Anatolian Shepherds first came to the United States as part of a top secret World War II project overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The goal of the project was to evaluate various breeds to deduce which was best suited for sheep pasture work, though the project ended without much fanfare and the Anatolian Shepherds involved in the project were sold to buyers in the Virgin Islands.

Anatolian Shepherds made their way back to the U.S. in the 1970s, and in 1996 the breed entered the American Kennel Club under a miscellaneous class. The breed was established under the AKC Working Group in 1998. Today, in addition to being pets, Anatolian Shepherds are still prominent on ranches and in other agricultural settings. Their continued prominence with ranchers is due in large part to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, which forbid ranchers from killing predators of their livestock. With their background and breed traits, Anatolian Shepherds have remained effective livestock guards, and are able to deter predatory attacks without inciting violence.

Anatolian Shepherd Care

Anatolian Shepherds do not have particularly high amounts of energy, but it is important that their caregivers do provide regular walks (one to two a day) and plenty of access to the outdoors. The breed does not do very well in small living spaces like apartments and requires room to roam. They are often not too interested in playing fetch, but will happily walk alongside their caregiver and run around their yard. Note that it is very important that their yard is fenced (preferably at six feet), and it is advised that they do not have access to interactions with dogs or people who they do not know.

Socialization is incredibly important for Anatolian Shepherds, especially when they are young. A dog of this breed who is not well-socialized will likely be aggressive toward other animals, and even people. This is in line with their innate traits, since Anatolian Shepherds have been bred to be extremely protective of their property and belongings. Most Anatolian Shepherds are open to obedience training, but they can be a bit stubborn and may not be receptive to more formal training, such as agility or nose work. Anatolian Shepherds should never be trained as guard dogs due to their tendency toward uncontrollable aggression.

In terms of grooming, a weekly brushing is generally sufficient for Anatolian Shepherds, though this frequency may have to be increased during shedding season, when the breed starts to drop fur from their heavy undercoat. As with all dog breeds, trim nails regularly and engage in regular teeth brushing.

Common Health Problems

Anatolian Shepherds are large breed dogs, and as such, they face a number of health problems that are common to other large and giant breeds. Among the problems found most often with Anatolian Shepherds, be on the lookout for:

·       Hip dysplasia

·       Elbow dysplasia

·       Hypothyroidism

·       Demodectic mange

·       Entropion

Any responsible breeder will notify you of existing conditions in a dog’s genetic lineage, though it is always smart to ask either way. Many large breed dog health conditions can be well managed, though you will want to account for the extra expense and responsibility that they entail.

Diet and Nutrition

Proper nutrition is advised with all dog breeds, including feeding a high-quality, high-protein diet. Anatolian Shepherds tend not to overeat, though feeding should still be done on a schedule. An Anatolian Shepherd’s dietary needs will vary depending on their activity level and age, with dogs who are older and/or more sedentary requiring fewer daily calories from treats and meals.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Always do your research before bringing any new animal into your life. It’s a good idea to talk to both current owners of a breed as well as breed organizations, and this goes double for breeds like the Anatolian Shepherd which do require a bit of extra training and attention.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

 Otherwise, checkout all of our other dog breed profiles