One of the most important things to recognise about the character of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is that, along with other Livestock Guardian breeds, the Anatolian should have little or no Prey Drive. Prey drive is what keeps a Ridgeback chasing its quarry, it’s what keeps a kelpie chasing the heels of the cattle till it drops from exhaustion, it’s what causes a Bloodhound to keep tracking no matter what, what causes a Border Collie to never stop trying to round up your chickens and for a Labrador to do the same trick hundred times for a treat.
Anatolians don’t generally do any of the above things. Or if they do do something like chase chickens, they are very easy to teach to desist for life – because they never really cared much about chasing things anyway.
They have been bred to stay with a flock on their own and guard it – not chase it or herd it. A wolf can’t lure it away on a mad chase for miles while the rest of the wolf pack circles back and eats the flock of sheep. As much as the Anatolian may want to kill the wolf, his stronger instinct is to not get too far away from what he’s protecting.
That all sounds good until you try to train them yourself! Firstly, without prey drive, they don’t care much about food treats. They’ll sit for a couple of items and then lose interest. They don’t care that much about praise from you so they’ll do a couple of things for a pat then lose interest. Even when they know a command very well, they won’t always do it because they really don’t see the necessity of obeying anyone if they think they’re making the wrong decision.
That doesn’ t mean that you can’t train them, it just means you have to go about it a bit differently and work harder at it than most breeds. And also accept that some things are never going to be great – like Come!
An Anatolian is almost full height by 9 months and therefore bigger than a small woman so you have only a very short window of time to train your dog.
If there are obedience classes in your area, I would ask to join them as soon as you receive your puppy (he’ll have had his first set of vaccinations at 8 weeks so will have some immunity already). Obedience classes are not so much to get an incredibly obedient dog (that’s not really an Anatolian forte even though mine have all been rather good) but it does give your dog a lot of good socialisation with other dogs and teaches him to control himself and to listen to you even when other dogs are around.
In my experience, socialising your dog with humans and other dogs will in no way diminish his guarding ability! Most Anatolians will guard instinctively when danger threatens no matter how social their life has been. However, an unsocial 65 kilo dog is not a fun thing to own.
They are not at all suited to “Schutzhund” training (attack training) as they are already pre-disposed to attacking if a threat does not remove itself and they are extremely independent so not at all disposed to backing off on command – the reason that most German Shepherds fail their final test to become a police dog. Whereas a good Shutzhund dog sees the whole thing as a game of sorts, Anatolians really don’t do games. If you are stupid enough to teach your dog to attack, it will attack and it will not back off.
It’s also my strong opinion that you always handle the dog yourself and preferably only one member of the family take on the training. These are one man or one family dogs and do not take kindly to strangers yanking them around. We shouldn’t expect them to tolerate something that goes completely against their natural independent thinking for which they have been bred.
So when in a class, do not allow the trainer to grab your dog to demonstrate something – he can use someone else’s dog.
Additionally if the trainer is the type that uses yelling, shaking, throwing the dog to the ground, etc., change classes fast. Once again, not many Anatolians will cope with that sort of treatment and will very rarely submit – quite the opposite which can get nasty.
I have attended two different groups for Obedience. One doesn’t allow “choke chains” and is only via food reward and positive reinforcement which is all good except that my dog can drag me anywhere in a flat collar as he gets bigger – embarrassing and dangerous. The other group I go to are old school and allow no food treats at all, only praise and a choke chain is compulsory. I like both methods but I personally prefer the choke chain just for safety and control in an emergency.
In their working state they have been bred for hundreds of years to protect their charges to the death and so in some more dominant dogs, an aggressive human using violence will come up against a dog whose aggression can escalate at the same rate and who will not back down. This doesn’t mean to say he’s a bad or evil dog – he’s just reacting in the way that he was originally bred to react.
Most trainers (and Vets) will have never seen a live Anatolian in their life and will not know anything about their nature, which is really quite different from most other breeds. Often they’ll have some preconceived know-nothing opinions such as: “All Anatolians are aggressive”, “No Anatolian can be trained”, “No Anatolian can ever be trusted with other dogs”, etc. Obviously, none of these statements are true. It’s up to you to make sure you can stand up for your dog and protect him from situations that could result in disaster for all parties.
In my opinion, the main reason to go to obedience classes is to socialise your dog and get him doing basic commands in the presence of other dogs.
You wouldn’t usually buy an Anatolian for the purpose of competing in obedience classes as you’ll have a lot of hard work and you’ll both quite likely be miserable. Additionally due to its independent nature, if your dog perceives something as a threat to you or your property he will purposely disobey you completely and do whatever he thinks is necessary to protect you. This is what it’s bred to do and this is why we love them.
Your puppy needs to spend lots and lots of time with you in the first few months if he is going to bond with you successfully. They are a naturally aloof dog so just try and keep him with you as much as possible.
Please don’t buy an Anatolian puppy if you don’t have sufficient time to invest in him in the first year.
This is a fabulous and sensible link about LGD’s (Livestock Guardian Dogs), their temperament, training, etc. Well written, balanced and thoroughly worth a read:
Another thoroughly worthwhile read is this study done on the various breeds of LGD’s available in Australia and test studies on their effectiveness in Australian conditions as stock guards including a long term study of properties that used the dogs weighing up financial pros and cons:
It’s a free download!
There are two American websites that I have always recommended for Anatolian specific training information which are as follows:
This website is owned and operated by a lady called Janice Frasche. She has some excellent training ideas and temperament tips as well as a blog with a lot of Anatolian info and photos.
This website is owned by a USA goat farmer who breeds and trains his dogs primarily for livestock protection work and he also has a large section on training, especially targeted at a dog with a “harder” temperament. His section on teaching the command “back off” is especially good.
If you buy one of my puppies you will receive an instruction book with my hints and tips on how and what to train your dog as well as care, feeding, health etc!