Livestock Guardian Dogs
History of the Akbash Breed
By Reuben Prins
I think our youngest son, Reuben, sums up the history of the breed best with the speech he did for school in 2006, when he was in Grade 5. It goes as follows:
Did you know that famous people usually have body guards? Did you also know that animals can have guards too? These are called livestock guardian dogs.
I am going to explain what jobs Guard dogs do, what the Akbash breed looks like, and the history of the Akbash livestock guardian dog.
The Akbash dog is a beautiful, tall, athletic dog that is tough and powerful. It is all white in colour, and its fur is very thick. This helps it stay warm in all types of weather. Its fur can be long, medium, or short. It also doesn’t get matted or knotted, and it doesn’t get smelly. It has a wide head that is slightly rounded and its muzzle is straight. It also has v-shaped ears that are a bit rounded, and its eyes are almond shaped. The females can range from 27-29 inches tall at the shoulders and can weigh from 75-100 pounds. The males get taller and heavier, weighing 90-130 pounds and getting 28-32 inches tall.
The Akbash dogs came from Western Turkey. A long time ago in Turkey the shepherds put iron spiked collars on their dogs, to protect their necks from the wildlife. They also cropped their ears so they would not get bitten or torn. The Akbash breed has been around for about 3 thousand years. They were used for fending off wolves and bears that came to attack the flock. They were first introduced to the U.S.A. in 1978. The Akbash dog is a rare breed. By 1986 the breed had become the most successful livestock guardian dogs. Now there are more than 2000 Akbash dogs in the U.S.A.
Akbash dogs are naturally protective and are calm and gentle. They don’t need much training. Also, they don’t herd or chase sheep or goats. The Akbash dogs can be left unattended with flocks. They are usually sleeping close by the flocks, but if they see an intruder, they can spring into action with an amazing speed. They bark or growl at intruders that come on their territory. They will only attack if the Akbash decides there is no other option. Some of the animals they can guard are sheep, goats, poultry, cattle, ostriches, deer, llamas, and horses. They can live up to 10 or 11 years old.
We just got an Akbash guard dog for our farm. Her name is Bridgett. I picked her name because it means ‘protecting’, and ‘strength’. She will guard our goats and maybe our cows too.
Our Akbash dogs help to keep our boer goats safe from coyotes and other predators. They know their job instinctively, as the bred to do this for 100s of years. Livestock Guardian Dogs are not pets, and need a job to do. They need to know you as “the pack leader” and we recommend that they be spayed or neutered, as agressive behavior may sometimes result because of these hormones. We recommend reading “Dog Whisperer” with Cesar Millan for insight on working with dogs. He says it is quite often the owners he needs to ‘train’ or correct rather then the dogs!
We have had Bridgett since she was a puppy, and she has lived right in with the goats since she was 8 weeks old, and she instinctively knows her job. We adopted Bree from an animal shelter in June of 2007. Bridgett will be 2 in December, and Bree is about the same age. We are absolutely thrilled with their temperament and interaction with the herd, as well as their good socialization with people. Bree had only been with us for a short time and we were very pleased with how quickly she learned her job around the farm. She has already chased off a coyote she saw (and/or smelled) at the edge of the treeline one morning when we were sitting on the porch having coffee and she was there lounging with us! She is very gentle, and seems to have taken to the goats quite naturally. She doesn’t live in with the goats though. Because we got her as an adult, she is more associated with people, so while she doesn’t mind being in with the goats, she will leave them (even through electric fence!) to come be with her people again. Bridgett does stay with the goats full time, and she does a great job protecting the goats. All summer (for the second year now) our goats are pastured in 30 acres of electric fenced rough pasture and woods, and we haven’t lost one yet to predators. You will often hear her barking at night when the coyotes are most active, letting them know to stay out of her territory! Both Bridgett and Bree are great buddies with our 12 year old neutered male German Shepherd cross farm dog, Bruno.
Ryan purchased a male Akbash puppy in August 2007 to raise with the girls. The new little guy has been dubbed “Buck”. We have put him in with the weaned kids to grow with the animals he has to learn to protect. Occasionally it is a challenge to teach a pup that he may not roughhouse with the doelings and bucklings the same way he did with his siblings and with our other dogs! You gotta love that puppy stage when they chew on anything and everything!! He is growing like a weed, and will be quite a handsome guy! His bark is already sounding quite grown up! January 2009: Our now married son moved ‘Buck’ to his new place where he and his new family have begun farming. He was a beautiful boy, and we will miss him!
PUPPIES! PUPPIES! PUPPIES!
We had a litter of puppies born to Bree and Buck on November 22, 2008. These 4 boys and 1 girl will be available to purchase the middle of January 2009. Please email if you are interested in one of these fine Livestock guardian dogs! SOLD! We have sold 4 pups, and will be raising ‘Boss’ ourselves.