Amanda has over a decade's worth of homesteading experience: gardening, canning, butchering chickens, milking cows, and making maple syrup.
When we bought our farm 10 years ago, I needed some good dogs to protect my farm animals from the local wildlife. I did a lot of research into different breeds of livestock guard dogs (LGD). I am not a “dog person.” I was not looking for a pet. I wanted a working dog that could get the job done and be independent. I also didn’t want to spend a lot of time grooming the dog. My search led me to the Anatolian Shepherd.
The Anatolian Shepherd
I learned that Anatolian Shepherds have a medium coat that is not prone to matting and does not need much care. They patrol their border and rest on a high point where they can see what is going on around them. They tend to be relaxed but can reach incredible speeds in seconds when an intruder is present. I liked the sound of this, so I began looking for puppies in my area.
Unfortunately, no one in my area bred Anatolians. The popular breed for my area was the Great Pyrenees. I ended up traveling over 300 miles each way to pick up two females and about 300 miles in a different direction for a male. I was unable to find pure-bred Anatolians, so I ended up with Anatolian/Pyrenees cross pups. Over the years I found this to be a good mix.
They Are Gentle Giants
I was impressed with how careful these large dogs are. My dogs all ended up weighing roughly 100 lbs. When my male was a full-grown puppy, he seemed to know that he needed to be gentle with my one-year-old daughter. When she was around, his boisterous puppy movements would stop and he would sit very still. She would wrap her arms around his neck and give him a big hug. He just lifted his chin to make it easier for her to reach around his neck. Then, he laid on his back and allowed her to crawl all over his belly. I was impressed with his level of control.
These Dogs Use a Forward Approach
I noticed that my dogs approached our alpacas from the front, slowly, face-to-face. Alpacas are prey animals and they are very skittish. If approached from behind, they run. I was impressed with my dogs’ tactic in approaching them. They gained the alpacas’ trust and became part of the herd.
I was able to train my dogs to guard our poultry as well. It is not uncommon here to see a cat napping on top of a dog and a goose laying nearby.
They Are Built for Tough Conditions
I never saw my dogs shiver. Even in the dead of winter, they seemed plenty warm. Heat is a problem in the summer. The Pyrenees genetics seem to give this cross a thicker coat than you would find on a pure-bred Anatolian. That can be a blessing in the winter and a curse in the summer.
Finding Pure-Bred Anatolian Shepherds
When my AT/GP crosses were 8 years old, I decided to get replacement pups so that my old dogs could train the younger generation. This time, I was able to find a litter of pure-bred pups at about half the distance I had traveled for my older dogs. It looks as though the pure-breds will be a little smaller and they definitely have a thinner coat, but they are not yet fully grown. Otherwise, they are pretty much just like my older dogs.
Individual Personality and Temperament
Breed characteristics can only go so far. What it boils down to in any case is the personality and temperament of the individual animal. Each of the dogs I have owned has had a very different personality and temperament. Here is a break-down:
Hannah and Abby were the first two female pups I got. Hannah has been my ideal dog. She has a natural instinct for guarding. She is independent, gets along with everyone, and needs little correction. She even allows the ducks to eat out of her food dish! Hannah is now 10 ½ years old. She has had no health problems in all these years other than a bladder infection.
Abby, on the other hand, died of osteosarcoma at barely a year old. My vet said he had never seen osteosarcoma in a dog that young! Her bout with cancer was swift. Hannah and Abby were sisters, so it is hard to imagine how one could die of cancer at such an early age, and the other one could have no health problems for over 10 years!
Boaz was my first male pup. He had major food aggression problems from the day we picked him up. We were also not able to keep him in anywhere. He was an escape artist. He did not stay home and started getting into trouble. He also was not very smart.
He met his end when he laid under the tire of a trailer as it was pulling out. It was a tragic and sad end, but given the behavior problems that were increasing in severity, it may have been for the best.
We made a point of getting unrelated genders so that we might breed our dogs in the future. I planned to make sure I had people wanting pups before we had a litter. However, during Hannah’s first heat, Boaz (the escape artist) jumped a solid wall to get to her and we had pups sooner than I had planned.
We had trouble finding homes for the pups, partly because people in our area were not familiar with Anatolian Shepherds. Given this, we had our dogs fixed and never had another litter.
We kept one pup from Hannah’s litter, Oreo. Oreo is a mix of her parents, but has more of her father in her. She lacks her mother’s natural instincts, has food aggression issues and tends to wander. She is now 9 ½ years old and has just started to figure out that she is not a puppy anymore.
One of the things I really appreciate about Oreo is that I can take her for a walk in the woods off-leash. She stays with me, but at the same time, gives me space. She is a peaceful companion in the woods.
We got our pure-bred Anatolian pups, Aspen and Willow, 2 ½ years ago. They have been learning the ropes and getting familiar with the comings and goings around here. Willow is the underdog. She has a guilty conscience. She takes her cues from Hannah and has a decent instinct. Aspen is unstable. She is fine around us, but unpredictable with strangers and other dogs.
There is one other dog that bears mention, Pongo. Pongo was a little beagle mix that someone dropped on our farm right after we moved in. At first, I thought he was a stray and I hoped that if I ignored him, he would move on. But he didn’t. One day, he looked so pathetic, as if he knew that if we didn’t feed him, he would die. I felt bad for the little guy, so I gave him a bowl of food and told him that if he behaved himself, he could stay.
From that moment on, I was Pongo’s savior. He followed me everywhere. He was always very good. He was the most well behaved and loyal dog I ever had. I don’t know how old he was when he came to live with us, but we had him for 6 years before his body began to shut down and we had to have him put to sleep. Sometimes, the breed is less important than the personality and temperament of the individual.
Questions & Answers
Question: Have you had a hard time putting weight on your Anatolian Shepherds? I noticed that no matter how much I give my Anatolian shepherd/ Pyrenees puppy he seems to look a little thin. He gets free range of hard food and a mix of soft food with hard food in the morning. I'm thinking that he's growing so quickly?
Answer: Yes, I think you are right in that they grow very quickly and tend to look thin throughout their growing years. My 2 year old straight Anatolian pups still look a bit thin. They do fill out with age though. Give him time. Interestingly, our idea of a healthy looking dog is actually considered overweight to obese. There are some good charts online that show how to tell if your dog is too thin or over weight. Try googling "dog weight chart". I saw a chart in my vet's office and was surprised that a healthy dog actually looks quite thin in the tummy area. If you are concerned that your pup is too thin or he has any signs of illness, please check with your vet.
© 2019 Amanda Buck
Amanda Buck (author) from Rural South Central Indiana on October 22, 2019:
Thanks for your comment Dr Mark!
I think a pure bred Anatolian might handle the heat better. They seem to have a thinner coat. The breed comes from Turkey originally. I have never heard of the Fila Brasileiro. But again, it really boils down to the personality of the individual. Perhaps you can find a herder that just doesn't care to herd.
I had a Sheltie/Healer mix once that wanted to herd everything!
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 22, 2019:
Interesting article, thanks.
I am in the tropics and the only LGD that does any good around here is the Fila Brasileiro, although unfortunately they are more herders than guards. I would love to have an Anatolian/GP mix hanging out with my sheep every day if only they could handle our heat.