The Akbash Dog has been bred for centuries to act as a guardian dog for livestock. They are a tall and regal breed of dog, an ancient blend between ancient mastiff-type guard dogs and the sighthound, perhaps the native Turkish Tazi. While the most ideal dogs show a blend of the mastiff and sighthound traits, degrees of variation are seen in the breed.
The Akbash Dog is always white, some showing a slight biscuit color highlighting their ears or spine ridge, particularly if the coat has sun-burned. The breed has both long and short coated representatives, both coats appearing regularly in each litter of pups born. The dogs put on a thick undercoat and, depending on climate, shed this undercoat once or twice a year. They are fully capable of living outside year around with appropriate shelter, and many owners marvel at the conditions under which they will find their dogs outside tolerating the weather despite the fact that shelter is available just a few feet away.
The Akbash Dog in this photo shows strong sighthound influence with her greyhound-like chest and tremendous muscling in the hindquarters. While her ears are slightly larger than is typical, her conformation would never allow her to be mistaken for another breed of white livestock guardian such as the Great Pyrenees or the Kuvasz.
A mature long-coated male is pictured. The natural sexual dimorphism of the breed is seen when these two dogs are compared; however, some females are as large as their male counterparts.
In North America
In the decades since Akbash Dogs have been imported from their native Turkish countryside, their reputation as livestock or flock guardians has been well-established. Initially, USDA research in the early 1980s resulted in the breed being named one of the best predator control dogs available for guarding livestock. Because the breed will bond with any variety of species, they have been valued first by range sheep producers, then small farm goat, emu, and llama producers, and now alpaca breeders and free range and exotic poultry producers.
Livestock Guardian Behavior
However, their ability to bond does not end with other animal species. Akbash Dogs have become cherished home guardian dogs. Breed experts find the dogs, when properly socialized, are extremely adept at telling usual from unusual cirmcumstances and responding with an appropriate amount of aggression in a given situation. The dogs tend to bark warning with a small amount of provocation. This behavior is known as "posturing" and is quite typical of the white flockguardians, like the Great Pyrenees, the Kuvasz, the Tatra, and the Maremma. Another trait of the Akbash Dog, perhaps as a result of the sighthound influence, is its tendency to watch not only for four-legged but also winged predators. Breeders of sheep and goats, particularly dwarf or miniature breeds, report that Akbash Dogs are as successful in reducing predation by hawk and eagle as in reducing attacks by bobcat, coyote, and marauding dogs.
The livestock guardians are by nature protective dogs. The Akbash Dog is protective rather than aggressive. This trait can make them excellent family guardians. However, people looking for a protective family guardian need to understand that the Akbash Dog is a very independent thinking dog and does not follow commands like the standard guard breeds (such as Shepherds, Dobermans, and Rottweilers). Or - the argument is sometimes made - they simply do not follow commands as quickly! The breed is best utilized as a dog in a stable environment where it quickly learns the routine, what and who are acceptable. Like any other breeds, the Akbash Dog requires good fencing to provide a safe, secure place for free exercise and as a clear delineation of the dog's territory. On range, Akbash Dogs may be responsible for literally hundreds of acres, and the family dog is capable of taking in large areas to protect if the owner fails to help the young dog learn where its territory ends.
A unique trait of the Akbash Dog, one which it shares with the Turkish Kangal Dog, is its natural distrust of strange dogs, a trait that makes it valued on most small farms and in range operations. This is a trait that owners must understand. While Akbash Dogs are often "best buddies" with dogs raised in their homes or with dogs they are used to on the farm (such as herding dogs), they will not always welcome a strange dog onto their property. In addition, the livestock guardian tends to be dominant toward other dogs.
While an Akbash Dog would typically regard a dominant terrier with humor or disdain, another dominant large dog in the family or farm situation could lead to conflict and a physical struggle for dominance until a dominance order is determined. In the case of pups, this is quickly established but as the young dog matures, it will eventually challenge the order. This establishment of a "pack order" occurs in most multi-dog settings, often without the owner understanding what is transpiring.
In either home or livestock guarding situations, neutered dogs are recommended unless the owner fully intends to breed. Neutering (spaying or castrating) prior to maturity (about 12 months) greatly reduces the chances of some types of cancer and tends to remove hormone driven behavior that owners of breeding dogs must be prepared to provide for.
Potential buyers should do as much "homework" as possible by reading, talking to and even visiting Akbash Dog breeders. One experienced Akbash Dog owner recommends that whenever a potential buyer goes to visit a breeder, she or he leave the check book at home. "Don't buy the first cute puppy you see. Go to meet the breeder, look at their mature dogs, and get the advice of the breeder if they are experienced enough to have some credibility."
Choosing your breeder is perhaps even more important than choosing the dog you will buy. A good, experienced breeder can evaluate not only his or her dogs but also the potential owner. More than once, interested people have been guided toward purchasing another breed by responsible Akbash Dog breeders. Few breeders produce more than one or two litters a year; thus, reservations are often required even for livestock guardians.