About the Anatolian Shepherd: information for a new owner

by Holly Ballester

The Anatolian Shepherd is a calm, loving, loyal, extremely intelligent breed that will be a wonderful protector, guardian and companion for you, your family and/or stock. To ensure a lifelong, satisfying relationship with your dog, you need to understand the nature of this ancient working breed and anticipate and plan ahead as to how you will handle some of their unique characteristics should they present themselves.

The Anatolian Shepherd is NOT a German Shepherd!

    With most dog breeds such as the German Shepherd and the Australian Shepherd, the word “shepherd” means “sheep herder”. These shepherd breeds are herding dogs and are used for rounding up livestock.

    The name “Anatolian Shepherd” was given to our breed because it is a direct translation of the Turkish name for the shepherd dogs.  In Turkey, the livestock guardian/protection dogs that travel with the flocks are called “Coban Kopegi” which means “Shepherd’s Dog” – a dog that works with the human shepherd to keep the flock safe from predators. Another name for the country of Turkey is “Anatolia”.  Thus was the translation from "Coban Kopegi" to Turkish shepherd’s dog or “Anatolian Shepherd”.  Anatolian Shepherd’s Dog may have been a more accurate name. 

    An Anatolian Shepherd is a full time guardian, whereas a German Shepherd is a fulltime herding dog. They are NOT the same temperament at all!  A herding dog is active and interacts with the stock by rounding them up and controlling the movement of his herd. Herding shepherds are active, stay busy and take direction from the rancher.  A livestock guardian dog lives with the herd full time and protects them with no direction from the farmer- the livestock guardian dog makes his own call when it comes to ridding the flock of dangerous intruders and predators that could kill his charges. The livestock guardian dog is not active, but rather will lay quietly with his flock and scan his territory constantly for intruders. Activity is minimal.

     Can you understand the difference? It is a very important one. Never confuse the herding shepherds with an Anatolian Shepherd, because the temperament and character are totally different.


Anatolians are first and foremost flock guardians. They are a true working breed not only in their homeland of Turkey , but also in many countries around the world. In Turkey , they work alongside the shepherds in vast and varied terrain. In the United States , they are used primarily on farms to protect livestock against predators such as wolves, coyotes and bobcat. Recently in Africa , the Anatolian has become an integral part of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, helping farmers to live with cheetahs on their land through non-lethal predator control methods.

"The Anatolian is loyal and can be fiercely possessive and protective of his family, stock and territory. He tends to be aloof and suspicious of anything or anyone new that enters his domain. Anatolians are not outgoing dogs that want to make friends with everyone. They often do not want to be boldly approached and usually dislike being touched or stroked on the tip of their heads when greeted by a stranger. This is not because of shyness, but because they prefer to be approached on their own terms. This is what people mean when they say that the Anatolian seems to expect a formal introduction. They dislike strangers who are too forward. When greeting a new Anatolian, one may stroke the dog's chin after the dog has initially sniffed the hand.

The Anatolian is bold and confident without aggression. They will determine on their own whether aggression is warranted and will use a graduated display of increasingly assertive behaviors to control a given situation.

The reliability of a working livestock guardian depends on the strong inclination for independent judgment. An Anatolian will evaluate a situation to assess its potential threat and act accordingly. If the predator will leave the domain when the Anatolian rises from a reclining position and perhaps gives a warning bark, that will be the end of the display."

(From The Temperament of the Anatolian, www. anatoliandog.org/history.htm)

Formal Introduction:

When it comes to strangers, most Anatolians are suspicious and need a "formal introduction". Anatolians are great protectors and defenders of their charges whether their charges are you and your family or your stock. An Anatolian will remain on guard while any stranger is on his territory. You must be very aware of this when unfamiliar guests or workers arrive or when unfamiliar animals enter your home and property. You need to know your dog and anticipate his reaction. You might want to educate your neighbors about the breed so that they understand the history of and reasons for their independent guarding temperament.

Socialization and Obedience:

Most breeders will require you to do a certain amount of obedience training with your puppy so that you establish control and maintain it throughout your large dog's life. This training also provides socialization, a must with an Anatolian shepherd dog pup. Even with obedience training, Anatolians will remain fairly independent and think for themselves. An Anatolian is a livestock guardian dog who may seem stubborn, but is truly independent. Anatolians have been bred to determine for themselves when their attention is needed and to act on their own to keep their charges safe. This is the temperament they need to do their job successfully.

Your Anatolian and Livestock:

Although the Anatolian is a livestock guardian, it is not true that you can put your pup or older dog directly with your stock and they will automatically behave as a seasoned working veteran. Most all  will need some supervision and training. Puppies like to chase, to play and to chew, so you need to plan on giving your dog some guidance until you know all is well. Anatolians mature at about age 3, so puppyhood for them lasts longer than most other breeds.

Also be aware that your anatolian my not immediately accept a different type of stock brought into his territory. For example, if you have goats and you introduce hogs, you will need to supervise your dog until you know all is well.

Off Leash or Tethered/Tied in Your Yard:

Anatolians should not be tied unless you are there to supervise to prevent a choking accident or getting loose. Anatolians cannot typically be taken outdoors off leash. You must remember that first and foremost they are guardians and they will protect you and your family wherever you may be. You cannot know if something in the area will be perceived as a threat by your Anatolian. Your dog will not overlook situations he perceives to be threatening, such as another dog off leash and you must maintain full control of your Anatolian when you are outside of your fenced property.

They are also a breed that may not always obey your commands. This is because for hundreds of years, they have been bred for self-reliance, to think independently and to protect their flocks and charges without assistance.


    Anatolians must have strong, secure fencing, as they will expand their territory. They can be diggers and jumpers and may quickly dig under a fence or jump over it. Most all require good perimeter fencing with electric hot-wire. If you don't hot-wire initially, then you need to plan that it may be necessary to do so at some point.

    An invisible fence will not contain your dog. The invisible fence may work for your young dog, but you need to plan that at some point other types of fencing with hot-wire will be needed.  An Anatolian can easily move at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. What may seem like lots of acreage can be easily and quickly traversed by an Anatolian.

Also please realize that without perimeter fencing and locked gates, unfamiliar people such as acquaintances and package carriers coming onto your property will assume it is okay, since the dog appears to them not to be contained. A regular, *visible* fence also warns such people that theyneed permission to enter if you are not there.


Anatolians are great diggers. When determined, they can dig under a fence in a relatively short period of time. However, most digging is done to rough up the earth for a soft, cool resting place. An intact, unspayed female may also dig large dens, big enough to accommodate herself and her pups. These large dens may also be used to keep cool in the summer.


Anatolians are very slow to mature (about 3-4 years old) and exhibit puppy behaviors until at least age 2. Their fast growing bones need protection. Keep your Anatolian puppy on the leaner side  and keep an eye on physical stress. Curtail activities such as racing up and down stairs and long jogs until your puppy is mature. You don't want to stress the joints early on, which may lead to injuries.  

      Again, the Anatolian Shepherd is a calm, loving, loyal, extremely intelligent breed that will be a wonderful protector, guardian and companion for you, your family and/or stock, but you need to have a good understanding of their general temperament before making the decision to bring an Anatolian into your home.

Holly Ballester