Alabai Dog Breed: All You Need to Know

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Alabai Dog BreedThe Alabai is an ancient breed of large dogs used for guarding, herding, and protecting sheep. While they’re not the most popular dogs around, they’re powerful, yet sensitive dogs that can make for a wonderful family member once you get to know them. In this article, we share all there is to know about the Alabai so you can take one home should you get the chance. 

What is the Alabai? 

The Alabai is known by many names, including the Central Asian Shepherd Dog, Ovcharka, Turkmen Wolf-Hound, or Alabay, and is a dog breed unique to Central Asia, hence the name. They are renowned for their independence, protective instincts, and strength — traditionally used as livestock guardian dogs, this majestic breed has a curious and bold temperament. They’re known for their large frame, muscular, strong build, and their dense double coat. 

This purebred dog is generally reserved and loyal to its family but its history as a working dog and independent nature means that they’ll require consistent training and early socialization. While they’re aloof around strangers, they can develop strong bonds with their owners and are highly protective of their families due to their reliability and devotion. However, they may not be the best choice for first-time or novice owners.     

Alabai History

Central Asian Shepherds hail from Central Asia, a diverse and vast region where their roots started around 5,000 years ago; today, they’re likely the oldest dog breed in existence. Because they were developed to guard livestock, they have become well-adapted to the challenging terrains and harsh climates around Asia. These big boys are close relatives of the Tibetan Mastiff and are known for their good health, resilience, and strength. 

Because they’re territorial by nature, the Alabai is often used as a working dog and holds occupations such as guard dog, herding dog, livestock keeper, watchdog, and more. Humans quickly saw their value, adopted them, and put them to work; they aren’t categorized as high-energy dogs, but they come with plenty of endurance and a high work capacity. In 1990, this giant breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club, although they’re still rare in the United States compared to Asia.     

Alabai Appearance

Known for their muscular and robust build, the Alabai is a strong and large dog that usually stands around 25 to 32 inches by their shoulders, while females are a little smaller. They have a double coat that consists of a dense undercoat and a coarse outer coat which helps protect them from extreme weather. Their coats come in a wide range of colors, which include fawn, black, brindle, and various shades of gray. 

These dogs come with a distinct appearance, which includes a thick neck and strong head, as well as an imposing size; males can weigh anywhere between 110 to 170 pounds while females come in lighter at 80 to 120 pounds. Depending on their region, they can come in a variety of looks, which can include changes in their coat length, overall size, and shape. However, they will typically come with a black mask like the Belgian Malinois or the German Shepherd. 

Alabai Temperament 

When it comes to their temperament, Alabai dogs are known to have a territorial, independent, and loyal nature. They’re usually reserved and calm — they can forge deep bonds with their owners while being aloof with strangers, which makes them great guard dogs. Consistent training and early socialization are a must with these dogs if you want them to properly develop their protective instincts. 

Owners of these pups appreciate the sense of security and devotion that they’re able to provide since they’re not just powerful working dogs but are also trusted companions. They’re also calm indoors but active outdoors, so you’ll get the best of both worlds — they’re highly protective and always alert, so you can rest easy knowing they’re looking out for you. While they will usually remain quiet, they will start barking when strangers come too close. 

They’re also described as confident and proud; the Alabai are also courageous, and should a predator approach, they won’t back down and will protect you with their life. Because they’re territorial dogs, they will ensure that your property is predator and critter-free. While they may come with an independent streak, these devoted and loyal pups will serve their family well.

Caring for Your Alabai

While Asia has plenty of dog breeds to offer, the Alabai is among their most unique and effective in terms of work. If you want to bring one home, make sure that you’ll be able to give them the best care possible which is shared below.  

Feeding Your Alabai 

The ideal diet for these dogs consists of high-quality dog food that has been formulated specifically for large dogs with high energy levels. Alternatively, you can also serve homemade food but be sure to consult your veterinarian first to get an idea of the right fruits, vegetables, and protein to work with. Your vet will also be able to help when it comes to feeding frequency and serving sizes; these dogs can become overweight if you feed them too much. 

It’s best to stick to a regular feeding routine, and avoid leaving food in their bowl; it will also help if you limit their treats, including the ones you give them during training. Like any dog, the Alabai’s dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood and into their later years. Because there are many variations between each dog such as energy levels, weight, and health, be sure to ask your vet for specific recommendations for your pooch.    

Grooming Your Alabai 

As mentioned, these dogs come with a thick undercoat along with straight, short to medium-length hair that requires little grooming; it also sheds moderately throughout the year. However, they do go through a phase called “fur storm” once every year where their coats shed heavily; during this time, be sure to brush their coat to get rid of dead hair. A better way to clean them is to use a vacuum with a brush-like attachment since brushing could take a while since they’re so big. 

They will usually come with medium-length hair and dense coats, so they’re not the best choice for those with allergies, but they can be groomed easily. Their gorgeous coats will need to be brushed once a week and given a bath as necessary to keep them clean and fresh. While their thick coats are great for cold weather, they won’t do so well in places with too much heat; they should also be kept indoors with their families. 

It’s also important to keep a close eye on their dental health; make sure to brush their teeth several times a week to prevent tooth decay and tartar buildup. Their ears should also be checked weekly for any signs of infection; if you see any dirt starting to accumulate in their ears, use a pet-friendly ear cleaner to gently remove debris. Finally, their nails should be kept at a short length to prevent discomfort and injuries — cut their nails twice a month or when you can hear them clicking along your floor. 

Exercising and Training Your Alabai 

Intelligence is the biggest factor to consider when getting started with training, but this can be challenging when you have an independent dog. While the Alabai will be happy to obey your commands, they must first see why they should; this is where finding their source of motivation will become crucial. Some dogs will be easily encouraged through food and treats but others will prefer praise and attention — once you understand what your pup wants, they will be more eager to learn and please you.  

These can be applied to basic and advanced commands but they won’t need much training when it comes to herding and guarding livestock. Even at an early age, they can start with their duties and become wonderful protectors of livestock using minimal direction from their humans. To help them spend their energy, provide them with a big space where they can roam; give them a few interactive toys and play games like fetch or tug-of-war or you can also take them running through agility trials.   

Alabai Health Problems

Unfortunately, bigger dogs tend to have shorter lifespans compared to smaller dogs; luckily, the Alabai is an exception. Even when you factor in factors such as genetics, lifestyle, diet, activity levels, and environment, they can live as long as 17 years when properly cared for. It was natural selection that helped these dogs weed out their weaknesses, and have slowly become genetically resilient over time, making them a healthy breed without any breed-specific conditions. 

Just keep in mind that they may be prone to the following diseases due to their big bodies. 

  • Hip Dysplasia: This common condition is present in large dogs with hip joints that don’t properly fit into their hip sockets. It can lead to discomfort, pain, and arthritis, eventually limiting their mobility. 
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease: A hereditary blood disorder that affects the blood’s clotting protein. Affected dogs may experience a longer time to heal from surgeries and injuries. 
  • Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus): Is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the stomach twists on itself. It can lead to internal organ damage and blood flow restriction; it should be treated as a medical emergency. 
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This group of eye diseases can be inherited and causes the retina’s slow degeneration. It can result in vision loss, and eventually blindness. 

Alabai Costs 

The price you can expect to pay for one of these dogs from breeders will vary depending on when you live, the breeder’s reputation, and the dog’s pedigree. Most Alabai dogs will range between $1,200 and $1,500 but some may go for $2000 or more. Alternatively, you can consider adopting one of these dogs at your local dog shelter or rescue center where they can cost significantly lower; usually around $100 and $300. 

Make sure to think about your new dog’s needs as well, which will cost even more money. During your dog’s first year, you can expect to spend a minimum of $1,000 to $1,500 to get everything you need for your pooch, which will include its food, necessary supplies, and initial vet visit. While the following years won’t cost as much, you should set aside some money each year for your pup to cover any unexpected expenses.      

Purchasing or Adopting an Alabai

Unfortunately, it won’t be easy to find these dogs in your local rescue, and you may need to ask around shelters in other areas to find one of these dogs and you can also try organizations that specifically cater to these dogs. On the other hand, looking for a reputable breeder is one of the most important things you need to do if you want to take one of these dogs home. A responsible breeder will be committed to providing a healthy and well-socialized dog who will be your life-long companion. 

They should be able to give you a health certificate proving that their puppies are free from genetic diseases. They should answer any question you may have about their puppies, parent dogs, and their practices while giving you lifetime support once you take your new best friend home. Backyard breeders will only be interested in selling their puppies without telling you much about them, and may not screen for health issues, so be sure to avoid them. 


The Alabai is a wonderful dog breed that won’t just protect your livestock but your family too. While they’re among the oldest dogs in the world, they’ve quickly adapted to modern life and can make for excellent family dogs that are calm even with young children. As long as you fulfill all your responsibilities to them, such as feeding them the right amount, giving them exercise, and a job to do, they can be a great partner to anyone looking for a loyal and reliable furry friend.