Written by Vet

Anatolian Shepherd: The Ultimate Dog Breed Guide

Ivana Crnec
Written by: Dr. Ivana Crnec
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a big and powerful breed, native of Turkey. This breed is thousands of years old and is one of the best guarding dogs slive. Read on to learn more about this ancient dog breed.

Ranked as 90thout of 197 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Anatolian Shepherd is an ancient dog breed forged in harsh, hostile, and unforgiving conditions.

This ultimate dog breed guide will review the breed’s history, personality, lifestyle requirements, health problems, needs, and more.

Check this article to learn how the Anatolian Shepherd found its way from its native Turkey to the United States where it participated in a secret government project.

Breed Overview

The Anatolian Shepherd is a loyal, reserved, and independent dog from the working group (according to AKC Classification) or the Guardian Dog Group (according to UKC Classification).

Originally bred to be a fearless livestock guardian, the Anatolian Shepherd descended from one of the oldest domestic-canine bloodlines. Bold, fierce, tractable, and resourceful, the Anatolian Shepherd is capable of surviving even in the harshest and hostile conditions.

Quick Facts

Real name: Anatolian Shepherd
Other names: Kangal Shepherd Dog
Origin: Turkey
Breed type: Working Group
Weight: 110-150 pounds (male), 80-120 pounds (female)
Height: 29 inches (male), 27 inches (female)
Lifespan: 10 – 13 years
Litter Size: 5 – 10 puppies
Color: Fawn to wolf sable with white or lighter chest and paws, and a black mask
Coat: Thick, dense, and usually short double coat

The History Of The Anatolian Shepherd

The Anatolian Shepherd’s great ancestor was one of the several large hunting dogs that once fiercely and fearlessly roamed Mesopotamia as far back as 2000B.C. These dogs are mentioned in the earliest Bible books and many Babylonian and Assyrian documents.

The Anatolian Shepherd’s more recent ancestor was created in Asia Small or Anatolia – the crossroad peninsula between Asia and Europe and named as CobanKopegi or the “shepherd’s dog”.

Three crucial factors determined this dog’s evolution. Factor number one was the climate on the Anatolia Peninsula, where the summers are brutally hot and dry, and the snowy winters have sub-zero temperatures.

Factor number two was the Anatolian people’s lifestyle, which varied from settled to fully nomadic. The third and final factor was the dog’s job description – guarding livestock against fierce predators.

All in all, the Coban Kopegi guarded livestock flocks while traveling substantial distances in harsh, unforgiving weather conditions. However, the unforgiving and harsh crucible forged the Coban Kopegi into the modern Anatolian Shepherd we now know, cherish and respect.

The Turks were incredibly proud of their native Anatolian Shepherd and refused to export them. The first exportation of Anatolian Shepherds was in the 1930s when the Turkish government sent two specimens to the United States for the scientific purpose of participating in a secret government project.

Sadly, the dogs literally outgrew the project’s expectations, and the experiment turned into a fiasco.
Later on, in 1970, a naval officer named Robert Ballard formed the first Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club in the USA and started a breeding program.

The United Kennel Club officially recognized the Anatolian Shepherd in 1993, and three years later, in 1996, so did the American Kennel Club.

Anatolian Shepherd Physical Appearance

The Anatolian Shepherd is an upstanding, powerfully built dog with imperative size and stamina. The head is broad and slightly domed. Compared with the head, the eyes are small, deep-set, and wide apart.

The dropped, medium-sized ears are triangularly shaped with slightly rounded tips. The body is strong-muscled, the chest-deep, and the belly tucked-up.

The legs are powerfully-built yet not too muscular and long in proportion to the backline length. The high-set tail is long and slightly curled up.

Anatolian Shepherd Dog Size

Anatolian Shepherdmales are 29-32 inches tall (73.6-81.2 centimeters) and weigh around 110-143 pounds (50-65 kilograms).

Female Anatolian Shepherds are slightly smaller – they are around 27.5-31 inches tall (70-79 centimeters) and weigh around 88-120 pounds (40-55 kilograms).

Anatolian Shepherd Dog Coat And Color

The Anatolian Shepherd has a double coat consisting of a thick undercoat and either a short (1 inch) or rough (4 inches) top coat. The coat is usually longer and thicker around the neck and mane.

The legs, ear fringes, and tail may feature featherings. All coat colors are acceptable. The coat may or may not have markings but the face almost always has a dark mask.

Anatolian Shepherd Grooming And Maintenance

The Anatolian Shepherd’s thick coat is definitely high-maintenance. It needs bi-weekly brushing throughout the year and daily brushing, twice a year, during shedding seasons.

Anatolian Shepherds are profuse shedders, and removing the dead, loose hairs and preventing mats requires a short-bristle brush and a comb.

In general, the Anatolian Shepherd should be bathed once per month. Unless it often rolls in muds, in which cases the bathing should be scheduled on an as-needed basis.

The Anatolian Shepherd’s ears are prone to infections, the teeth prone to tartar build-up, and the nails prone to cracking. To avoid these issues, it is recommended to practice weekly ear cleaning with dog-friendly ear cleansers, daily teeth brushing, and monthly nail trimming.

Anatolian Shepherd Temperament And Personality

The Anatolian Shepherd’s personality can be described as bold and steady but never unreasonably aggressive. It is proud and confident but unenthusiastic about shows and competitions – the Anatolian Shepherd prefers performing daunting tasks in challenging conditions over competing in showrooms.

The Anatolian Shepherd is independent, resourceful, tractable, and has good survival skills. In fact, this is one of the few dogs capable of surviving on their own in hostile environments. However, its independence does not make the Anatolian Shepherd distrustful – it is very loyal to its family and devoted to its job.

The Anatolian Shepherd is an extremely territorial dog and makes an excellent watch and guard dog. More often than not, its formidable size and rugged bark are enough to deter intruders.

The Anatolian Shepherd distrusts strangers and is willing to do everything to protect its owner and the human family. However, it is easy-going with familiar people and with family members – loving and affectionate.

Training The Anatolian Shepherd

Anatolian Shepherds have sharp and intelligent minds but are also independent and strong-willed, making the training process a challenge. The key to successfully training an Anatolian Shepherd is determining who is in charge early on.

Once the dog understands he is not in control, a firm hand, consistency, and positive reinforcement techniques can be used, and the Anatolian Shepherd will ace the basic commands.

Later on, advanced obedience training, agility training, and dog sports are good ways of keeping the Anatolian Shepherd fit and in good condition. Plus, these activities will establish the owner’s role as the leader even more.

Anatolian Shepherds need extensive socialization. However, even if properly socialized, they cannot be trusted around other dogs and smaller pets. Socialization does help with avoiding aggressive scenes with strangers during walks.

Exercise Requirements & Energy Levels Of The Anatolian Shepherd

To stay fit and physically stimulated, adult Anatolian Shepherds need to be physically active for about an hour per day. If these needs are met, you can expect a laid-back dog that enjoys lying on the couch.

Unless physically drained, the Anatolian Shepherd likes to participate in destructive activities – preferably digging in the backyard and making escape tunnels under the fence. It may even engage in a barking session out of boredom, and given its loud voice, the barking session can be a real nuisance.

Anatolian Shepherds make good running and hiking partners. They can run around five to six miles and hike between five and ten miles.

To avoid problems with strangers, they need to be leash-trained and well-socialized before embarking on a running/hiking adventure.

Common Anatolian Shepherd Health Issues

For a large dog breed, the Anatolian Shepherd has a long lifespan of between 11 and 13 years. The breed is considered generally healthy but it has several breed-specific health conditions.

The most common health issues in Anatolian Shepherds are:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia – congenital and painful malformations of the hip or elbow joints which cause lameness and limping
  • Gastric dilatation and volvulus – a life-threatening condition in which the stomach bloats, often caused by eating too fast and before physical activity
  • Hypothyroidism – decreased level of thyroid hormones which can cause other hormonal imbalances, changes in the energy level, and increased body weight
  • Demodectic mange – a skin condition caused by motes that manifest with hair loss and thickening of the skin
  • Entropion – eye condition in which the eyelids roll inward and irritate the surface of the eye

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Anatolian Shepherds are sensitive to many anesthetic drugs and require individually tailored anesthetic protocols.

Diet And Nutrition Needs for the Anatolian Shepherd

Anatolian Shepherds do best on high-quality dry dog food with a high protein percentage. They need about six cups of kibble per day.

Like any other large dog, they are predisposed to gastric dilatation and volvulus, which is why the daily portion of six cups should be divided into two separate meals.

Alternatively, Anatolian Shepherds can be fed homemade diets based mainly on meat sources and enriched with healthy vegetables like beans, broccoli, carrots, and lentils. Always discuss diet change with your veterinarian first.

Anatolian Shepherds are not prone to overeating, but they love their fair share of treats. It is vital to give treats as instructed on the package since most treats are high in fats and sugars.

Tips for Raising a Healthy Anatolian Shepherd

Raising a healthy and well-behaved Anatolian Shepherd can be a challenging and full-time job. This dog requires tons of patience, devoted love, and a firm but respectful training hand.

When parenting an Anatolian Shepherds, consider the following issues:

  • They prefer being the only pet and child in the household
  • They are fond of barking and need proper training to minimize this tendency
  • They are amazing escape artists and often dig under fences to find a way out of the yard
  • Unless properly leash-trained and socialized they do not know how to behave in public
  • If kept outdoors, it is important to have them safely contained on the property

The Cost Of Parenting An Anatolian Shepherd

Purebred Anatolian Shepherds usually cost between $500and $2000 with an average price of $900.

Buying an Anatolian with exceptional lineage has a much heftier price tag of about $5000. Adopting through rescue organizations or from a shelter is much more budget-friendly – it usually costs around $300.

This is just the initial purchase cost. Once the pup is home, there will be additional expenses for food, treats, bowls, toys, harness and leash, beds, and last but not least – vet bills.

The first-year expenses are highest – around $4100 and after that, the annual cost will be around $1900 per year or $165 per month.

On a lifetime basis, the cost of parenting an Anatolian Shepherd is estimated to be $25900.

3 Fun Facts About Anatolian Shepherds

1. Anatolian Shepherds Are Guardians Not Herders

Bulky and brave, Anatolian Shepherds make excellent guardians. They do not have a distinct herding skillset but will do whatever it takes to protect the herd from both predators and poachers.

Anatolian Shepherds are protective of all animals they are charged with, not just livestock. Today, many breed members protect livestock from predators listed as endangered. This is because they do not kill the predators – only scare them and deter.

In Namibia, Anatolian Shepherds are used to protecting livestock herds from cheetahs, which are also considered endangered.

2. Anatolian Shepherds Are Responsible For Shutting Down A U.S. Federal Project

A few decades ago, two Anatolian Shepherds, a male, and a female were shipped to the USA to participate in a secret government project. The project’s goal was to establish which dog breed is the best shepherd.

However, the female Anatolian Shepherd was pregnant and soon after arriving in America gave birth to 12 puppies. So, instead of having two participants, the project had 14 giants with voracious appetites.

Amid the Grand Depression, the government could not afford to feed the dogs and secretly sold all project participants and shut down the program.

3. The Anatolian Shepherd Is Not The Only Turkish Flock Dog

The Anatolian Shepherd may be the most famous but it is not the only Turkish flock dog. In fact, there are three other flock dogs native to Turkey. They all look similar and have the same job descriptions but come from different regions.

The other three Turkish flock dogs are:

  • The Akbash – comes from Western Turkey and has an all-white coat with fluffy and curled tail
  • The Kangal – comes from Sivas and is quite stocky with curled tail
  • The Kars – comes from Northeastern Turkey and has a brownish coat

Anatolian Shepherd FAQs

1. Is a Kangal the same as an Anatolian Shepherd?

No. The Kangal and the Anatolian Shepherd are often considered the same dog but are in fact two separate breeds. They both come from Turkey but the Kangal is recognized only by the UKC and not by the AKC.

2. Are Anatolian Shepherds Dangerous?

That depends on what is perceived as dangerous. If someone tries to trespass their territory or hurt a member of their human families then yes, Anatolian Shepherds can be dangerous. However, with proper training, every dog can be managed.

On the other hand, with improper training, every dog has the potential to become dangerous.

3. Is An Anatolian Shepherd A Good Family Dog?

As long as the Anatolian Shepherd is the only pet in the house, he makes a good family dog. However, this dog is a better fit for families with older children because it dislikes being treated without respect, which is something smaller kids often do.

4. At What Age Is An Anatolian Shepherd Full Grown?

As all large dogs, the Anatolian Shepherd is a late bloomer and reaches its adult height and length when around 13 to 14 months old. .

5. Can Anatolian Shepherds Be Left Alone?

Yes. Anatolian Shepherds are quite independent and actually enjoy spending some alone time. They can be left alone for about half a day without expecting problems. Some may even develop separation anxiety.

However, they should not be left alone outside because of their extraordinary escape artist skills.