The large, stately and muscular Akbash Dog has been guarding Turkish livestock for more than three thousand years. This working breed requires serious obedience training and socialisation to become a well-behaved pet and therefore it’s ill-suited for a novice dog owner. Its size and canine aggressiveness also prevent it from becoming a popular family dog.
Photo: © kennel Sheepfields (sheepfields.com)
The Akbash Dog was one of the first canines that were specifically bred to protect the livestock from all kind of dangers. According to generally accepted opinion it came to existence in the region known as the Fertile Crescent, which is situated in the Western Asia and covers the countries of Turkey, Iran and Iraq. This breed stands out among other white-haired livestock guardians for its quite distinctive blend of Sight Hound and Molosser (Mastiff) traits. The dog owes its long legs, swiftness, and great reflexes to the Sight Hound while the Mastiff granted it with its incredible strength and somewhat heavy build.
The name «Akbash» is translated as «white head», which obviously indicates the original coloration of this breed. It’s still disputable why this dog was created white in colour but it probably served a dual purpose. For one thing, it can disguise itself among the domestic animals and make a surprise attack on unsuspecting wolves or other predators. Secondly, white coat reduced the probability that the shepherd would mistakenly take it for a wolf and thereby kill it by accident.
The Akbash Dog was treasured for its capability to show exceptional loyalty to the flock so it would never abandon it even during the hottest time of the day. Another unique characteristic of this guard dog is its hospitability towards homeless canines. It will never allow some strange dog to approach «its» animals and will drive it off with outmost ferociousness.
In the 70s of the XX century the repute of the Akbash Dog as an excellent guardian leaked into other countries so lots of its specimens were exported from Turkey to other areas of the world. American dog lovers got to know this breed through the efforts of David and Judy Nelson who brought their first female Akbash Dog to the U.S. in 1978. Ranchers and farmers of this country gave a high assessment to the working qualities of this dog and widely used it in its primary role.
Furthermore presently the breed is still mostly seen as a working dog and is rarely acquired solely for companionship both in its native land and other regions. The United Kennel Club (UKC) granted its full acceptance to the Akbash Dog in 1998.
If the personality of the Akbash Dog had to be summed up in a single word it would certainly be “staunch”. This dog becomes fiercely loyal to all creatures (cats, cattle, people, etc.) with which it has been brought up since an early age. It will never harm a familiar kid although this tall and powerful breed can’t be reckoned the best option for families with toddlers. It’s also notoriously well-known for its dominative nature so only strong and experienced master will be able to turn this dog in a well-mannered companion animal.
Although open human aggressiveness is fairly uncommon for the Akbash Dog it tends to demonstrate an extreme suspiciousness towards unfamiliar people. Early and extensive socialisation bears the vital importance for this breed if you want your pet to react adequately to guests in your house. It will lay down its life without a slightest hesitation for its favourite people and their property so it makes an outstanding guardian. This dog is also very serious about its responsibilities of a watcher and performs this role ideally.
The Akbash Dog is commonly at odds with all stray and strange dogs as it regards them as a direct threat to its territory or masters or as claimants to its alpha status. But it does get along with familiar canines and can be easily kept with another dog. This dog may behave itself aggressively towards other species of animals if they dare to break into its domain. However, because of its rather weak prey drive the well-socialised specimen tolerates cats and other pets in the house.
The most common problems for the breed include:
· canine hip dysplasia;
· osteochondritis dissecans;
· luxating patella;
· sensitivity to barbiturate based anaesthetics.
The Akbash Dog comes in two varieties: longhaired and semi-longhaired. Its specimen with medium coat needs only weekly brushing if you intend to let it in your house.
The long-coated dog is quite another story since it hair consists of two layer and should be carefully groomed several times a week. The dog will lose its entire dense undercoat at least once a year (females usually shed twice a year). More frequent brushing during these periods will help to keep shedding under control. Nonetheless the future owner of this variety must be ready to spend a lot of time cleaning the dog’s hair, which will cover furniture, carpets and clothing.
The rest is a standard care, which should include regular nail trimming, weekly teeth brushing and periodic cleaning of the dog’s ears.
The Akbash Dog is notable for high intelligence and inborn propensity for independent thinking so its training poses a considerable challenge. Its member will never look up to the person whose authority it doesn’t acknowledge. Be mindful that it’s almost impossible to secure the breeds’ full obedience, as it tends to hold its own opinion on everything.
Reward-based training techniques usually bring decent results in working with this dog. On the contrary screaming and physical punishments should be completely excluded from learning process, as they will impel your dog to even more wilful and independent behaviour.
The Akbash Dog is a relatively sedate and calm dog that requires reasonable amount of exercise to remain happy and fit. Long and vigorous walk is usually more than enough to satisfy its primal instinct to roam and explore. As any other dog this breed will be excited at occasional opportunity to play and frisk freely in a safely fenced yard.
The Akbash Dog won’t become a good companion animal for an apartment dweller because of its rather prominent size. Moreover this even-tempered dog can be turned into an unmanageable and destructive beast without some obligatory minimum of both physical and mental stimulation.