Akbash Dogs in Turkey: 2005-2007
In May of 2005, Judith Nelson and Tamara Taylor visited Turkey. The focus of their trip was to revisit the places where the Nelsons had first become acquainted with Akbash Dogs and to accompany Drs. Cafer Tepeli and Metin Erdogan, who were conducting field research on Akbash Dogs. They were photographing, measuring the height, length, and heart girth of the Akbash Dogs they found as well as collecting blood samples for further DNA work. A third veterinarian, Dr. Cevdet Uguz also accompanied the party some of the time.
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.