The Anatolian Shepherd, sometimes referred to as a Kangal, is a unique dog that simply can’t be missed. Large and wild-looking, the Anatolian Shepherd is the 90th most popular dog of 193 American Kennel Club registered breeds. Anatolian Shepherds have one of the longest and most interesting histories of any dog breed. Though the Anatolian Shepherd has only been around in the United States since the 1940s, the breed’s Turkish history dates back thousands of years, where the dog faithfully served its owners herding livestock. Archaeologists have recovered Ancient Assyrian artifacts with carvings portraying an Anatolian Shepherd from over 4,000 years ago, and the breed is rumored to be related to the shepherd dog referred to in early Biblical history.
Anatolian Shepherd Appearance
The Anatolian Shepherd is a large dog that is both tall and strong. Females measure about 27 inches tall and weigh between 80 and 120 pounds, while males are slightly taller at 29 inches and can weigh as much as 150 pounds.
Anatolian Shepherds were built for herding, and sport a rugged, formidable appearance. Despite its height, the Anatolian Shepherd possesses a proportionally-sized, well-muscled body with a deep chest and a slight arch in its neck. Anatolian Shepherds come in a variety of different colors and markings. Standard colors include white, biscuit and white, brindle, liver, and several different colors of fawn. Markings include masks of black, brown, and silver; Dutch markings, pinto, and pinto and black mask. The coat of the Anatolian Shepherd is generally shorter—from one to four inches long—and includes a thick undercoat.
The back legs of the Anatolian Shepherd are powerful and strong, and may bear double dewclaws. Its tail is long and is often curled over its back.
Anatolian Shepherds have a distinctive personality that matches their robust appearance. The average life expectancy for an Anatolian Shepherd Dog is 11 to 13 years. The Anatolian Shepherd’s legacy as a herding and guard dog lives on, and this breed is still every bit as functional as a working dog today as it was thousands of years ago.
Fiercely loyal, highly alert and territorial, the Anatolian Shepherd is more than capable as a watchdog, and typically does not do well around other dogs or cats unless it has been raised with them. While the Anatolian is patient with and extremely protective of its own family, including children, this breed may well not take kindly to strangers, regardless of age, so extra care must be taken when the Anatolian is around strangers, and young children in particular.
Anatolians are not a particularly social breed, nor are they especially playful. Despite their loyalty and fierce will to protect their family and flock at all costs, Anatolians are generally reserved and independent.
While it’s important to socialize the Anatolian Shepherd from a young age, these dogs have aggressive territorial instincts and will guard and protect as much space as you give them. For these reasons, Anatolians don’t usually fare well at dog parks, and owners should ensure their yards are fenced-in or secured by an electric dog fence.
Finally, while the Anatolian has sharp natural instincts and is highly intelligent, it can also be a stubborn and dominant breed if not properly trained under the authority of a confident and consistent owner.
Caring for an Anatolian Shepherd Dog
The Anatolian Shepherd is far from a simple dog and may not be a good fit for first-time dog owners due to its size, strength, and raw instincts. Even experienced dog owners should take care to ensure that their Anatolian Shepherd is properly cared for.
As with all dogs, Anatolian Shepherds should be fed a complete and nutritious diet. Whether it’s a commercially-available organic dog food or any other high-quality food for large dogs, the Anatolian Shepherd needs a balance of protein, fat, and micronutrients. The type of food fed to an Anatolian should match its age. Young dogs should be fed a special food for puppies, while adult and senior Anatolians should be given foods appropriate to their respective ages. Though not especially inclined to overeat, Anatolians should be kept at a healthy weight, as obesity can cause serious health problems.
The Anatolian Shepherd needs a moderate amount of exercise and will be quite content spending plenty of time by itself in a large yard. It’s important for Anatolians to be kept behind a tall and secure fence, as they have a tendency to roam. In addition, Anatolians should be taken for one or two moderate to long walks every day. When on walks, it’s imperative to keep an Anatolian on a leash. The Anatolian is more of an outdoor dog and can certainly benefit from unfettered access to a yard, such as through an electronic dog door.
Though trainable, Anatolian Shepherds are often difficult subjects and may demonstrate a stubborn resistance to authority. Anatolians have to be socialized from a young age to help prevent dominance, particularly given the breed’s powerful frame and protective instincts. Obedience training should begin with Anatolians should be a part of every Anatolian’s training process. Finally, confidence and patience must be exercised when training Anatolians. As natural leaders, Anatolians may be exhibit recalcitrance, so it’s crucial that owners take the time to build trust, confidence, and respect in their Anatolian Shepherds. All of this will go a long way in establishing lasting good habits and avoiding potentially dangerous problems associated with disobedience.
The Anatolian Shepherd is a very healthy dog in general, and faces a rather minimal set of commonly occurring health problems. Though hip dysplasia and bloat are often health conditions frequently seen in large dog breeds, the Anatolian Shepherd, despite its size, is not particularly susceptible to either one. Nevertheless, bloat can occur in any dog, and owners should try and minimize exercise immediately after eating, and consider offering their dog several smaller meals rather than one or two large ones.
Anatolian Shepherds can be very sensitive to anesthesia, so owners should be aware of this when considering any health procedure that requires the use of anesthesia. Owners should also make sure their veterinarians are conscious of this sensitivity prior to any surgical procedure.
Regular preventive practices including brushing an Anatolian’s teeth with a toothpaste for dogs and checking its ears for any signs of infection.
Since Anatolians often spend plenty of time outside, it’s important to monitor their everyday health and keep an eye out for any injuries, ticks and fleas, and heatstroke. When Anatolians are young and still developing, it’s also a good idea to minimize high-impact activities that can damage growth plates and inhibit healthy musculoskeletal development.