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Caucasian Shepherd

These massive dogs are strong, courageous and loyal, and were bred to protect their flocks from large predators in the Caucasian Mountain. They are known to defend their flocks from bears, wolves, and other predators and to never give up a fight.

The Caucasian Shepherd is a majestic dog breed, and highly intelligent, but can be very independent and stubborn, so it is definitely not suitable for novice dog owners.

Also, the size of the dogs from this Russian breed is such, that it is definitely not a good idea to keep them in apartments, or in homes where there are small children.

But with consistent, patient and proper training and socializing these huge Russian dogs can become perfect companions, therapy dogs, and family pets.

The dogs from this breed are very loyal, devoted and kind to their families, including to other family pets.

Highlights

Temperament: Bold, fearless, and devoted

Height at the shoulder: 27-30 inches for males, and 25-28 inches for females

Weight: 110-220 lbs. for males, and 100-180 lbs. for females

Life expectancy: 10-12 years

Breed Group: Foundation Stock Service – guard and watchdog

About the breed

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Caucasian Shepherd dogs are also known as Kawkasky Owtscharka, Caucasian Ovcharka, Caucasian Mountain Dog, Russian Bear Dog, Baskhan Pariy and others, has been used for centuries as a livestock guard dog by shepherds in the vast Caucasian Mountains.

They were bred and used to protect the flocks of sheep from the various dangerous predators in the region including coyotes, wolves and even bears.

Because the region is so large, there are differences in the varieties of Caucasian Shepherds.

Today, the breed is divided into two main breed types – Mountain type and Steppe type.

The Mountain type Caucasian Shepherd dog has a longer coat and a larger body weight and mass than the Steppe type.

In general, the Caucasian Shepherd from Georgia is considered the standard breed type by most kennels.

Due to their strong protective and territorial instincts, Caucasian Shepherds can be very apprehensive to people or other dogs entering their territory.

They don’t have high energy levels, but due to their huge size, they are not well suited for apartment life. Caucasian Ovcharkas will be at their best in safely fenced backyards and spaces.

They are excellent watchdogs and will alert you if anybody comes nearby with a loud bark. Otherwise, they are not loud animals.

Dogs from this breed should never be chained outdoors because this will imminently lead to the development of aggressive ad dangerous behavior.

With consistent, firm and proper training the dogs from this giant Russian dog breed can be kind and loyal companions and pets and can become excellent therapy dogs as well.

If you haven’t ever seen a Caucasian Shepherd, you need to be warned that these pups are absolutely massive. The males can weigh from 110 to 220 lbs. and the females are a tad smaller with an average weight of 100 to 180 lbs. the males can reach a height of up to 30 inches at the shoulder and the females can be up to 28 inches tall.

So, as you can see, the Caucasian Ovcharka is truly a giant dog breed.

These dogs have heavy and weather-resistant coats, huge dog paws, muscular and powerful bodies and yet with an athletic look. They have large and broad heads and prominent cheekbones, and with thick hair on each side of the powerful jaws with perfect scissor bites.

Their double coats consist of a thick, soft and dense undercoat combined with a coarse and long outer coat.

The hair on their cheeks and on the back of their heads gives the Caucasian Shepherds a bear-like look.

They can be in various colors including agouti grey, white, cream, fawn, rust, brindle, piebald, white with markings, black, grey and black with or without markings.

One common feature of the dogs of this breed is the darker masks they usually have on their faces.

Although ear cropping is still performed in Russia and in other countries, it is forbidden in the UK and in many countries in Europe. In the US, only a few states prohibit the practice.

Here are some interesting facts about the Caucasian Shepherd:

  • Females will give birth only once a year
  • Due to their low energy requirements, they are prone to becoming overweight or obese
  • They were used in East Germany to guard the Berlin Wall during the Cold War after the wall went down, the remaining dogs were adopted by German families
  • The USSR used them for guarding prisoners and for military purposes
  • They are among the most ancient Molosser breeds which can be traced back to the age of Mesopotamia
  • Their coats are weather-resistant, but they are not big shedders
  • They are extremely loyal and devoted to their owners
  • They are among the best watchdogs in the world with natural protective and territorial instincts
  • They can be gentle and soft pets, and even therapy dogs with the proper socialization and training
  • They are definitely not suitable for first time, or inexperienced or timid owners
  • They need a very safely secured garden or yard to thrive well and safely, but should never be chained
  • The males can be twice as heavy than the females from the breed

Personality

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Although we mentioned earlier that the Caucasian Shepherd is a very loyal and kind dog, this is only in the case that it has been trained and socialized properly and that boundaries have been set regarding the hierarchy at home.

The dogs from this giant breed are definitely not suitable for new owners or for owners with no experience in training such massive guard dogs.

Due to their strong natural protective and territorial instincts, the Caucasian Ovcharka is one of the best guard and watchdogs in the world. At the same time, this drive can be dangerous, as these dogs are suspicious of strangers and of other dogs or animals which enter their territory.

They are alert 24/7 which is why they are still much-preferred watchdogs around the world.

Known to be able to fight off and even kill predators like coyotes, wolves, and bears, the Caucasian Shepherd can be a very dangerous dog if it is kept chained, or if it is not trained and socialized consistently and patiently by an experienced owner, so that they can overcome this feeling of suspicion and aggression to all strangers.

These giant dogs are highly intelligent but are often times very stubborn and independent, which can make the training process quite difficult.

Normally, there is no danger for the human families of these dogs because they are extremely loyal and protective, and also kind and loving companion dogs.

The dogs from this giant Russian breed mature slowly, which is an important factor to keep in mind when training them.

Puppies need to start being socialized and meet new people and dogs from day one in order to prevent future dangerous and aggressive behavior.

If the training and socializing come too late, the dogs can become dominant and thus difficult and even impossible to handle and control.

As family pets, Caucasian Ovcharkas are known to be even-tempered, calm and reliable. But they are very quick as well and have super-keen eyesight and hearing senses, which makes them perfect for tracking.

Nutrition

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Since these giant dogs can reach an adult weight of up to 220 lbs. but have relatively low exercise needs, it is very easy for them to become overweight and even obese.

You will need to feed your Caucasian Shepherd with the age-appropriate food in the recommended quantities throughout its different life stages.

Usually, the breeder will present you with a feeding plan, or with the formula and food they have been using, and it is a very wise idea to follow these directions and continue feeding the puppy with the same food and on the same schedule until it is at least six months old.

If you need for some reason or another to switch foods, make sure you do it very gradually, by introducing the new food a little at a time, to ensure that the digestive system of the dog gets used to it, and to avoid tummy upsets.

You should choose commercial foods made specifically for large, extra-large and giant dog breeds with low energy levels, if you want to ensure that your Caucasian Ovcharka is getting all the nutrients it needs to be healthy, well and fit.

Choosing high quality and highly digestible dog food is key for the good overall health and wellbeing of your dog.

You should provide your pup with fresh and clean water at all times.

As your dog grows, it is essential to discuss the best diet for its needs with your vet or with a dog nutritionist.

It is very easy to overfeed a dog of this size, and this can lead to the pup gaining too much weight and to numerous health problems.

Like all large dogs, Caucasian Shepherds are prone to bloat, which is a twisting of the stomach which can be fatal, so in order to prevent it, you should avoid feeding the dog a single large meal per day. It is recommended that you give it smaller and more frequent meals, so it doesn’t eat its daily dosage at once. Other ways to prevent this life-threatening condition is to avoid feeding the dog and letting it drink large volumes of water right after exercise and also use a stand for the bowl which will make eating more comfortable for the pup.

Adult Caucasian Shepherds are rarely finicky eaters, but you should still strive to feed your dog high-quality food twice a day.

At the same time, you should ensure that your dog gets sufficient walks and exercise so that it can burn the excess calories, and stay fit.

Obesity is one of the biggest and most dangerous health problems in dogs and can shorten their lives with a few years.

This is why, you should keep an eye on the weight of your pup, and make sure that it stays fit and within the recommended weight zone.

Grooming

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Although most kennels recognize long and short-haired Caucasian Shepherds, they actually come in various versions and types, including long, medium and short.

The longer the hair of the Caucasian Ovcharka, the larger the main on its neck and the feathering around the hind legs will be.

All of the coat types are very thick and weather resistant. They are double-coated, with soft and thick undercoats, and coarse and long outer coats.

The coats can be in different colors, with different patterns or have large patches of other colors. White markings are most common, and so are the black or dark masks on their faces.

Even though they are no heavy shedders, the thick coats of the Caucasian Shepherd need to be brushed weekly to prevent matting and to remove the dead hairs. These giant dogs shed heavily once a year when brushing and bathing can help speed up the process and remove most of the hair faster.

Due to their large size, bathing can be quite a difficult task, so it is advisable to bathe them only when it is necessary or to take them to a professional groomer to perform this often arduous task.

Their strong nails grow pretty fast, so you should trim them or grind them regularly to prevent overgrowth and splitting.

Also, you should regularly check the ears for any ear wax, redness, foul smell or any other signs of infection. Clean the inside of the ears gently with dog ear cleaner, and do not attempt to clean inside the ear canals.

Brushing the teeth of your Caucasian Shepherd can help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar, and keep the teeth and gums healthy, and the breath fresh.

Also, if your dog is a drooler, make sure that you wipe its drool regularly to avoid it becoming covered in slobber.

Exercise

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The Caucasian Shepherd will be at its best if it has a securely fenced outdoor space to exercise and spend the day. These dogs do not require too much strenuous exercise, but they do need daily walks and some playtime or training outdoors. Make sure you always keep your dog safely fenced, or on a leash when you are outdoors for safety reasons.

Some breeders do encourage endurance exercises such as hiking and walking for these mountain shepherd dogs.

By taking your dog on long walks or hiking with you, you can help keep it in good shape and within the healthy weight limits.

The more time outdoors you can provide for your Caucasian Ovcharka, the better off it will be.

Due to their intelligence and strong natural instincts to protect, these giant dogs need to be kept entertained and engaged both physically and mentally on a daily basis, in order to prevent them from becoming bored and engage in destructive or other unwanted behavior.

Dogs from this breed shouldn’t be kept chained up outside, because this can easily lead to uncontrollable and dangerous aggression. Just make sure that the fence is secure and tall enough to keep the dog contained inside your backyard.

Especially when they are younger, Caucasian Shepherds truly enjoy various interactive games such as retrieving balls and chasing Frisbees or other toys.

Overall, the recommended daily exercise for the dogs from this breed is 60-80 minutes per day. If you don’t have the time for two long walks, you can make one of them shorter, but should then ensure that the other one is longer and more interesting for the pup.

As with other giant dog breed puppies, you should be careful not to over-exercise your puppy Caucasian Shepherd, because of the pressure placed on the bones and joints which are growing rapidly. This can cause health and structural problems for the dog later on in life. So, make sure you don’t let the young Caucasian Ovcharka jump from high furniture or to run up and down the stairs.

Training

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The Caucasian Shepherd is famous for its intelligence and stubbornness, which can make it very difficult to train dogs from this breed, but obedience training is definitely possible with the right technique, positive reinforcement, consistency, patience, and firmness.

These giant dogs are very loyal to their owners and even to the children, but it is absolutely essential that they are socialized properly from day one in the house.

Their incredibly strong protective instincts may make them aggressive and dangerous to other people and animals, so you should start meeting up your puppy with as many people and dogs as you can from an early age.

Keep in mind, that these inborn instincts can be difficult to control, which makes the dogs from this breed not so suitable for families with young children, especially when it comes to having other kids as guests to your home.

Visiting children must be introduced to the dog by the owner in a calm manner, and should be instructed how to communicate with the dog or with your children. Since these dogs are highly protective they may mistakenly view roughhousing and playing among the children as an attack.

Even if the dog has been perfectly socialized and trained, its huge size is also a matter of concern when it comes to children, so you should always supervise any interactions between the dog and young kids.

Overall, Caucasian Shepherds are best suited for homes where there are no children and no other pets.

Training this strong-willed dog requires a lot of experience, patience, and consistency from the owner. The dog needs to be taught who the alpha member of the family is. In other words, you need to establish yourself as the boss from day one, in order to be able to train and control the dog later on.

Once they are aware of the hierarchy at home, Caucasian Shepherds are easy to train and will learn quickly if the proper direction is given by the “alpha dog” in the family.

Allowing a dog of this size and with such natural leading instincts to become dominant is not only unwise but can lead to unmanageable and unsafe living conditions and situations.

Caucasian Shepherds like most dogs respond well to positive reinforcement training, and will not tolerate any harsh or heavy-handed training treatments.

They have a natural drive to protect and to please their owners, so they are very quick when it comes to picking up new things – good and bad.

Caucasians are definitely not suitable for novice dog owners, and for people without experience with such dog breeds.

The main thing you as an owner of such a dog should do from day one is to establish the order at home and let the pup know its place in the hierarchy. Once this is well established, training this smart dog will be easier than ever with the proper guidance given from you.

Training should start as early as possible. It is a good idea to hire or use the help of an expert trainer when the dog is about 7-8 months old. You can also enroll your puppy to puppy classes, where it will get socialized and will learn how to be obedient from an early age.

Meeting other puppies, dogs and people is essential for young dogs of this breed, because of their strong inborn intolerance to strangers – human and animal.

Even though you may feel that your incredibly cute and fluffy young Caucasian puppy is too young to be socialized and trained, leaving these two essential parts of the dog’s life for later stages may lead to an impossibility to train and control the dog as it grows up.

The main commands you should work on when training your Caucasian Shepherd pup include: come, sit, quiet, stay, down, leave it and down.

Health

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Overall, these large guardian dogs are healthy and resilient pups with an average life expectancy of 10-12 years.

If you take proper care of your Caucasian Ovcharka, and you feed it with the suitable, good quality food in the recommended amounts, chances are your four-legged friend will lead a long and happy life alongside you and your family.

Keep in mind that just like with all other purebred dogs, the Caucasian Shepherds could be more prone to being born with or developing certain hereditary health conditions.

Here are some of the health problems you should be warned about and ask your breeder about before buying or adopting a Caucasian Shepherd puppy:

  • Hip dysplasia

This is a genetic condition which is relatively common among Caucasian Shepherds and other large or giant breeds. It includes a problem with a proper fit of the dog’s thigh bone into the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can affect either one or both rear legs, and can lead to lameness, pain and will worsen with time, as the dog develops arthritis.

Always ask the breeder of your future puppy for health clearance issued by a certified institution regarding the health of both parents of your dog, and especially for clearance from both hip and elbow dysplasia.

This type of clearance in the US is issued by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.

  • Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is another hereditary condition which involves problems with the proper development of the bones in dogs. Elbow dysplasia happens when the three bones of the front legs of the pup do not grow evenly and have a problem aligning properly at the elbow.

The condition can be very painful and cause lameness and immobility of one or both front legs of the dog.

The dog can be screened for elbow dysplasia via x-rays, and the condition can in most cases be treated via surgery.

Then again, dogs suffering from elbow or hip dysplasia should not be bred, so always go to responsible breeders, and always require health clearance issued by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for both parents of your future puppy.

  • Cataracts

A cataract is a genetic eye problem which is pretty common among dogs of many different breeds. It can affect either one or both eyes of the pup. The first sign of cataracts is a cloudiness of the eye. As a result, if left untreated the dog can become partially or completely blind over time.

Even though cataracts can be resolved surgically, it is advisable that you ask the breeder of your Caucasian Shepherd puppy for official clearance by an authorized institution, to ensure that both of its parents do not have cataracts.

  • Luxating patella

Patellar luxation usually affects smaller dog breeds, but it has been found to be relatively common among Caucasian Shepherds as well.

This condition which is also known as slipped stifles is another problem with the misalignment of the bones of the dog’s leg.

It can lead to a limp, or an abnormal gait resembling a skip.

It is another inherited condition which is present at the birth of the puppy but the luxation of the patella, femur, and tibia occur later in life.

The rubbing of the bones caused by the misalignment can cause arthritis and a lot of discomfort and pain for the dog. The condition is graded in grades from 1 to 4, with the more severe cases requiring surgical intervention.

  • Bloat (gastric torsion)

Bloat is not hereditary but is more common among larger and giant dog breeds, and among dogs with deep chests.

Gastric torsion is a life-threatening condition which can kill a dog in a very short time frame.

It is caused by the stomach of the dog having air trapped in it, which causes it to distend and twist around itself. This torsion of the stomach causes a blockage not only of the digestive system but also of the blood circulation.

Dogs with suspected bloat require emergency veterinary attention.

The symptoms of bloat include the dog trying to vomit or belch, but not being able to. Also, keep an eye for worrying signs like a distended abdomen, weakness, excessive drooling, an increased heart rate, low blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.

Gastric torsion requires emergency surgery.

In order to prevent bloat, avoid feeding your dog directly after it has been exercising. Also, divide its daily food into smaller portions, and feed it twice a day rather than only once.

Plus, do not allow the dog to drink too much water after strenuous exercise, and get your Caucasian Shepherd a bowl stand, so that it can eat and drink water without needing to bend down too much.

  • Obesity

Because Caucasian Shepherds are so huge and don’t have too many needs or desire for exercise, they are prone to becoming overweight or even obese, especially as they grow older.

You should always feed your dog with appropriate dog food for its size, activity level, and its age. The best commercial dog food for Caucasian Shepherds is food formulated for giant breeds with low energy levels.

Make sure you ask your breeder for feeding recommendations and a feeding schedule and follow the advice of your vet or animal nutritionist later on as your dog grows up.

It is essential to provide your Caucasian Ovcharka with walks and exercise on a daily basis so that it can burn those extra calories and stay in shape.

Remember that obesity in dogs can lead to numerous serious health problems and shorten the lifespan of your dog by a few years!

History

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The Caucasian Shepherd is believed to be one of the oldest Molasser breeds. Its exact origin is not quite clear, but records and historical data shows that this giant guardian dog breed was first developed in the Caucasus Mountain and the region surrounding it over 2,000 years ago.

Some people believe that the Caucasian Shepherd came from the wild wolf after it was domesticated, and others are more prone to believe that the ancestors of the Ovcharka are Mastiffs and other large breeds.

Many experts believe that the breed descended from the Tibetan sheepdogs, but there is archaeological evidence that it may have first originated in ancient Mesopotamia.

As you can see, the theories of the origin of this giant dog breed are pretty diverse. But we can all agree that wherever these massive mountain shepherd dogs came from they were an indispensable part of the history of the shepherds in the Caucasian mountain region.

These giant guardian dogs were fierce protectors of their flocks and of the shepherds from the dangerous predators in the region. Through the ages, the Caucasian Shepherd Dogs have been known to successfully fight off and even kill predators, or fight to their own death against wild animals like wolves, coyotes, jackals and even bears.

They were developed to be resilient to harsh weather conditions, cover and live in difficult terrains, and to be intimidating, fearless and very strong.

Since the region is so vast, there are different variants of the Caucasian Shepherd which have been developed in the Caucasian Mountain area, including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Dagestan and other areas in and around the majestic Caucasus.

Those originating from the mountain areas were much bigger, and with longer heavier coats than those used in the Steppes.

Most kennel clubs today accept the Georgian Caucasian Shepherds as the breed standard.

During the 20th century, the USSR began using these massive dogs as guard dogs for prisoners, as well as for military purposes.

The breed selection work of these dogs in the USSR started in the 1920s and the accepted obligatory qualities of the Caucasian Shepherd Dogs included: sharp hearing, fearlessness, physical power, self-confidence, excellent eyesight, and a weatherproof dense coat.

In the 1960s during the cold war, dogs from this breed were used by the East German side to guard the Berlin Wall. Over 7,000 Caucasian Shepherds were given off to adoptive families in Germany after the Berlin wall came down in 1989.

In the US, these dogs were also used as field and service dogs by the army.

Today, the dogs from this breed are pretty popular watchdogs and family companion dogs, but they are still used for their original purpose – as shepherd dogs too.

Through the centuries, the Caucasian Shepherd has retained its strong protective and territorial instincts, as well as its endless devotion and loyalty to its owner. These dogs can be aggressive and even dangerous for strangers and other dogs and animals, which is why it is absolutely essential that they are properly trained and socialized from a very early age, by a confident and experienced owner or trainer.

The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1995.

Overall, the Caucasian Shepherd is one of the largest dog breeds in the world and is considered one of the best watch and guard dog breed.

With consistent, proper and timely training and socialization, they can be loving, devoted and calm family pets too.

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