Complete Guide To The Anatolian Shepherd Dog: Health, Exercise, Feeding and More

The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is an ancient working breed from the lands of Asia Minor — the earliest books in the Bible refer to similar herding dogs. Uncommon in the United States, they’re serene, confident companions that are happiest when they’re busy. Give them a mission, and they won’t let you down.

I’ve only come across a handful of Anatolians in my veterinary career, but each one was striking and unique. If you are looking for a large breed dog but don’t want to deal with the potential health issues that many popular large breeds dogs have, consider an Anatolian.

Working Anatolian Shepherd

How Big Do Anatolian Shepherd Dogs Get?

Male29″ at the shoulder110-150 lbs
Female27″ at the shoulder80-120 lbs

What Do Anatolian Shepherds Look Like?

Long-legged, they have a well-balanced rectangular torso that’s muscular but not lean.

Their dense, bear-like double coats come in eight colors:

• Biscuit and White
• Fawn
• Gray Fawn
• Blue Fawn
• Brindle
• Liver
• Red Fawn
• White

Black, brown or silver masks and Dutch or pinto markings are equally acceptable for breeding or show.

Almond-shaped eyes are wide-set and dark. Four- to six-inches ears fall gently to the side of their head, just below the bottom of the eye. Tails are feathered and curled.

Depending on their color, Anatolian Shepherds may resemble the Great Pyrenees or Kuvasz. A Biscuit and White dog with a black mask could be mistaken for a German Shepherd crossbreed.

What Is The Personality Of An Anatolian Shepherd?

Anatolian Shepherds are extraordinary dogs, but they’re not for everyone. Friendly and affectionate within their social group, they’re never needy — if you need lots of cuddle time, this isn’t the breed for you. They’re loyal but distant friends.

Bred to work independently, they resent owners who micromanage their day. It takes a firm, self-assured person to let them be themselves. Early socialization and obedience training are the keys to controlling their often willful behavior.

Built for the outdoors, Anatolian Shepherds are happiest with room to roam and a job to do. Hardy, they can acclimate to weather conditions from desert heat to arctic cold. Energetic, they need regular exercise but prefer long walks to games with no purpose — they’re good with kids but perfect for mature adults.

What Are The Grooming Needs Of An Anatolian Shepherd?

The Anatolian Shepherd’s coat varies from short to about four inches long. Hair is thicker around the head and neck. Their double coats have two distinct layers for protection against the elements, so they shed year-round and seasonally — be prepared for blowouts in the spring and fall.

For short coats, weekly brushing with a stiff, short-bristled brush is enough to remove dirt, debris and dead hair. Slickers work best for longer-haired dogs because the tines get closer to the skin, thinning the undercoat. Use a metal comb where fur is the thickest to tease out tangles before they become mats. One of the best individual brushes for this type of coast is the Furminator.

The Anatolian Shepherd’s outer coat naturally resists mud and moisture, but their thick undercoat means more doggy odor. A bath every 8-12 weeks keeps them fresh. For best results, comb them thoroughly first so shampoo reaches the skin. You may want to use a groomer as drying the coat can take quite a long time if you don’t have a professional blower.

Anatolians have some of the biggest nails of any dog I’ve seen. Thick, they’re designed for rough terrain, so forget the pet store clippers — a rotary tool or grinding wheel shortens them without leaving rough edges. Don’t forget to trim front and rear dewclaws if they weren’t removed after birth.

How Much Exercise Does An Anatolian Shepherd Need?

Anatolians are the type of breed that I call “the best of both worlds.” While they can be active and need to exercise, once they get a good amount in they settle down for the rest of the day to chill.

Activities That I Recommend With This Breed:

  • Walking
  • Hiking (both walking and hiking can be done with your dog also wearing a weighted pack; the weight in the pack will help to tire your dog out faster; don’t do this if your dog has any orthopedic issues)
  • Swimming
  • Agility Training
  • Dog Parks

This is also a larger, powerful dog that should be walked with a collar that enables the walker to have more control such as a prong collar or a no-pull harness. If you haven’t trained your Anatolian well on a leash, they will pull you off their feet when excited.

What Kind of Dog Food Is Good For An Anatolian Shepherd?

As these are really large dogs when fully grown, you need to make sure that you feed them a large-breed puppy food and then switch over to adult food sooner than you would for many other smaller dogs (I recommend at around 5-6 months of age). The goal with these special diets is to manage the growth so it’s steady and controlled. Growth spurts can be painful.

Also understand that my philosophy as a veterinarian for the past 20 years has been that most dog foods are fine for most dogs. For those dogs that require a special diet (due to a health condition such as a food allergy or inflammatory bowel disease), use the diet most appropriate and recommended by your veterinarian.

I prefer large dog food companies for my recommendations because they’ve been around longer, had fewer recalls, put more into research and development, and are generally more cost effective than some of the newer “boutique” diets.

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

Best Puppy Food For Anatolian Shepherd Dogs:

Best Adult Food For Anatolian Shepherd Dogs:

How Long Does The Anatolian Shepherd Dog Usually Live?

11-13 years based on information from the AKC

12 Week Old Anatolian Puppy

What Health Problems Can An Anatolian Shepherd Have?

As Anatolians are not that common, they are relatively healthy despite how big they are. They can develop the same conditions other breeds face like arthritis, hip dysplasia, and allergies. However, those are pretty uncommon in this breed.

The big key is to keep them at their optimal weight. You should be able to feel the individual ribs and see a narrowing between their chest and hips.

I would recommend a joint supplement for them after the age of 4 years to keep their joints as good as possible.

Where Can I Find Out More About Anatolian Shepherds?

Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club Of America

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find an Anatolian Shepherd Dog?

Breeder List From The Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America

AKC Puppy Marketplace

Looking for a Rescue? Check with the National Anatolian Shepherd Rescue Network first. You can

Interesting Facts About the Anatolian Shepherd Dog

Anatolian Shepherds are rare now, but with such dedicated fans, you’ll be seeing them more often. Here’s what you need to know about this unique breed.

• They’re Turkish-American

Anatolian Shepherds are noted in historical records as far back as 4000 B.C. Native to the Anatolian region of South Asia — now modern Turkey — they’re thought to be a mastiff-sighthound mix. There, they’re called Coban Kopegi, meaning ‘Shepherd’s Dog.”

The Anatolian Shepherd we know today, however, was refined in the United States, and to a lesser extent, Great Britain. It’s distinct from the three versions still working in Turkey today.

• They’re Conservationists

Anatolian Shepherds protect their flocks through intimidation. They don’t kill predators — they chase them away.

In Namibia, Cheetahs pose a threat to sheep but are a protected species. Terrified by the dogs, they avoid the areas they patrol. Farmers keep their sheep, and the big cat population is no worse for wear, so it’s a win-win. Similarly in America’s Yellowstone National Park, Anatolian Shepherds are used to separate visitors from dangerous wildlife and to protect competing species, such as wolves and bears, from each other.

• Their Unusual Collars Serve a Purpose

The long-spiked collars Anatolian Shepherds are often photographed with aren’t a new fashion statement, they have a purpose — protecting their necks from predator attacks.

• They Rival Great Danes as the World’s Tallest Dogs

The Great Dane, on average, is still the world’s tallest breed, but the Anatolian Shepherd isn’t far behind. Current record holder, Zeus, at 44 inches is just 4 inches taller than Kurt, an Anatolian from Great Britain. With selective breeding for height, Great Danes may soon have more competition than they bargained for.

• They Love the Camera

Intelligent and trainable, it’s no surprise Anatolian Shepherds have had their share of screen time. Not to be outdone by Chihuahuas, they’ve landed some choice roles with parts in the 2011 comedy, Friends with Benefits, and James Mangold’s Kate & Leopold.

Butch, from Warner Brother’s Cats & Dogs, was played by an Anatolian Shepherd. Sivas, a 2014 Turkish film chronicling the relationship between a boy and his dog, was Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.