Anatolian Shepherd Dog

Anatolian Shepherd Dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Also known as the Anatolian Karabash Dog, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog hails from Turkey, and was bred to be a guard to its owner’s livestock, as well as a faithful friend.

The breed was developed to be roughly the same color and height as the livestock so that animals coming to harm the flock could not see him until it was too late. Besides being a wonderful guard dog, they are loyal, and grown into large dogs.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessBelow Average
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Working Dogs
Height:2 feet, 3 inches tall to 2 feet, 5 inches tall
Weight:80 to 150 pounds
Life Span:11 to 13 years

This breed was made to protect its owner’s livestock and guard the property and all living things. Originally, they would live with the flock and make the animals its family to protect.

A natural protector, this breed is not opposed to using intimidation and force when they feel it is appropriate. They are very protective and if they feel a threat, they will become aggressive.

Centuries old, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog has always been an independent breed that makes their own decisions when it concerns the flock or its owners. He can back up his threats, as they are large dogs, growing upwards of 150 pounds, and standing nearly 2.5 feet tall.

While you can expect them to be calm and loving with their family, when strangers come around, they are on the defense. Though they can be trained fairly easily, they sometimes will still make their own decisions, because they are so independent. The breed makes the perfect working dog due to its high intelligence and loyal nature.

This breed calls Turkey its original home and dates back roughly 6,000 years. The ancestors were thought to have brought to Turkey from nomadic tribes that moved across Asia and had dogs that were similar to Mastiffs and those were bred into the early forms of the Anatolian.

Many owners would feed their dog while they were puppies, and once grown, they would let them find their own food like small animals in the woods, like squirrels and gophers. Present day, this breed still works as guardians on farms in Turkey.

The Anatolian Shepherd dog that we know now has a short coat that includes an undercoat that is much thicker than the top. There are a few colors that he comes in, which include white, brindle, pinto, and the most common, fawn with black on his face. They will shed many times during the year but do not need much cleaning or bathing.

Many would say that the Anatolian is not a good breed to have as a first dog. As well, if you have a family with small children, they may not be ideal, due to their large body and possibility of injuring a small child so easily.

The breed would fit best with a family of older children, a childless couple, or a single owner, who can be a firm pack leader. They are usually only accepting of other dogs and animals within the home if they are raised with them, otherwise, you might have trouble.

If they are used as a flock protector, chances are you will want to find a breeder who can get one that comes from a family that does the livestock work.

Main Highlights
  • This dog is not ideal for first-time owners or those with small children. The likelihood of the children getting hurt accidentally can be high due to the large size of the dog and its sometimes aggressive nature.
  • Getting the breed socialized and trained as soon as possible is important. Since they are protective and aggressive, they need to know that certain people, sounds, and things are normal and nothing to be on alert about. Their independent side can take over and they will make their own decisions.
  • While they are generally easy to take care of, they only need a few baths per year. However, they shed a few times a year, mainly in the spring time, so extra brushing will be required in those times.
  • Because they are independent and can feel like the leader of the pack, if you do not act in a firm manner as a leader, they will not respect you. This is where training comes into play.
  • The ancestors of the Anatolian date back 6,000 years in Turkey, where tribes moved about the continent with big dogs like Mastiffs that were bred. This is thought to be the reason that they are so agile, aggressive, and have longer legs.
  • Long ago, the dogs stayed with their flock around the clock and were known as “coban kopegi” which is Turkish for shepherd dog. This is so that they could be ready to attack if a predator came to harm their flock.
  • In the 1970s, Americans became more aware of the breed and were able to own them as in the past they were only gifted for experimental work with flocks to the Department of Agriculture in the United States.
  • In the 1970s, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America was developed, after an officer in the Navy named Robert Ballard became a fan of the breed after his time in Turkey. The AKC recognized them in the Miscellaneous Class in 1996, and two years later it was moved to a Working Dog Group.
Breed History

Named for the area in central Turkey, Anatolia, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is still a national treasure and can even have its own postage stamp! Six centuries old, the breed was thought to be formed when nomadic tribes brought their Mastiff looking dogs to the area in Turkey and bred them with Turkish hound dogs.

Because of the terrain in the area, the nomads relied on flocks and needed a dog that would guard the flocks when the nomadic shepherd could not. The dogs would stay with the flocks around the clock and would be ready for an attack from a predator, should that occur.

Since they became such great guardians and protectors, they were then bred from the best of the best in order to perfect the breed’s working abilities and temper. Some of the traits have stayed with the breed, like their agility and ability to do hard work.

Many of those who kept the dogs did not feed them as adults and let them hunt their own food which was mostly small animals.

Presently, they are used in Turkey for their original purpose. In the United States, they are mainly companion dogs and guard dogs for the home.


The males will stand up to 2 and a half feet tall at most, and will weigh anywhere from 110 to 150 pounds. The females will usually grow up to 2 feet, 3 inches tall and weigh in anywhere from 80 to 120 pounds, which is still a big dog.

Personality and Character

The Anatolian Shepherd can be described as independent, smart, tenacious and protective. Not only will be he protect his flock, but he will protect the humans that he loves, too. He is always on alert, on guard, and ready to protect.

While you can expect them to be a loving pet for the home, he will be wary of strangers, and even friends he knows. To help curb, but not cure, this behavior, early training and socialization will show them what noises, people, and other environmental factors are normal.

They should be socialized around other pets early, so they can grow up with them and bond, as this breed is not always fond of other pets in the home.

One thing to remember is that they need to keep practicing their training. Taking them to a dog park to see other animals can be helpful while they are puppies. Taking walks around the neighborhood or to the pet store can get them used to people and animals outside of their home. Keeping their social skills a priority and needs work always.

Health and Potential Problems

If you obtain your dog from a good breeder, chances of health problems will be lower, even though this breed is healthy for the most part. They can experience issues like hypothyroidism, various dysplasia, and eye problems. Regular vet visits can detect issues early and your dog can be treated sooner.

  • Hip Dysplasia cannot be cured, but only treated, and includes symptoms of pain in the hip area for your dog, which can be seen by them limping or trying not to move the area. This occurs when the hip and thigh joints do not fit together correctly and then causes pain for your dog. This can happen if your dog falls, having a bad diet, and any type of injury to the area.
  • Elbow Dysplasia causes arthritis and pain in the elbow of your dog and happens when bone cartilage does not develop by itself in the area. This then causes inflammation to occur, which can only be treated, not cured.
  • Demodectic Mange can be called Red Mange and happens when there is too much Demodex Canis in the immune system. This cannot keep mites from attacking, and should be treated by your vet, with sulfurated lime, or special shampoos. For symptoms, look for mites on the in the hair follicles, as well as hair loss, red skin, and wet-looking skin on the affected area.
  • Entropion occurs when part of the eyelid is folded or inverted, where eyelashes rub against the eye and cause irritation and scratching. Eye infections can occur if left untreated, which causes a more permanent version of entropion. Surgery can be done to correct the issue.
  • Hypothyroidism will have symptoms of weight gain, hair loss, and skin issues like dandruff. A blood test can be done to determine if your dog does have this and if so, they will take a medication like Thyroxine every day for the rest of its life in order to get rid of the symptoms.
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease occurs when the blood cannot clot correctly and causes bleeding in the nose, stool, and gums. Blood transfusions can be done, as well as cauterization of the area that constantly bleeds.
  • Diabetes can occur in any breed and happens when the body cannot process sugar the way it should. Insulin shots may be required for your dog each day, with their food monitored. If your dog is thirsty a lot, frequently urinating, and eating a lot, then diabetes may be the cause.
Care Features

If you do obtain this breed, it is recommended that you have large, secure fencing around the yard so they can play and have time outdoors. Since he is so protective, this will keep him guarded away from anyone passing by.

Early socialization is needed for them due to their independent nature and strong will. Not only that, but they will need obedience training so that they know who their leader is.

By the time they are 1.5 years old, they will take on the protector role and will be on guard for any danger. Strangers and animals they do not know are subject to its aggression, and even those they do know will be watched by them.

It is not recommended to train this dock in attacking, as they have a natural instinct for it and are already good at it. If he is without a dominant leader, they will become it and not respect its owner, and will rule the roost.

While training them, use positive reinforcement, not negative training. Yelling and becoming angry will not get you anywhere.

You must stay cool, level headed and show them your leadership skills. Instead, use treats or give them a good petting and tell them they are good. This will show them the correct way to do something.

Feeding Schedule

With large dogs come large appetites! You will need to ensure your dog has a good amount of protein, vitamins and minerals in its kibble. They will need to eat twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, and will need 2 to 3 cups of kibble with each meal.

Be sure to always have fresh water to give them, as their big bodies need to stay hydrated. Also, this breed should not have its food left out to graze, as it will cause them to gain unnecessary weight, especially if they have a health issue. Instead, issue their meals twice per day.

Coat, Color and Grooming

You will notice that your Anatolian Shepherd Dog has a short top coat and a thick undercoat. He may have some feathering on his legs, tail and on the ears as well. There are a few coat colors to choose from, which are white, brindle, pinto, and the most common color, fawn with black on its face.

This breed can live indoors or outdoors and does not need a lot of cleaning. You will need to brush him more during his several shed periods, mostly in the spring time, but other than that, he should be bathed only a few times per year.

You can brush its teeth every day, or at least twice a week to prevent gum disease. Nails should be trimmed twice a month at most, and there should be weekly checks of his body to make sure there are no rashes or infections.

Always check his ears for odor or dirt and use ear cleaner for them. If you have any questions, call your vet for information.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

While your Anatolian may be loving and relaxed in the home, he will be wary of strangers and friends. He will protect those in the home that he loves at all times.

They are not recommended for homes with small children due to the possibility of injury and the dog’s large size.

He would be a better fit in a home without kids, or with older children. Kids need to be taught how to handle this breed and to not provoke it in any way. Never leave small kids in a room alone with a dog.

As far as other pets go, if this breed is raised with them, they are usually fine. However, they will be on guard and show other dogs who is the boss if they are faced with a dog they are not fond of or do not know.

Overall, if you want a protective dog that is big and sort of scary, this is your breed! He is loving to his owner and leader, and will be a great guard dog for your home and those who live inside.

While they are not perfect, they are hard-working dogs that will love you, guard you, and relax with you.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.