The Anatolian Shepherd is a rare breed that is certainly not suited to all families. However, if you are lucky enough to be one of the few families that would suit this guy, then you are in for a rewarding relationship indeed.
The Anatolian Shepherd also goes by a few other names, such as the Kangal, the Coban Kopegi, and the Karabash, but unless you have been to Turkey or live on a working ranch in America, it is unlikely that you would have met this lovely but formidable dog. He is a member of the big boy club, and as such, he needs a large home and an even larger backyard, preferably with a flock to protect.
There is some debate in the canine kingdom that the Anatolian Shepherd is a separate breed from the Kangal. By most breed purists, the Anatolian Shepherd is a completely different breed from the Kangal, although they come from similar breeding and historic lines. The AKC consolidated the Kangal and Anatolian Shepherd and considers them the same breed. Read this comprehensive guide to the Anatolian Shepherd to see if he would suit you and your lifestyle.
The Anatolian Shepherd is an ancient breed, with his Molosser ancestors dating back to 2,000 B.C., and he is named after the land from which he hails, Anatolia in the central part of Turkey. He was bred to be a flock guardian, and he is traditionally left for months at a time to guard his flock single-handedly, and he is one of the most independent canines on the planet.
He is rarely fed after puppyhood, and he is to feed and defend himself in the wild, but of course, he can distinguish between his flock and other animals. He is commonly found on duty wandering the vast terrain of Turkey with a spiked metal collar around his neck which protects him from predators.
The Anatolian Shepherd first came to America in the 1930s when he was gifted by the Turkish Government, and he was first used as a ranch dog to protect flocks of sheep from wolves and bears. In 1973 the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which protects endangered species, including the wolf, improved the Anatolian Shepherd’s popularity as flock guardians thanks to his unique ability to scare predators without the need to harm them. He is still the chosen American Cowboy colleague, and despite changes to the ESA, he is likely to remain the chosen one.
In 2019, the American Kennel Club (AKC) ranked him as the 90th most popular dog breed in America, and overall he is described as loyal, independent, and reserved. If you’ve never met an Anatolian Shepherd before (and don’t worry, most people haven’t) then be sure to check out this Instagram page as it provides a real insight into their striking size and personality, both at work and in the family home!
The Anatolian Shepherd is a working guardian, and it is his work ethic that is his first and foremost personality trait. He is insanely intimidating to those outside of his family pack and flock, and he has a loud booming bark which is usually enough to scare off the likes of cheetahs and wolves without having to physically fight them.
If of course a predator ignores his bark and proceeds to attack, he will defend his flock or family to the end if necessary. He is one of the most protective dogs on the planet, and this is something to consider if you are bringing one of these guys into the family home, as while he may not be used as a working dog, this innate trait will never be trained out of him.
With that being said, he does have a place in the right family environment, and he is playful with his littermates and family. Despite his formidable façade, he is a very gentle dog who is loving and enjoys a snooze in the evening by the feet of his master. He is a tranquil dog who is very independent, and he is happy to spend most of his day relaxing in the garden without the need to be near his family. This is great news for those who prefer a less needy dog who is not going to be your shadow.
Because of his innate guarding tendencies, he is very protective of his family, and as such he is very suspicious of all who aren’t in his immediate pack. He is alert and always on guard duty. Even if a friend comes to visit the family home several times a month, it is unlikely that he will be over-friendly with them, and it is more likely that he will always sit from afar with his watchful eyes on his pack. Do not expect him to greet visitors, and many Anatolian Shepherd owners will warn their guests not to make a fuss of him unless he allows it.
The Anatolian Shepherd is an intense dog who needs a firm leader that is going to instill discipline and boundaries into the home. He will mature at around two years of age, and it is this time that his guarding tendencies and authoritative traits begin to flourish. He is a pack dog with an innate sense of hierarchy within his pack, and therefore his human family also needs to understand the pack mentality to create a harmonious environment.
Size & Appearance
The male Anatolian Shepherd will measure up to 29 inches tall, from paw to shoulder, whereas the female Anatolian Shepherd measures up to 27 inches tall. The male will also weigh between a hefty 110 and 150 pounds, whereas the females will weigh much less between 80 to 120 pounds.
He is a large and formidable-looking canine and not one you would want to meet alone if you happen to find yourself wandering through his fields!
He is a rugged-looking dog, but one who carries himself with intelligence and power. He has a large head with large drop-down ears. He has a broad muzzle that extends up to dark brown or amber-colored almond eyes. He is a well-proportioned dog with a thick neck and a deep muscled torso.
His tail is long and curls at the end, and in a state of alert his tail will tighten and curl even more so. His full breed standard provides detailed information regarding his appearance. Because of his size, the Anatolian was introduced as a parent breed for the American Mastiff (designer dog) over 30 years ago. He was also added to the line to create the American Alsatian.
Coat & Colors
The Anatolian Shepherd’s coat is thick, and it is a medium length that measures approximately 1 inch long. The hair around his neck tends to be slightly longer and thicker than the rest of his body, and it is rough to the touch.
His coat comes in 8 recognized colors including brindle, blue fawn, fawn, grey fawn, liver, red fawn, white, and also his most recognizable color being the light biscuit with the black facial mask. There are also various other markings that his coat can take, which is outlined in the above breed standard.
The Anatolian Shepherd is a medium energy dog, but one who is self-exercising. He is different from other dogs in that he does not require to be taken out for a walk as such, as he will instead exercise himself roaming and protecting his estate. Through his self-governed walking, he will actively exercise between 45 and 60 minutes of exercise a day.
While he would not be against going out for a walk with his master, he must be placed in a home with at least 4 acres of land for him to roam. Quite simply, if you do not have the land then the Anatolian Shepherd is not suited to you.
This land needs to be enclosed and reinforced, as he will attempt to escape should he feel that there is a threat to his family beyond the fencing. A 6-foot fence should be used, with a further 2-foot underground barrier which will prevent him from digging out. While he does not necessarily dig to escape, he does dig to entertain himself throughout the day or to keep cool, so it’s always good to be on the safe side. Of course, he should be given access to shelter outside to protect him from the extreme elements.
Once his guarding shift is complete and he has roamed to his heart’s content, he will join his family for the evening and relax with them. For this reason, he should only be placed in a larger home where there is room for him.
While he is a peaceful and tranquil dog, because of his sheer size he is not suited to families with younger children, and ideally, he should only be placed into families with much older children, preferably of High School age.
If you are, or want, a multi-pet household then the best way is to bring the Anatolian Shepherd into your home as a puppy, as he will grow up knowing that the other animals are part of the flock. Introducing other animals into the family when he is an adult is not always successful.
Ideally, he should be with a family that is going to work with him, as he will be lost if he does not have a purpose. It is also likely that he will become restless, and his destructive behaviors will soon begin if he has nothing to do.
Additionally, if he is not used on a farm to protect a flock, many owners comment that they will find him protecting the youngest family members and other family pets. This can cause issues within a family environment because while he may have good intentions, the overprotectiveness of any family member can be dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Of course, early and successful training at a young age will help to deter this behavior.
The Anatolian Shepherd requires much more intense training than the average dog, and as such he is not suited to first-time dog owners. Ideally, if you have little experience with Anatolian Shepherds or similar flock guardian dogs, then it would be very useful to seek help from a professional dog trainer with experience in this breed as conventional dog training methods will not work with this guy. He needs a firm pack leader who he can look up to.
The Anatolian Shepherd will need the earliest possible socialization to ensure that he becomes familiar with as many different situations and sounds as possible. It is particularly important to introduce him to unfamiliar people and dogs to increase his chances of being polite around them.
While he will never be over-friendly, he can be trained into a well-mannered pooch with the right training. A great way to introduce him to dogs of all shapes and sizes is to take him to puppy classes or the local doggy field, just be sure not to let him off-leash in a public space.
The Anatolian Shepherd matures at the age of two, and his guarding tendencies aren’t fully developed until then, as such as a puppy he may not exhibit the strong guarding tendencies that we have outlined in this article, but do not worry, they will develop naturally. He does not require any training to be a flock guardian as he will naturally become this.
Overall, efficient training as a young pup is going to set the tone for your life together, so it is imperative that you do it, and do it right. It is also really important to recognize that due to centuries of flock guardianship and specific breeding practices, it is impossible to suppress his guarding tendencies through training, so if you are after a dog that isn’t as protective you should steer clear of the Anatolian Shepherd altogether.
The Anatolian Shepherd is a very healthy dog breed whose main concern is Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, which is expected considering his size. Reputable breeders will only breed healthy dogs, and his hip and elbow scores will be indicated on their health certificates.
Another issue to look out for is Entropion, which is characterized by the lower eyelids folding or creasing inwards, causing irritation, pain, and vision impairment. His lifespan is between 11 and 13 years on average.
The Anatolian Shepherd is sensitive to anesthesia, so before he undergoes any treatment at the Veterinarian be sure to remind him of this. While he will probably know this, the Anatolian Shepherd is a rare breed and as such, the Veterinarian may have never dealt with one before.
The Anatolian Shepherd will consume around 4 cups of food a day once he reaches maturity at two years of age, and the food should be aimed at large to extra-large dogs.
Of course, his feeding requirements will change as he grows older and increases in size, but if you are in any doubt then be sure to speak to your Veterinarian. Of course, as with any large dog, food bills do stack up, so be sure to take this into account before welcoming him into your home.
Anatolian Shepherds hunt for themselves when they are guarding their flock, so don’t be surprised if he catches a small animal in your backyard if he is feeling a little hungry.
Generally, he should be brushed several times a week to keep his coat in a manageable order, and to prevent his shedding hair from clustering up in your home. During the spring and summer months, his shedding intensifies and so you will find yourself brushing him every day to keep his coat manageable. Of course, if he is a ranch worker then he will need brushing much less than this.
As a dog who is naturally out and about for most of the day, he will come into contact with parasites and fleas, so it is important to keep up to date with his vaccines and yearly checkups. Other grooming habits such as nail clipping and ear cleaning are the same as any other dog, just be sure to check him over weekly.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
Your first point of call in your search for a reputable Anatolian Shepherd breeder should be to visit the AKC’s breeder page, as they have selected a handful of reputable breeders across the country.
The Anatolian Shepherd is a rare dog breed and as such, there is not an abundance of breeders, so you should be prepared to travel. The average cost of an Anatolian Shepherd puppy is around $1,000 from a reputable breeder, and his litter size will be between 5 to 10 pups.
Alternatively, you can search online for breeders, however, you need to ensure that you thoroughly research them and read reviews about them. Unscrupulous breeders will often try to pass off other dogs and mixes as Anatolians, and they simply aren’t that.
Rescue & Shelters
The Anatolian Shepherd, while a rare breed, often finds himself in shelters as owners are often overwhelmed owning him, and completely underestimated his needs and requirements. The National Anatolian Shepherd Rescue Network lists adoptable dogs and details for regional contacts if you are keen to adopt one.
As Family Pets
- The Anatolian Shepherd is a unique dog who has different needs.
- Because of his stubborn streak, he is not suited to be a first-time dog owner.
- He is a large boy who needs a large home, with at least 2-4 acres of enclosed land.
- The Anatolian Shepherd should be used as a flock or livestock guardian.
- He is happiest when he is working and not simply a companionship dog.
- He is very protective of his family and estate.
- If he feels that they are under threat then he will not hesitate to attack and defend.
- The Anatolian Shepherd is gentle and placid in the home and enjoys relaxing with his family.
- He is suspicious of strangers, so gated and reinforced fencing is required.
- Fencing is critical to ensure that he cannot escape, nor can others enter.
- He is a moderate shedder and as such he is not suited to families with dog allergies.
- The Anatolian Shepherd is only suited to families with older children.
- He should be raised as a puppy alongside other animals if you are in a multi-pet household.
The Anatolian Shepherd is a lovely and kind dog who is a gentle giant unless provoked. You do not want to be around if he is, because he is a vicious and scary dog if he feels that his family is under threat. But with that being said, he is one of the kindest and placid dogs around when he is relaxing with his family. This juxtaposition is appealing to some, and frightening to others.
He is not suited to the average family, so unless you fit the bill, unless he will be worked and has at least 4 acres of land to roam, he is definitely not for you. If you can fulfill his needs then he makes a fantastic flock guardian and a family protector, and he is a sweet soul to those in his immediate pack. All in all, he is a lovely boy who just needs the right home!
July 6, 2022 at 9:47 am
My friend has two a. Shepherd dogs. Both are males. They are full grown but now one is being aggressive towards the other one. What is causing this and what should be done
July 7, 2022 at 10:48 am
Since reasons can vary so much, it would be wise to consult a local trainer who can meet with you and your dogs to see the dynamics and determine the best course of action. We wish you the best.
May 7, 2022 at 9:15 pm
found one about 2 years, intact on canal road walking my dog. Dirty, and seemed scared but followed me to car. Wouldn't get in car so had to lift him which was a heck of job, he is a huge dog. A couple people said they had seen him n was scared to come to them. He was hungry n timid the first night a slept alot. I am fostering him as he now is in a rescue group, getting fixed in a couple days. Concerned about getting him the right home as he is adjusting and getting more relaxed but also becoming escape artist, broke thru the kennel fencing on a cat shelter that my cats dont use anymore.. when I left but stayed in yard, has wood 6ft privacy fence in town. Got him set up in garage with a portable wire fence which he decided he didn't want to stay in anymore. He really wants in the house but have 2 cats, he gets along good with my female dog. Know this is long, but he is sweet n seems gentle. How do I train him to stay and what should I be looking for in potential adopters???? He will be hard to find a home for. Help!!!!
December 20, 2021 at 12:22 pm
I rescued what we believe to be an Anatolian mix. He is now 11. When we got him Hank chased cats and squirrels. When my children left for school he would jump through a window so he could go visit a local elementary school. He loves children more than anything. Hank was also a hairy Houdini, he always found a way to escape the six foot fence around the house. After paying for professional training he stopped escaping.
He loves to swim and stubbornly always drinks the salt water, I call going to the beach his colon cleanse.
Hank gets along with most dogs, though he is scared of Great Danes as they are bigger than him. He learned to bond with our cat over a love of food, but chased her before.
Three years ago we moved to a home in the flight path of a small airfield. Hank enjoys chasing the airplanes as they fly overhead.
I fully believe that if someone wanted to rob us Hank would allow it, for a few pets, but if someone tried to hurt one of my children, then the protective instincts would surface and that person would be sorry.
Hank is a beautiful brindle boy of around 105lbs and the love of my life. He still seems rather spry, but I worry that we only have a short time left.
November 29, 2021 at 11:44 pm
What a great story Marc. I am happy Lola got a happy ending. That is great that you became a dog trainer! Does Lola have an Instagram we could follow?? Sending you and Lola blessings
November 29, 2021 at 12:13 pm
Lola's story. Lola was born on a ranch here in Florida and at the age of three months she killed a chicken when left alone with them. The owner at the time put her on a six foot chain in the barn and every time she would bark they would spray her with a water hose. She lived like this until she was 18 months old when a local rescue got involved. She lived with her foster parents for a month when they realized they could not handle this breed. I was asked to foster her, but was concerned because I have an older German Shepard that is over 11 years old and in his sunset years. After reviewing the breed I decided to take a chance on Lola and gave her a home and she boned with my other dog. Well I am a foster failure and that was 17 months ago. I do not live on a farm or ranch and I only have mid-size yard of about 150 X 200. I found that Lola was super intelligent and a fast learner. She was house broken in two weeks and would learn very fast. I started her in basic obedience training in Aug of 2020 and we moved to Advanced Obedience in November of 2021. She passed her AKC Canine Good Citizen test in Jan 2021. Needless to say we have taught each other a lot in the last 17 months. This breed is unlike any other I have worked with, but so is the bond that we have built. They have to have a job to keep them happy and Lola has three jobs now. We do weekly training in Rally, daily 6 mile hikes (I am a diabetic so it's great for me) and she love's being in the woods and at the beach. Now she is in training for her third job and will start in the spring. As I said we live in Florida on the east coast. We are not doing scent training on the beach to locate green turtle eggs. The green turtle is endangered and five months out of the year they leave the ocean and climb up on the beach to lay their eggs. Lola's job is to find the nests so they can be marked and protected until the eggs hatch and the baby turtles make their way back to the ocean. Right now we are working with scent boxes (eggs). This coming season she will be part of a 4 dog team that will go out every morning to do her job. Because of my lack of knowledge of the Anatolian I decided when I got her to become a dog trainer and I have achieved that goal. It has only helped me learn about Lola and this awesome breed. I have to say there is no better bond then that of a dog who knows you are his trusting human. In closing, I have to say I wish I had a farm for her to run and be the guardian that she is, but I also know in my heart she is doing the job she was meant to do. She is the best dog ever.
November 14, 2021 at 9:18 am
Well the Anatolian Shepherd protect and bond with Horse’s and Donkeys. Also Other Dog’s like blue hellers and Cats.
I have 12 acre but fenced with 4 strands of wire and farm gate. There is a housing addition on west side of 12 acres.
Would he or she work here.
October 12, 2021 at 12:53 pm
Bought a Anatolian Shepherd for my daughter as a Christmas gift. My youngest is 9, my oldest child 40. Rocky is turning 1 in 3 days. I was a Rottweiler breeder in the 90s and spent a lot of time around large dogs. Rocky is the friendliest dog I have ever known. Every morning at 6 he takes me for a 5 mile walk. He is very stubborn and if I try to take a shortcut, he will lay down and just look at me. I have to give him some hugs and tell him he's a good puppy to get him going again. He is already very large, making my oldest daughter's 2 year old Rottweiler look like a puppy. He has accepted me as the Alpha and behaves well. A very loving dog. Thanks for the info, especially on his mature behavior.
September 4, 2021 at 11:07 am
I have a 7-month-old boy whose previous owner had a major stoke and was unable to take care of him. Thank you for such a thorough article. I do have 10 acres and 11 goats, but I haven’t introduced him to them yet. Just getting him used to my other dogs and home life. I’m retired and spend most of my time at home. I am still trying to figure out if he will be a good fit. He’s definitely not food aggressive or cat aggressive.
Apiffany Gaither Billings
September 5, 2021 at 9:23 pm
Thank you so much for sharing your story and for giving him a great new start!
June 14, 2021 at 7:34 pm
My son took in a dog who's original owner said the vet said he was a German Shepherd. He looks and acts like everything I've seen and read about Anatolian Shepherds. Even strangers ask what he's mixed with as I did when I was told he is a German Shepherd. Is there any way to tell the difference between the two?
June 15, 2021 at 9:11 pm
Hi RK - yes, you should be able to tell the difference between the two, mostly through looks. The Anatolian is generally larger in appearance, and their tails can curl up a bit more. They are also likely to be more fawn in color, whereas the German Shepherd is going to be more black and tan. The only real way to distinguish the difference between the two is to pay for a DNA test. We've used Embark twice now for our pups, and had a great experience. Good luck with your dog!
September 10, 2021 at 9:56 pm
We've had both actually. German Shepherds have high pricked ears, a long muzzle, and a long, sloping top line with males around 90 lbs. Anatolian Shepherds have loose ears that are located lower, shorter and thicker muzzles, lower front shoulders, and are much larger. My male is about 125-130. They tend to blend in well with the sheep they guard. Anatolians have a curled tail and when they sense a predator or danger, they signal the flock by raising their tail which forms a circle. It's called raising the wheel and the flock knows to look for it and react accordingly. They're amazing dogs!
June 5, 2021 at 11:01 pm
We have an Anatolian Shepherd that we rescued and she's a joy. She does will in exercising her self and she adores both my husband I only she gets a little uneasy if anyone's comes on my side of room. She's amazing.
June 7, 2021 at 5:08 pm
Sounds like an amazing pup, Jennifer! Thanks for commenting!
May 17, 2021 at 6:38 am
I own 2 Anatolians. My big guy I raised from a pup, from Shepherds Rest breeders. He's 8 years old and HUGE! Stands 33" at the shoulder and weighs 185lbs. He's a house dog, but we do have acreage. My other Anatolian is a rescue. There was quite a bit of adjustment to the household bringing in a rescue, but we worked through it and are a happy pack! Love this breed!
May 21, 2021 at 1:48 pm
Sounds like an amazing pup, Klea! Thanks for stopping by to share your experience with the breed!
April 21, 2021 at 12:09 am
I have an Anatolian/Black Mouth Cur mix who is my service dog and she's amazing. I don't know what I would do without her.
April 25, 2021 at 3:06 pm
Sounds like a great dog, Lois! Thanks for stopping by to comment!
September 10, 2022 at 9:34 am
Can I ask what sort of service as I am looking into getting one next week to train to be my sezure allert dog?
April 15, 2021 at 9:56 am
I have a 1-year-old Anatolian Shepherd. She can be super Affectionate. She howls at me when I get home. She hugs my wife when she does. I can Not house train her. I have 2 acres but haven't got a fence yet, so bring her I at night. She's the Alpha over my 7-year-old pitbull who has killed many varmints. The Anatolian has yet to.
April 15, 2021 at 11:17 am
Sounds like a great dog, Curt! Thanks for stopping by to share your experience!
April 7, 2021 at 7:58 pm
I just lost my Anatolian Shepherd (Bear) to a major seizure over the weekend. With that I'm not looking yet for another, was just reading about them again, keeping him close. I must say, the way you describe the bread is totally opposite to him. Yes, He was large, 160 lbs, 7 yrs old. Brown white coat with a black mask, but from that, he was the most gentle giant I had the pleasure to call my friend, my partner.
As for small children, he adored them. He would slowly walk up to them, stopping about a foot away and sniff. When I told him to sit or lay down, he would and allowed the children to hug him, kiss him, just about sleep on him, and this was the neighborhood children, and even children when we where out on the town.
He's been able to great children who had a fear of dogs, remember he's 160 lbs, very size intimidating, but after about 5 min, parents of these children were overwhelmed with emotions, their young son or daughter, didn’t matter the age were laying and petting this giant, with such smiles on their faces, was just amazing. This happened over and over, no matter where we lived. In the 7 years we had him, since a puppy, we lived in Ca, CO, TX, WI, NH, and now GA, due to work. He has never barked at anyone, other the when playing with us, and even that was a surprise.
He only growled twice, each time was due to a wild predator. When we walked, 90% of the time he was off-leash, never paid any attention to other animals unless we stopped and they met. And for being fenced in, somehow, no matter where we lived, he knew his boundaries, that's without a fence front yard and never left the yard, even if strangers or other's dogs came by. Bear was one of the kind. What a wonderful very very special friend, who brought joy and happiness not only to his family but those around him.
April 12, 2021 at 6:29 pm
Hey Mark! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with the breed! Please keep in mind, that breed profiles are overall "generalizations" and that every dog is going to be different (we do state that in the article). It sounds like you had an amazing friend and partner. We appreciate you stopping by to share your experience with this wonderful breed!
April 5, 2021 at 11:34 am
I owned an Anatolian Shepherd named Spacelee for 18 years. Best dog I've ever owned. I have a big cattle and grain farm and every single word of this article I believe to be on point for sure! A great depiction of my favorite dog who died at 18 from a heart attack doing what he loved chasing coyotes, lol!
April 5, 2021 at 9:03 pm
Glad you enjoyed the article, Mark! Thanks for stopping by to comment and share your experience!
March 30, 2021 at 7:44 pm
I have a 5-month female who is a fantastic pup. Working on getting her registered as my service dog due to my PTSD.
April 1, 2021 at 3:06 am
Sounds like an amazing dog, Randy! Thanks for stopping by to comment!
March 15, 2021 at 10:54 pm
I have an Anatolian Shepherd mix female who is about 5 years old. She was found at about 6 to 8 weeks old. Searching for who lost her wasn't successful. She has been a wonderful companion and I would be heartbroken without her. She is everything your article describes but she adapts very well. Not knowing her mix isn't a problem. She weighs 92 pounds.
Her only problem started when she was 2 years old. A skin problem. Maybe veterinarians weren't knowledgeable enough. Yeast? All the time it's taken to discover chicken is the problem. She's beautiful again like when she was 2 years old.
March 16, 2021 at 4:02 pm
Sounds like a great dog, Kitty! Thanks for stopping by to comment!