The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is a multi-purpose working dog native to Russia and the Former Soviet Republics of Central Asia. The breed is used for a number of purposes including livestock protection, dog fighting, personal and property protection, companionship, and military work. The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is one of the most popular breeds in its region of origin, although it remains quite rare elsewhere. This breed is known for being one of the largest, strongest, and most protective of all breeds, as well as for its capacity to not only survive but thrive in some of the harshest environments found anywhere on Earth. The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is a known by many different names including the Central Asian Shepherd, Central Asian Sheepdog, Central Asian Owtcharka, Central Asian Ovcharka, Central Asian Ovtcharka, CAO, Middle Asian Shepherd Dog, Middle Asian Shepherd, Middle Asian Sheepdog, Middle Asian Owtcharka, Middle Asian Ovcharka, Middle Asian Ovtcharka, Sredneasiatskaia Ovtcharka, Alabai, Turkmen Alabai, Aziat, Volkadov, and the Wolf Crusher.
Almost nothing is known for certainty about the origins and early history of this breed. These dogs were kept almost exclusively by nomadic herdsmen who left few if any archaeological remains, most of whom were illiterate and therefore unable to write about their dogs. These limitations are compounded by the remoteness of the breed’s home and the transient nature of its inhabitants. All that can be said with certainty is that the breed is native to the steppes and mountains of Central Asia, a region which is today divided between the countries of Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgysztan, and Tajikstan, and that it has been protecting the livestock of local herdsmen since time immemorial. Because of the previously mentioned limitations, it is impossible to say with certainty when the Central Asian Shepherd Dog developed. As even the earliest records of the region indicate the presence of these dogs, they have almost certainly been in existence for several thousand years, probably at least 4,000, quite possibly as long as 7,000, and potentially as long as 14,000. Although anything said about the origins of this breed is highly speculative, there are a number of widely held theories which have substantial evidentiary backing.
There are two major groups of theories which attempt to explain the origin of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog. The first holds that the breed is descended from ancient Middle Eastern livestock guarding breeds, and the second holds that the breed is descended from the Tibetan Mastiff. There is massive amount of debate as to when, where, and how the dog was first domesticated from the wolf, with dozens of different competing theories. There is now at least near universal agreement that the dog was domesticated from the Wolf (Canis Lupus) either once or possibly twice, that the domestication occurred somewhere in Asia (specifically the Middle East, India, Tibet, and/or China), and that the process was complete sometime between 40,000 and 14,000 years ago. For many thousands of years, dogs were the only domesticated animal, and all of humanity lived in semi-nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers. These first dogs were very similar to the wolves of Southern Asia from which they had descended and were probably virtually identical in appearance to the Dingo of Australia and the Carolina Dog of the United States. The earliest dogs served many roles in human society, camp guardians, hunting aides, companions, and sources of meat and hides. Dogs proved so useful that they quickly spread across the world, eventually coming to live everywhere that was inhabited by humans except for a few remote islands. To help adapt dogs to colder climates like those found in Central Asia, they were crossed with the larger, longer-coated wolves of the North, resulting in Spitz-type dogs.
Around 14,000 years ago, humans living in the Middle East began to domesticate other species of plants and animals and live in permanent settlements. Shortly thereafter, inhabitants of a few other regions such as China and India also developed agriculture which allowed for much larger human populations. However, not all forms of agriculture were ideally suited to all areas. Vast expanses of Central Asia are so dry and have such poor soils that it was essentially impossible to reliably grow crops there prior to the introduction of modern technology. However, these same regions often have ample grazing land available for horses, cattle, camels, sheep, and goats. A unique way of life developed that combined agriculture with a nomadic lifestyle, in which herdsmen endlessly wandered the steppes always in search of fresh grazing lands for their livestock.
Even in those regions most ideally suited to agricultural production, agriculture brought along an entirely new set of problems. One of the most pressing was the need to protect livestock from predators. Wolves, bears, hyenas, and other wild animals quickly discovered that it was much easier to raid farms and kill sheep and goats than to hunt more dangerous prey in the wilderness. In order to protect their precious livestock, the first farmers turned to their oldest ally, the dog. Wolves have very strong protective urges towards members of their packs. Initially, humans took advantage of these instincts by making themselves members of the pack, but the first farmers went a step further by making their livestock pack members as well. They bred highly protective dogs which would defend their charges to the death. In order to defend against large and ferocious beasts, the dogs which protected livestock had to be large and ferocious as well. In order to withstand the elements, especially those found in cold mountains and windswept plains, these dogs had to have long, protective coats. Because farmers needed to be able to easily distinguish between their dogs and predators when the two were engaged in combat, they deliberately bred those dogs whose coloration was most strikingly different. In order to successfully battle wolves, these dogs needed powerful jaws and large enough heads to support the necessary musculature. Farmers also discovered that short, wide muzzles gave their dogs the maximum possible bite area with which to hold on.
Agriculturalists in two regions developed distinct lines of massive, powerful, large-headed, short-muzzled, long-furred, and extremely protective dogs. One line was primarily white in color and developed by the city and village dwellers of the Middle East, and the other was more varied in coloration and developed by the semi-nomadic peoples of Tibet. The nomads of Central Asia have been in nearly constant contact with both Tibet and the Middle East for many thousands of years, sometimes peacefully and sometimes not. The ancestors of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog could have been introduced from either location at any point during these millennia, although the exact date and origin will probably never be known with certainty. In the opinion of this author, both origins are probably equally correct, and the Central Asian Shepherd Dog is almost certainly the result of crossing the Tibetan Mastiff with livestock guarding dogs from the Caucasus Mountains and Persia.
However and whenever the Central Asian Shepherd Dog arrived in its homeland, the breed quickly established itself as a vital part of nomadic life. The breed served as the eyes, ears, and sword of its masters, constantly on the lookout for potential threats. Although modern weaponry and hunting methods have driven most of the regions local predators into extinction, at one time the Central Asian Shepherd Dog’s range was home to very large populations of wolves, hyenas, jackals, foxes, bears, lynx, cheetahs, leopards, snow leopards, and most feared of all, the now-extinct Caspian tiger. The Central Asian Shepherd Dog was charged with detecting potential predators, scaring them off, and if necessary doing battle with them. Often these dogs would be left alone with their charges for hours at a time, far out of sight of their owners, faithfully defending their flocks. It was not just wild animals that the beast defended against, but thieves, bandits, and enemy tribes as well. The region’s many peoples were engaged in a constant and never ending cycle of tribal and clan warfare for thousands of years prior to the Russian conquest. The Central Asian Shepherd Dog often took part in these battles, ferociously defending its family or attacking enemy forces on the battle field. In addition to the many living threats, the Central Asian Shepherd also had to survive some of the harshest conditions on earth. Central Asia is very dry and arid in general and vast expanses of terrain are extremely mountainous. Perhaps most challenging is the region’s temperature extremes which can range from well-over 100 degrees Fahrenheit to well-below freezing. This temperature change is not only seasonal but daily, with some places experiencing more than a 50 degree Fahrenheit difference between night and day. These factors combined to put very harsh selection pressures on the Central Asian Shepherd Dog. Only the strongest, most adaptable, and strongest willed dogs could survive here.
Eventually, the Central Asian Shepherd Dog came to play a major social function in the region. Periodically, many tribes and clans would come together. These meetings usually included religious and celebratory festivals, political discussions, and other important social functions. The tribesmen would bring their Central Asian Shepherd Dogs with them, specifically the males. The dogs would then be pit against each other in dog fights. These dog fights were very different than the illegal dog fights which remain popular in the United States and the British Isles. The point of these fights was not to have the dogs fight to the death but to see which animal was superior. A typical fight consisted of two dogs squaring off and posturing until one gave up, and most ended with little to no bloodshed. Fights usually only erupted between two apparently evenly matched and equally dominant dogs, and one dog almost always gave up when it realized it was defeated. These fights were very popular spectator sports and reasons to gamble. They were also a great source of personal and tribal pride for the owner of the victorious dog. However, they also served a purpose similar to a modern day dog show in that they were a way to compare dogs and select the best examples for breeding. In order to be an effective livestock guardian, a Central Asian Shepherd Dog had to be large, powerful, and most importantly never willing to back down from any challenge. Only those dogs which were victorious in combat were allowed to breed and pass their genes on to the next generation.
Central Asia’s harsh climate and landscape would probably have made the region one of the most isolated places on Earth were it not for one thing, its location. Central Asia borders and sits in between four of the world’s most populous, richest, and most historically important regions, Europe, the Middle East, China, and India. The famous silk road, which carried the prized cloth from China to the West ran right though Central Asia. For many centuries, only gold was more valuable and prized than silk, which was especially profitable to transport due to its light weight. To prevent theft, traders used Central Asian Shepherd Dogs to guard their caravans. This immense wealth traveling through their lands made an equally immense impression on the natives of Central Asia.
Countless nomads became envious of the wealth of the settled lands which surrounded them on three sides and wanted to take it for themselves. As a result, the steppe dwelling nomads turned to robbery and over the course of the next thousand or so years became the scourge of their settled neighbors. Unparalleled horsemen who were often riding in a saddle alone before they could walk, these nomadic tribesmen could strike without warning and retreat just as quickly. Without any centralized authority or settlements to conquer, the people of the steppes could simply outpace any army sent to retaliate. Steppe dwelling tribes have invaded and conquered their neighbors hundreds of times throughout history, including the Scythians, Slavs, Xiongnu, Wu Hu, Huns, Alans, Magyars, Bulgars, Pechenegs, Cumans, Mongols, Turks, Turkomen, Tatars, Siberians, and Kazakhs. Although the horse was the nomad’s most famous war companion, their dogs were more feared by their opponents. Numerous classical sources from across the ancient world mention that marauding nomads possessed massive and ferocious war dogs. It was said that even the Molossus (the war dog of Greece and Rome) was not their equal in battle. It is extremely likely that many of these war dogs were Central Asian Shepherds or their very close relatives. Not only is the historical timing, location of origin, and description of the dogs a near perfect match, but even some breed names are similar. For example, the Hunnish war dog was known as the Afstcharka which is very similar to the alternative breed name Ovtcharka (which is actually pronounced uhf-char-ka). Many sources believe that the Europeans and Middle Easterners were so impressed with the war dogs of the steppe nomads that they began to keep them themselves. Those who believe this believe that these dogs then became the ancestors of all Mastiff-type dogs, although this theory is quite controversial. If true, it would mean that the Central Asian Shepherd Dogs is one of the primary ancestors of dozens of dog breeds including the English Mastiff, Newfoundland Dog, Great Dane, Boxer, Rottweiler, English Bulldog, and American Pit Bull Terrier.
The Central Asian Shepherd Dog remained in its homeland for thousands of years. Although the introduction of Islam (which considers most dogs to be unclean) greatly reduced the dog’s status is most regions where the religion became dominant, its effect was much reduced in Central Asia where dogs were utterly essential to daily survival. Central Asians continued to live in much the same way as their ancestors until the 1400’s. By that time, the Russians had acquired new military technology from Western Europe such as guns and improved armor, technology that requires large cities to produce. As fierce as the Central Asian Shepherd Dog is, it is no match for guns. Beginning with Ivan the Great’s rise to power in 1462, the Russian military continuously moved the imperial borders southwards and eastwards, crushing all resistance in its path. The military was quickly followed by Russian settlers, who came to outnumber the native inhabitants in many places. However, many of these Russian settlers were very impressed by the Central Asian Shepherd Dog, and began to keep the breed. Russians called the breed Ovtcharka, which loosely translates to “Shepherd Dog,” or Volkadov, which loosely translates to “Wolf Crusher.”
Central Asia was less impacted by the World War I and the Communist Revolution than most of Russia, and the region’s dog population was also less impacted. The newly created Soviet leaders such as Lenin and Stalin were well aware how easily German and Austro-Hungarian forces had been able to crush the much larger Russian forces and decided to modernize the Soviet military. The Soviet government scoured the country to find the best available working dogs to guard sensitive installations, patrol the borders, control prisoners and the populace at large, and for use in military engagements. One of most valued breeds for this purpose was the Central Asian Shepherd Dog. So many of these dogs were taken from Central Asia that breed numbers dramatically plummeted. Since the government selected the best available animals, the quality of the remaining population also began to suffer. At the same time, new breeds were introduced to the region from across the Soviet Union. These new dogs were then heavily crossed with the Central Asian Shepherd Dog diluting its purity and increasing its variability. However, the Soviet Union did greatly increase global awareness of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog. The breed was extensively used by military, governmental, and private organizations across the Communist World, including such prominent roles as guarding the Berlin Wall. Populations of breed members were established across the entire Soviet Union and in many other communist countries as well, greatly expanding the breed’s range.
At the time that the Soviet government began collecting Central Asian Shepherd Dogs, this was not a single breed, but rather a collection of dozens of distinctive but closely related local varieties, many of which had unique names. All of these varieties were extensively crossed with each other, as well as with a number of other breeds including the Caucasian Ovtcharka, Moscow Watch Dog, and Black Russian Terrier. The result is that the Central Asian Shepherd Dog currently exhibits greater variety among purebred members than perhaps any other dog breed, and the dog also probably has the most diversity within its gene pool of any giant breed. Many breeders in Central Asia and parts of Russia still maintain the older varieties independently of each other, but breed members elsewhere are generally heavily mixed.
The fall of the Soviet Union has had mixed impacts on the Central Asian Shepherd Dog. Now that the Soviet military is no longer taking the best available specimens, the local Central Asian population is recovering and improving. The breed is held in very high regard across the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia. It is also quite common in the region, where it is probably the most common breed. Within Russia and Eastern Europe, however, the breed is experiencing a consistent decrease in popularity. Most fanciers outside of Central Asia greatly prefer the larger, more aggressive, and considerably more physically intimidating Caucasian Owtcharka to the Central Asian Shepherd Dog, and the breed is losing popularity as a result. At the same time, the thawing of relations with the outside world and the renewal of commerce and trading to newly capitalist countries have provided new opportunities for the breed.
Increasing numbers of Europeans and Americans are acquiring Central Asian Shepherd Dogs, and are also beginning to breed them. Most of those interested in the breed want a massive property protection animal or to use the breed in illegal dog fights, although some are experimenting with using the Central Asian Shepherd Dog as a livestock guardian as well. The Central Asian Shepherd Dog has also recently become recognized with a number of major canine organizations. The breed is currently granted full recognition with the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI). In 1999, the Central Asian Shepherd Society of America (CASSA) was founded to promote and protect the breed in the United States. In 2001, the United Kennel Club (UKC) followed the FCI’s lead and granted full recognition to the breed, officially calling the breed the Central Asian Shepherd. The American Kennel Club (AKC) does not currently recognize the breed. However, the breed is included on the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service (AKC-FSS), the first step towards full recognition. The CASSA has been selected as the breed’s AKC parent club (at least temporarily), and if the club and breed meet certain AKC required benchmarks the breed will eventually move to the Miscellaneous Class and then full recognition. This newfound international interest in the breed has resulted in many disreputable breeders and dealers selling very low quality breed members and a large number of crosses to foreign buyers at very high prices.
Perhaps the most damaging impact on the breed since the fall of Communism is the rise of organized dog fighting. Although dog fights have been conducted in Central Asia for hundreds, and probably thousands, of years, they have not conducted on the current scale. Millions upon millions of dollars are now wagered on dog fights, which are currently legal in most Central Asian countries. Gambling on dog fighting has become so popular that it is beginning to draw the attention and scorn of Muslim fundamentalists such as the Taliban. There have even allegedly been murders resulting from dog fights, both on the outcomes of fights and wagers and the political debate surrounding the practice. As dog fighting becomes more profitable for its participants, there is a greatly increasing incentive to improve the dogs used. Central Asian and Russian dog fighters are now imported fighting dogs from across the world and breeding them with the Central Asian Shepherd Dogs. Among the most popular breeds are the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, Rottweiler, Turkish Kangal Dog, Tosa Inu, and Bully Kutta. The traditional dog fighting practices are also beginning to change, with some fights now intended to go to the death.
Because of the Central Asian Shepherd Dogs history as a dog fighter and Soviet military dog, the breed has earned a reputation for aggression and even viciousness, a reputation that is only partially deserved. There are currently four major lines of Central Asian Shepherd Dog, each of which possesses major temperamental differences. Dogs bred for conformation shows tend to be the least driven and aggressive. Dogs bred for livestock guarding usually have the highest exercise requirements and exhibit the most stable and predictable temperaments, although they are usually more aggressive and protective than show line dogs. Dogs bred for dog fighting usually have the most unpredictable temperaments and show the greatest levels of dog aggression. Central Asian Shepherds from military lines are the most human aggressive and usually the most driven to work but they tend to be more stable and predictable than dogs from fighting lines. Because this breed exhibits such great diversity, anyone interested in acquiring one of these dogs must conduct very careful research. The pedigrees of all dogs must be carefully checked to ensure that the dog truly is a purebred Central Asian Shepherd Dog and its lineage must be traced to determine what line the dog comes from.
It is difficult to make any general statements about the appearance of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog because this breed is so variable in appearance. There are literally dozens of distinct varieties of this dog, most of which have been heavily crossed with each other resulting in even greater variety. This variety is made even greater by the fact that these dogs are regularly crossed with other breeds resulting in many mixes. This breed is generally similar to other massive livestock guarding dogs, but it is substantially more lightly built and athletic than most.
One characteristic that all Central Asian Shepherd Dogs have in common is massive size. Although definitely not the world’s largest breed, the Central Asian Shepherd Dog is a very large dog. Males stand a minimum of 25½ inches tall at the shoulder, and females stand a minimum of 23½ inches. In practice most breed members are significantly taller than the minimum, especially those currently living in the West. Most males weigh between 120 and 175 pounds, and most females weigh between 90 and 145 pounds. It is far from uncommon for a fit and lean Central Asian Shepherd to be well over 200 pounds, especially the males. This breed is one of the most sexually dimorphic of all dogs, meaning that males and females tend to be very different in terms of size and appearance. This breed is usually noticeably longer from chest to rump than it is tall from floor to ceiling, although this trait should never be overly exaggerated. This is perhaps the strongest and most powerful dog on Earth and should appear as such. A Central Asian Shepherd Dog should be extremely powerfully built and muscular, giving the impression that it could fight off a full grown tiger at any moment. However, a Central Asian Shepherd Dog should never appear bulky or stocky, instead having a body more similar to a Rottweiler than an English Mastiff.
The tail of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog is traditionally docked to a very short bob, a procedure that is performed on essentially all breed members where it remains legal. Tail docking is falling out of favor and is actually banned in some countries. The natural tail of this breed is quite long, starting off very thick at the base and tapering sharply towards the end. The lower third of the tail forms a crook. This tail is carried low when the dog is at rest but in a sickle-shaped curve or ring when the dog is excited.
The head and face of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog are massive in size and exude immense power, although they not disproportionately large as is the case with most Mastiff-type dogs. The top of the skull should be flat and entire skull should be quite wide at the back. The head and muzzle connect very smoothly with each other, although they are quite distinct. The muzzle itself is usually slightly shorter than the skull, although it is very wide. The muzzle of this breed barely tapers towards the end making it appear square. The upper lips of this breed fully cover the lower lips. In some dogs they may hang down slightly below the lower lips, but this is not usually the case. This breed has very large teeth that should always meet in a scissors bite. The nose of this breed is large, wide, and usually black, although faded noses are acceptable on white or light fawn dogs. The eyes of this breed are small to medium in size, deeply set, wide apart, oval-shaped, and dark in color. The overall expression of most Central Asian Shepherd Dogs is intense, protective, and dominant.
The ears of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog are traditionally cropped very close to the head, leaving the dog with almost no visible ears. This practice is almost always conducted on puppies wherever it is legal to do so. This practice is falling out of favor much more quickly than tail docking. The natural ears of this breed are small, pendant, triangular, and set at or below eye level.
The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is found in two different coat types. Both types are double-coated dogs. The undercoat is incredibly dense and composed of soft, fine hair. The outer coat is composed of coarse guard hairs. On both varieties, the hair on the muzzle, forehead, and the fronts of all four legs is short and smooth. The outer coat of the short-coated Central Asian Shepherd Dog is approximately 1½ to 2 inches in length and exhibits no furnishings. The outer coat of the long-coated Central Asian Shepherd Dog is approximately 2¾ to 3 inches in length with well-developed furnishings on the ears, neck, backs of the hind legs and tail. The Central Asian Shepherd Dog can be found in almost any coloration and pattern found in dogs, but some of the most common include solid white, solid black, grey, straw-color, reddish brown, grey brown, brindle, parti-color (white with colored markings), and ticked.
It is essentially impossible to make any generalizations about the temperament of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog. There are currently four major lines of the breed, each of which exhibits substantial variation in temperament. Anyone considering acquiring a Central Asian Shepherd Dog must carefully research its pedigree to find out what line the dog comes from. Also extreme care must be taken in selecting a breeder as some lines are prone to extreme aggression and instability. In general, this breed tends to be very stable in temperament, although dog fighting lines are usually more unpredictable. Even the most carefully bred examples are usually very dominant and testing, and all of these dogs are massive in size, extremely powerful, and often overly protective or aggressive. These factors combine to make this breed possibly the worst choice for a novice dog owner of any breed, and Central Asian Shepherd Dogs truly require owners with extensive experience working with large protective dogs.
The Central Asian Shepherd Dog forms intensely close bonds with its master to whom it is incredibly devoted. Most breed members are definite one person dogs that will either ignore or respond negatively towards anyone other than their master. The attachments that this breed forms are so exclusive that most are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to rehome. Many breed members are so dedicated to a single person that they never form bonds with new family members, even roommates or spouses that they have lived with for years. This breed is probably not a good choice for a family dog, especially for families with young children. Most breed members do not know that they need to be gentler with children than adults, and this breed’s strong protective urges may cause problems. Central Asian Shepherd Dogs are usually fine and very protective over their own family’s children but should always be closely supervised when with them.
This is an incredibly protective breed, and most Central Asian Shepherd Dogs are highly suspicious of strangers, to say the least. Proper training and socialization from a very young age are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for a Central Asian Shepherd Dog to prevent serious aggression issues from developing. Training and socialization will greatly reduce aggression issues, but some breed members, especially those from military lines, may still develop stranger aggression. Owners must be aware that even the slightest aggression in this breed is extremely serious due to its immense power. Even the least human aggressive breed members will usually remain highly suspicious and unfriendly towards new people. This dog is extremely protective, intensely territorial, and always on high alert, making it a peerless watchdog that will immediately deter most potential intruders as soon as they see its massive size and intimidating appearance. This is definitely a breed whose bite is much, much worse than its bark, however, and Central Asian Shepherd Dogs make perhaps the finest guard dogs in the entire world. Central Asian Shepherd Dogs will absolutely challenge anyone who attempts to enter their territory unaccompanied. This breed will almost always make a serious effort to deter an intrusion before it resorts to violence, but it is quite willing to do so if it deems necessary. This breed also makes a peerless personal protection animal that will go to absolutely any length to protect its owner. In past centuries, this breed single-handedly fought off tigers and bears and struck fear into the hearts of the Roman army, which means that no unarmed human would stand a chance against one.
Central Asian Shepherd Dogs have been used as fighting dogs for many centuries, and were expected to hunt down and kill any wolf that they came across. As one might expect, this breed is usually highly dog aggressive and exhibits all forms of dog aggression including territorial, possessive, same-sex, dominance, predatory, and generalized aggression. Training and socialization can greatly reduce dog aggression issues, but they will almost never eliminate them entirely from this breed. This is especially true of males, which are often violently intolerant of other dogs. This breed does best as an only dog or possibly with a single member of the opposite sex. Owners must always be aware that this breed is capable of seriously injuring or killing virtually any other dog with little effort. This breed was developed to defend livestock, and when raised alongside farm animals most of these dogs will become extremely protective of them. Dogs that have not been socialized in this way are usually highly animal aggressive, and almost all breed members will show very high levels of aggression towards strange animals. This breed will attack other creatures to defend its flock/family/territory, and probably kill them in the process, even ones as large as wolves or mountain lions.
Training a Central Asian Shepherd Dog can be very challenging. This is not a breed that lives to please and most are exceptionally stubborn and willful. This is also one of the most dominant of all breeds and will regularly challenge its owner for authority. Because Central Asian Shepherd Dogs will almost certainly ignore the commands of anyone they perceive to be lower on the social totem pole than themselves, owners must maintain a constant position of dominance. This does not mean that it is impossible to train a Central Asian Shepherd Dog, but it does mean that training one will require extra time, effort, and patience on the part of its owner. This training difficulty does not extend to livestock or property protection, both of which the breed picks up quickly and naturally.
These dogs were bred to wander the vast steppe grasslands for their entire lives, often traveling more than 10 or 15 miles a day. As a result, this breed has very substantial exercise requirements. These dogs thrive on vigorous activity, and should be provided with an absolute minimum of 45 minutes to an hour of exercise every day. Breed members that do not receive enough activity will almost certainly develop behavioral issues such as extreme destructiveness, hyper activity, over excitability, excessive barking, and aggression. This breed makes an excellent jogging or biking companion, but what this dog truly craves is an opportunity to roam freely in a safely enclosed area. For active owners looking for a dog that will accompany them on long hikes through the mountains, this dog would make a fine choice as most are always eager to accompany their master on any adventure. Because of its size and exercise requirements, the Central Asian Shepherd Dog would make an extremely poor apartment dog, and most breed members do best when provided large yards, preferably those with acreage.
Central Asian Shepherd Dogs tend to be extremely vocal. These dogs were bred to be ever watchful and to immediately alert their masters of any changes. This breed is aware of its master’s sensory limitations, and most become most vocal at night, barking at any strange sight, sound, or smell. When kept in close quarters, this breed is quite likely to result in noise complaints. Training and proper exercise will greatly reduce potential problems, but they cannot eliminate them entirely.
This is a very low maintenance breed. Central Asian Shepherd Dogs should never require professional grooming, only a regular brushing. It is highly, highly advisable for owners to begin routine maintenance procedures such as bathing and nail clipping from as young an age and as gently as possible. It is much easier to bathe a willing 40 pound puppy than a frightened and resistant 150 pound adult. Central Asian Shepherd Dogs do shed, and they shed very, very heavily. While most individuals are moderate to average shedders for most of the year, some shed nearly constantly. Twice a year when the seasons change, this breed replaces most of its coat. For several weeks at a time these dogs shed profusely and constantly, seemingly leaving a trail of hair wherever they go.
It is virtually impossible to make any generalizations about the health of this breed. Not only have no comprehensive health studies been conducted on the breed, but there are four distinct lines most of which have been heavily crossed with other breeds. Those who have experience with the breed claim that it is among the healthiest of all large breeds. This dog benefits from having perhaps the most extensive gene pool of any large breed. The Central Asian Shepherd Dog’s health has also benefitted from its ancestry. These dogs lived in some of the harshest conditions on Earth and were tasked with battling dangerous predators. Only the strongest could survive, and any genetic defects would have been quickly eliminated. However, those dogs which have been recently crossed with other breeds may be susceptible to any conditions inherited by those breeds, and in any case the Central Asian Shepherd Dog has recently been subject to questionable breeding practices. In Central Asia and Russia, this breed usually lives an average of about 10 years, although that life expectancy seems to be based on poor diet and a lack of veterinary care. Breed members in the West usually live several years longer, usually reaches ages of between 12 and 14.
Because skeletal and visual problems are known to occur in this breed it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
Although health studies have not been conducted for the Central Asian Shepherd Dog, a number have been on similar and closely related breeds. Some of the problems of greatest concern hound in those breeds include: