What to Know About Anatolian Shepherd Dogs


In this Article

  • Anatolian Shepherd Characteristics
  • Caring for an Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Anatolian Shepherd Health Issues
  • Special Considerations for Anatolian Shepherd Dogs
  • History of Anatolian Shepherd Dogs

The Anatolian shepherd dog is an American breed that originated in Anatolia, Turkey. Strong, fast, and perceptive, this all-around breed is a great working dog. Anatolian shepherd dogs are also protective, though, so they’re equally loyal family dogs. 

Of course, as with any powerful working dog, they require a steadfast owner who’s willing to work with them.

Anatolian Shepherd Characteristics

Anatolian shepherd dogs are often described as rugged and muscular. Their ancestors date back around 6,000 years, and their characteristics are just as timeless and powerful. 

Anatolian shepherd size. Male Anatolian shepherds are around 29 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 110 and 150 pounds. Females tend to be around 27 inches tall and weigh between 80 and 120 pounds.

The Anatolian shepherd size isn’t just for show. Their large form is incredibly muscular, which came in handy when they primarily protected livestock.

Type of fur. Anatolian shepherds have a tough coat of short and smooth hair. Their coat can be almost any color imaginable, including:

  • Fawn
  • Blue fawn
  • Red fawn
  • Gray fawn
  • Brindle
  • Liver
  • White

Along with many base coat colors, Anatolian shepherds can have an array of markings. The most common markings are masks, pinto markings, and dutch markings. 

Anatolian shepherd lifespan. This breed lives a little bit longer than other dogs similar in size. Larger dogs tend to have shorter lifespans for reasons that aren’t fully understood, but while most large dogs live between 10 and 12 years, Anatolian shepherds live 11 to 13 years on average. 

One reason for this is that Anatolian shepherd dogs aren’t as susceptible to age-related diseases compared to other large dogs.

Anatolian shepherd temperament. This breed has a special personality. They’re working dogs, almost to a fault. In fact, if you want a couch potato to cuddle with, an Anatolian shepherd may not be the dog for you.

Anatolian shepherd dogs aren’t obviously affectionate. They tend to fend for themselves and not rely on others for comfort. However, they still enjoy some playtime.

This breed is protective, though, given its history of protecting livestock. Anatolian shepherds live well with children and other animals they know and are more reserved around strangers.

Caring for an Anatolian Shepherd Dog

Coat care. Anatolian shepherds have a short, smooth coat. As outdoor working dogs, they have a thick undercoat that they shed twice each year. 

For most of the year, they will need to be brushed once a week with a short-bristle brush. Whenever an Anatolian shepherd is shedding, though, it needs a thorough brushing a couple of times a week to remove old hair.

Diet and nutrition. Anatolian shepherds don’t have special dietary restrictions. An appropriate amount of high-quality dog food, a conservative amount of treats, and some clean water are enough to keep these dogs healthy.

Exercise and activity. Anatolian shepherds need a medium amount of activity. About two walks a day and a little playtime in the yard are generally sufficient enough to keep this breed happy. 

The Anatolian shepherd is an independent, cautious breed. They need to be socialized from an early age so that they aren’t too wary of strangers. Obedience training is a great way to establish an Anatolian shepherd’s role as your pet and provide them with some socialization.

Parasite prevention. All dogs need protection from fleas, ticks, and worms. Your vet can recommend medications and vaccinations to protect your Anatolian shepherd. Generally, it is a good idea to provide your pet dog with heartworm medication year-round.

Tooth and nail. Anatolian shepherd dogs need tooth and nail care like other dogs. You can take care of their teeth with daily brushing, dental treats, and dog chews. 

You should also trim their nails regularly or take them to a groomer. Long nails can cause them discomfort or lead them to accidentally scratch you.

Temperature sensitivities. Anatolian shepherds are hardy. They’ve adapted to all kinds of temperatures. Their undercoat also allows them to withstand colder temperatures better than some other breeds.

Vet visits. Anatolian shepherds younger than 6 months need monthly vet visits to monitor their development. They’ll receive vaccinations for several diseases during these early visits. 

Even adults need regular vet visits. Anatolian shepherds should get an annual checkup once they reach 1 year old. Your vet will check their size, examine any changes in their health, and update their records.  

Senior Anatolian shepherds need a checkup every 6 months to monitor their mobility, sight, and other symptoms of age. These vet visits are crucial if you hope to diagnose any problems early.

Anatolian Shepherd Health Issues

Anatolian shepherd dogs are a healthy breed. They aren’t susceptible to many illnesses, but there are some conditions that you should keep an eye out for. 

Hip dysplasia. Larger dogs are susceptible to hip dysplasia, which can be painful and detrimental to their quality of life. It’s a skeletal condition that causes the dog’s hip joint to deteriorate.

Many cases of hip dysplasia are genetic. Ways to prevent hip dysplasia in your Anatolian shepherd include an appropriate diet that supports their skeletal system and adequate exercise to prevent obesity (a common contributor to hip dysplasia). 

Symptoms of hip dysplasia depend on the severity of the condition. Common symptoms include decreased mobility, difficulty or pain moving, and a swaying or “bunny-hopping” walk. 

Severe cases of hip dysplasia can be treated with surgery. Less severe cases can be treated with lifestyle changes to reduce the stress on your dog’s hips. 

Bloat. Bloat is a common term used for gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). GDV happens when air fills the dog’s stomach until it cuts off circulation. Blood pools in the back half of the dog and eventually causes them to go into shock.

The exact cause of bloat is unknown, but there are a few culprits that you can keep an eye out for to prevent this dangerous condition. 

  • Dogs that only eat once a day are more likely to be at risk.
  • Dogs that eat too quickly are five times more likely to develop bloat. 
  • Unhappy, stressed, or fearful dogs are two times more likely to develop bloat. 

It’s vitally important to catch symptoms as quickly as possible. Signs of bloat/GDV include an enlarged abdomen, retching, excessive drooling, restlessness, and pain when you press their belly. A dog can go into shock within two hours of bloat, so catching symptoms early is crucial.

Bloat is treated through emergency surgery. First, the dog will be stabilized. Second, the vet deflates and repositions the stomach. Third, they tack the dog’s stomach to the abdominal wall so it hopefully won’t happen again.

Entropion. Entropion is a condition where the Anatolian shepherd’s eyelids invert, causing the fur and lashes to rub the eye directly. There are many causes: genetics, inflammation or infection of the eye, and scarring from an injury.

It’s typically apparent when a dog has entropion. They’re likely experiencing discomfort, and you may notice a discharge seeping from their eyes.

The vet can reposition the eyelids of a young Anatolian shepherd to allow the pup to outgrow the entropion. Both younger and older dogs may need surgical correction, though, if other treatments aren’t successful or available.

Ear infections.Ear infections are more common in dogs with floppy ears. Anatolian shepherds’ ears aren’t floppy like a basset hound’s, but their downward turn is still worthy of consideration.

The best way to prevent ear infections is to get rid of moisture in your Anatolian shepherd’s ear after they are done bathing, swimming, or playing in puddles. You can also clean your dog’s ear using a cleaning solution that you can purchase from a pet supply retailer. 

Special Considerations for Anatolian Shepherd Dogs

Allergies. Anatolian shepherds aren’t a good fit for people with allergies. They shed their undercoat and require regular coat care, which can cause problems for people who may need a more hypoallergenic dog.

Barking. Anatolian shepherd dogs are vocal. They’re territorial and protective, and they will communicate that to anyone suspicious. With proper training, though, you can teach them when it’s appropriate to bark.

Drooling. Anatolian shepherds have jowls made for drooling, but they’re surprisingly neat and won’t leave pools of slobber on your clothes.

History of Anatolian Shepherd Dogs

Anatolian shepherd dogs are from Anatolia, a land of hot summers and freezing winters. They originally protected livestock from a variety of predators, earning an imposing reputation.

Their ancestors go back thousands of years. Likenesses of Anatolian shepherds have been found in Babylonian documentation, Assyrian carvings, and even the Bible. 

The United States became interested in Anatolian shepherds during World War II, but interest wavered until the 1970s. Then, the United States passed The Endangered Species Act, which required ranchers to control the wolf population without killing them. Anatolian shepherd dogs were perfect for this job. They could scare off wolves without killing them, which is a job they excel at to this day. 

Show Sources

Photo Credits:

1. Marcia Straub / Getty Images


ACVO: “Entropion.”

American Kennel Club: “Anatolian Shepherd Dog,” “Bloat (or GDV) in Dogs — What It Is and How it’s Treated,” “Dog Anesthesia: What Every Dog Owner Should Know,” “Dog Ear Infections: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention,” “Flea and Tick Protection for Puppies,” “Hip Dysplasia In Dogs,” “How Long Do Dogs Live?” “Keep Your Dog’s Teeth Clean With Five Tips.”

Europetnet: “Anatolian Shepherd.”

Humane Society of Macomb: “How Often Should your Pet get a Checkup?”

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