Of the many breeds of guard dogs that we considered, the Anatolian Shepherd is the one we were most impressed with to meet our needs on a small farm. Anatolians originated in central Turkey and were such effective guard dogs that their breed has remained pretty much the same for thousands of years. There is an attempt to standardize the breed, but most people want them as working dogs, not show dogs.
There are several variations in their appearance. While they all have large heads, long legs, and lean bodies with large ribcages, they can be almost any color, with or without spots, and with or without the black ears and muzzle. They are a large and sturdy breed generally weighing between 90 and 160 lbs. In spite of their size, they are fast and agile. A big advantage to Anatolians is that they live 12-15 years, twice as long as large breeds usually do.
While these dogs can be socialized to a family, they do not make good pets. However, they are very gentle with children and other animals they are introduced to. While they are not at all herd dogs, they make excellent guard dogs because they are loyal, intelligent, independent and bold. They are fiercely protective of their “flock”, whether that be a family or livestock. They do an excellent job of keeping their charges in the specified area. We have friends who told us that when their small child wanders outside the main yard, their Anatolian gently brings her back by the dresstail.
These dogs are almost nocturnal, walking the borders of their territory at night, then resting on a high spot to keep watch and sleeping close by during the day. Anatolians are fearless and will easily take on coyotes and kill them and they will even attack wolves, especially if there is more than one dog. Even though they are aggressive towards predators, if properly trained they do not attack people without provocation and warning. When a stranger approaches, they will give a low growl. If this doesn’t deter the threat, they will growl louder and more threatening. They will then move towards the threat, growling and showing their teeth. It is only after this that they will become more aggressive.
They are very hardy and don’t mind at all being out in the elements. They will lay in the rain as if unaware of it. I have actually been told that they do not like to go into any enclosed space, even a barn. Their coats are thick but they do well in hot weather as well as cold, which are the conditions of their original home in Turkey. They need plenty of space to roam, so they are not a good choice for town living.
They have very few health problems. Hip dysplasia does occur, but not as often as in other large breeds. Other possible problems are hypothyroidism, cancer and eyelid entropion. They are also sensitive to anesthesia. Generally, though, they are a very healthy breed, perhaps because they are not overbred.
One drawback to buying an Anatolian is the price. They have become very popular recently and so they have become expensive. The average price I am seeing is about $400, although you can find them cheaper sometimes, especially if you are willing to start with an adult.