The Caucasian Shepherd dog may be relatively unknown to the rest of the world, but they are highly prized in their native countries namely Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the North Caucasus where these handsome large dogs are used to guard livestock. However, over the years the breed has earned a reputation for being extremely reliable watchdogs and companions thanks to their loyal, courageous, yet gentle and kind nature at home. The Caucasian Shepherd is an extremely large dog and as such, needs to be trained and handled by people who are familiar with the needs of this large, intelligent and quick thinking dog.
Caucasian Shepherd Dog Breed Names
Caucasian Shepherd, Caucasian Mountain Dog, Russian Mountain dog, Russian bear dog, Caucasian Ovcharka, Russian Caucasian dog, Caucasian Mountain Shepherd, Kavkazskaya Ovcharka, Caucasian sheepdog, Volkodav, , Caucasian Ovtcharka.
Some people claim the breed comes from ancient cross-breeding between wolves and regional dogs, others claim that Mastiff-Spitz cross-breeding produced the Caucasian Shepherd, and then there are those who claim the ancestor to the Caucasian Shepherd is the product of the Tibetan Dog and the Molosser Dog.
The Caucasian Ovcharkas are among the oldest surviving Molosser do and originate from the Caucasus Mountains nestled between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. The Caucasus Mountains area is rough, mountainous country. The herdsmen of the steppes and mountains needed a dog sturdy enough to stand up to both the predators of the region and the harsh winters. The result was the Caucasian ovcharka, probably chosen for his legendary protectiveness and ferocity.
The Caucasian Shepherd is very popular in Russia. “Ovtcharka” is Russian for “sheepdog”. In Russia and most parts of what was the Soviet Union, he is commonly displayed at dog shows. In Poland, Hungary and the Slovak and Czech Republics, extensive breeding programs have ensured it retains his popularity, even though his original use as a livestock guardian is on the decline.
The Caucasian Shepherd arrived in former Eastern Germany in the late 1960s where it served as a patrol dog along the Berlin Wall. When the wall came down in In 1989, the 7,000-strong pack of patrol dogs was dispersed. Most of these dogs were given new homes with families all through Germany.
The dogs are very highly regarded in Georgia. The image of the head of a Caucasian Shepherd dog decorated the coats of arms of several Georgian grand dukes.
The Caucasian Shepherd has a large, very powerful, muscular frame covered by a thick double-coat (short haired or long haired). On the long-haired type, the hairs along the neck form a lion-like “mane”, and fringes and culottes on the back part of the legs. The tail is thick and bushy. The short-haired type lacks these characteristics.
Colours vary from gray, fawn, tan, pied, brindle and white. Its large, wedge shaped head has an oblong muzzle, bushy, deeply set oval eyes and high set ears. It has a thick tail that either hangs low or curls up slightly. Solid white dogs with dark pigmentation occur occasionally in the breed.
Males are more massive and more powerful; females are smaller and lighter in build.
Caucasian Shepherd Size
Height (at its withers):
· Males: 28 – 29 inches (72-75 cm), minimum 26,5 inches (68 cm).
· Females: 26 – 27 inches (67-70 cm), minimum 25 inches (64 cm).
· Males: Minimum: 110 pounds (50 kg).
· Females: Minimum: 99 pounds (45 kg).
The Caucasian Sheepdog is a spirited and strong-willed guardian dog. Unless properly socialized, the Sheepdogs may become ferocious and show unmanageable tendencies. They are brave, alert, strong and powerful. They have a strong urge to protect-whether real or perceived – and will do so with lightning-quick speed.
The Caucasian bonds strongly with his family, including children and other pets, and he takes his guardianship of them seriously. With people he knows, he is steady, sweet and kind. He is an excellent watchdog, barking only at the approach of unfamiliar people. He is suspicious of strangers and may be aggressive towards dogs he doesn’t know. This is not a dog who will be friendly to everyone he will meet, no matter how much you socialize him. Be prepared for him to bark loudly at night, alerting you to possible dangers.
Highly intelligent, the Caucasian Mountain Dog will find many inventive ways to get into trouble. He has a keen sense of hearing and is ever vigilant and alert to strange sounds. This means that this breed is often noisy and barks a lot, especially at night.
The Caucasian is also known to be headstrong and a born leader. If not trained properly, this dog breed will believe he is in charge and will do whatever he pleases. Born to protect and defend, the Caucasian Shepherd will stand in the way of anyone and anything that poses a threat to what he considers his possession.
The mature Caucasian has a low activity level, but puppies are active and need room to run in a safe, traffic-free area.
Owning a Caucasian Shepherd
Owning a Caucasian Shepherd is not an easy task. This independent and strong-willed dog will obey only a dominating and equally-willed owner whom it respects. Obedience, training and early socialization is mandatory for this breed. Forming a strong protective bond with its owner, the Caucasian Ovcharka will not treat other family members the same way. He mostly suits active singles, experienced handlers as well as farmers and ranchers.
Caucasian Shepherd Dog and Children
Kids will love the big, fluffy Caucasian Shepherd, and the love will be returned! There is a caveat, however, and that is when other children are playing with your kids: if the play gets rough, your Caucasian Shepherd will quickly choose a side and defend your kids. Due to his size and natural disposition, small children should be supervised to avoid knocking over type accidents; as this breed is extremely protective, kids could end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Training a Caucasian Mountain Dog
Start training puppies the day you bring them home. Even when eight weeks old, they can soak up everything you teach them. Don’t wait until they are 6 months old to start training otherwise you will have quite a headstrong dog to handle. If possible, take him to puppy kindergarten classes when he is 10-12 weeks old, and let it socialize. In lieu of the formal training, you can start training the puppy at home and socialize him among family and friends.
The Caucasian shepherd is not at ease living in an apartment or in-house. They need a lot of space to roam around and you must be prepared to provide a large yard. You must allow this breed of dog safely run free in an open area.
His thick coat protects it admirably well against weather conditions and it can effortlessly cope with living out-doors – but there must be a proper shelter. He is best-suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least five or six feet high. This is a territorial breed, and he must learn his boundaries.
Nutrition & Feeding
Caucasian ovcharkas are an easy keeper for their size. You have to feed them a formula that will cater to their unique digestive needs through the various phases of their life. A lactating or pregnant bitch and a growing puppy can eat 8-10 cups daily. Feed the young puppies 2-3 times a day, and adults 1-2 times daily. The huge Caucasian ovcharka, naturally, has a huge appetite. It needs a big diet daily of up to two large bowls during meals. High quality dry dog food is recommended. Supplement its food with yogurt, goat milk, cooked meat etc.
Many dog food companies have breed-specific formulas for small, medium, large and giant breeds. What you feed your dog is an individual choice, but working with your veterinarian and/or breeder will be the best way to determine the frequency of meals as a puppy and the best adult diet to increase his longevity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is generally healthy and long-lived, averaging a life span of 10–12 years. Some dogs may have health issues in the form of hip dysplasia, obesity and occasional heart problems, but the majority of these dogs are healthy if taken care of correctly. Good dog breeders use genetic testing of their breeding stock to lower the chances of diseases in the puppies.
The ears of the Caucasian Shepherd Dog are traditionally cropped, although some modern dogs are unaltered, as many people believe that this practice is unethical and cruel. If brought up by someone with extensive knowledge on the needs of a Caucasian Shepherd Dog, the chances of health problems should lower dramatically.
Routine Care For Your Ovcharka
Build a routine care into your schedule to help your Ovcharka live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
· Supervise pets as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block rooms off when necessary. This keeps her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
· Brush her coat as needed, at least weekly.
· Caucasian Ovcharkas generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
· Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy.
· She’s a large smart dog with lots of energy, so keep her mind and body active or she’ll get bored. That’s when the naughty stuff starts.
· Due to her assertive nature and large size, she is not recommended for homes with small children.
· Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
What are the best uses for the dog?
1. Protection. The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is a natural protector. His massive size alone should be enough to deter even the most foolhardy of trouble makers. He also requires very little special training to become a good guard dog. If he feels threatened or feels that his property or family are in danger then he will attack. He attacks by running at the intruder and knocking them to the floor before attacking them whilst they are down. This mountain dog instinctively knows where the most vulnerable part of his victim’s body is and will aim for there. He also stands on his back legs to reach over six feet in height in order to attack someone’s face. Puppies begin displaying their natural aggression at 3 weeks old. It is crucial that you socialize your dog from an extremely early age. He must have a balanced view of humans and realize that just because a person is not a member of his family, it doesn’t make them an enemy.
2. Even though its original use as a livestock guardian is declining it is still used by shepherds in Georgia and throughout the Caucasus Region.
3. Its loyalty and strength has made this dog a popular police dog, working dog and companion throughout the Soviet Union and Europe.
Misconceptions about the Ovcharkas:
· The Ovcharkas are not suitable for families with children or elderly: WRONG. Although it is advised that small children should not be left alone with an Ovcharka due to the sheer size of the canine, the dogs have an extremely malleable personality and can easily be socialized to become a therapeutic, lovable pooch who visits nursing homes, hospitals, and psychiatric wards.
· The Ovcharkas are only suitable for colder climates: WRONG. Although their thick coats imply that they are meant to withstand frigid temperatures, the fine hair of their coat is also capable of cooling them off during the summer heat.
· All Ovcharkas should have their ears clipped when young: WRONG. Historically, the ears were clipped to avoid injury from attacks with predators. Presently, the un-cropped ears are preferred in show rings and are very soft to pet.
Caucasian shepherd dog in popular culture
· In a series of Scot Harvath novels by Brad Thor, a featured character known as “the Troll” has two Caucasian Ovcharkas which serve as his guard dogs. Harvath was also given a Caucasian Ovcharka by “the Troll”, named Bullet.
· In a series of Dresden Files novels by Jim Butcher, Harry Dresden has a “Foo Dog” named Mouse that appears very similar to the Caucasian shepherd dog, so much so that a character asks if Mouse is one.
Is the Caucasian ovcharka the breed for you?
If you’re looking for a fluffy protector who is willing to put their life on the line for you every day, then the Caucasian ovcharka could be the dog for you. However, as with all large guard dog breeds, this breed is definitely not for everyone. They do best with experienced dog owners with a huge, fenced backyard and plenty of time to devote to cuddling, training and walking this lion-like pooch.