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    Using the Anatolian Shepherd Dog to protect livestock in Turkey

    Articledog training guidesWednesday 23 April 2014

    In Turkey the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is used to protect a farmers’ livestock from predators. What few guns the inhabitants of an area might have are not used for predator control. Most of the villagers do not have guns - the dog is it.

    Requirements of a livestock protection dog

    There are three basic requirements for the behaviour of a livestock protection dog:

    (1) The dog must be as aggressively protective as needed to subdue or drive off predators, killing only if necessary to protect their flocks and villagers. If a bark will scare off an intruder, then that is all the dog will do. Anatolians have a graduated display of protective behaviours that does warn off everything that is not a real threat. They also have a controlled bite - only hard enough to subdue - and, once an intruder is submissive and indicates it will run away, the Anatolian steps back and lets it run. It had better leave! (Young dogs do not have this good muscle control and need observation until they are adults to be sure that they don't cause unnecessary injury.)

    (2) The dog must be tolerant of non-threatening passers-by. Anatolians observe an intruder and warn it by barking to keep its distance. (Sometimes they bark; much of the time they just silently watch.) As long as the intruder doesn't become threatening, the dog just watches it.

    (3) The dog must be gentle and tolerant with the villages women and children. He is protective of the villagers and their families, but patient. (Young dogs must be observed to be sure that they do not "littermate play" or attempt to establish littermate dominance over family members. No dominance games or play with people or children are allowed.)

    Anatolian Shepherd Dog

    Methods of protection used by the Anatolian

    The Anatolian Shepherd Dog protects by establishing an outer perimeter that it travels once in the early morning and once in the evening, just to mark its territory. The dog doesn't harm anything in this outer perimeter, it just makes its rounds and comes back to the flock.

    The dog also sets up an inner perimeter around the flock as its protective zone. He stays between the flock and the buffer zone established between the two perimeters and is usually quiet, lying around near the flock unless something appears in the area that needs to be watched. He will get up about everyone to one and a half hours and circle the inner area, checking everything, and then lie back down in a new place. The dog quickly knows the usual activity and people moving in and out of its area. As long as nothing unusual occurs or appears, he will lie around doing nothing.

    The adult Anatolian knows instinctively that it must be calm, quiet and move lightly through and around the flock. If it were to rip through a flock, it would scatter the animals and then could not protect them. The Anatolians go to great lengths not to disturb anything unless something is seen as a threat. Even in the first barking, the dog reassures the flock that there is "no danger," while the next barking says that the intruder is still present, so "be alert." The stock continues grazing but will have an ear tuned to the dog. When the dog decides that a threat is imminent, his barking changes pitch. He starts moving back and forth in an arc, signalling the flock to start moving together, and indicates which direction he wants them to move so that he can have an advantage over the intruder. Through his movements, the dog can back up closer into the flock without giving the predator the false impression that he is retreating.

    Anatolians have a body that is slightly longer than their height. This gives them a free-flowing stride that they can use to cover ground very rapidly without appearing to do so. They can move from one side of the flock to the other to check something without ever disturbing it. This length also gives them great agility. They can turn square in mid-stride. They can leap into the air, turn and come down in front of, or on the shoulders of, the animal behind them - whichever they want to do. Since they must accompany and protect sheep and goats in high mountain country, the dogs must have the same agility the flocks have. As their speed increases, they have a single-track gait, ideal for narrow paths. With their agility, they do not need excessive weight to fight off predators.

    This dog will not "herd" your flock. The flock can go wherever it chooses; the dog's only purpose is to protect against predators. If a flock member behaves in an "unusual" manner, the dog will stay with it and bark for the shepherd's attention (e.g., an animal caught in barbed wire or stuck in a hole). A flock member that has fallen on its back and is lying perfectly still but cannot get up will cause the dog to remain with it, but not bark. As long as the animal is lying quiet and calm, the dog does not know that something is wrong with it.


    Anatolian barking

    (1) Anatolians have a rapid, staccato bark that tells you something has appeared in the outer perimeter or buffer zone of the territory. They consider the intruder non-threatening where it is, but will keep it under observation.

    (2) A definite bark, increasing in rapidity and volume, warns that something is approaching or is happening in the field that may be threatening and calls for attention. At this stage, the flock will pay attention to the dog and bunch behind him for movement to a safer area designated by the dog.

    (3) A definite snarling-growl bark says that something very threatening is about to be stopped. Contrasting methods for training a livestock guardian dog there are two very different schools of thought for raising these dogs as livestock guardians:

    • Put the very young (6-8 week old) pup out with the flock and withdraw human attention, making the pup bond with the flock as his only companions.
    • Socialize the young puppy well so that it will be acceptable around gentle and non-threatening adults and children. Start it with the flock, but continue some human contact, petting and "boss approval."

    Most literature doesn't say so, but these are two extremes for dogs in different working areas. The first is for dogs that will be in remote pastures, with no human contact except for feeding. Many of these places have automatic feeders, so the dogs only see humans once a week or so. My question has been, even in this situation: what do you do with the dog when the flock is brought in for winter and during shearing?

    Obviously, I go with the socialized pup. It will stay with the flock if it is kept in the pasture as a puppy (although protected), fed, loved and played with in the pasture. The dog also will be acceptable around people.

    The individual behaviour of a dog is an important factor. Every dog in a litter is not suited to being a remote pasture dog. The extreme isolation suggested in the first plan is an attempt to make every pup born a field guardian dog.

    Training and the development of adult protection dog behaviour

    The Anatolian is not a "short training period equals a perfect protector or attack-on-command" dog. Protection is instinctive, and the dogs will threaten or attack only when they think their charges are in danger.

    These are not playful, hyperactive dogs. They do enjoy a short play period in the morning and again in late afternoon. The rest of the time they will be someplace where they can keep track of everything but not have to get involved with the "usual" activities of the place and people.

    You must consistently observe and correct puppy behaviour that you would not like in an adult dog. A two month old 20 pound puppy is easy to correct. An independent 80 pound six month old is much more difficult. These dogs are about 2/3 of their adult size at nine months old but still behave like very young twelve or thirteen year old humans. They may be sweet one minute and belligerent the next.

    These dogs take about two years to fully develop into adults, but most of them become capable protectors long before that. They are individuals and, like people, they develop at individual rates. They even go through the same behavioural stages that young humans do. As long as you teach the puppy that  you are the boss when it is young, and you are consistent in the correction of this puppy behaviour, you will have no difficulty controlling the adult dog. They are very sensitive to voice and behaviour changes of owners and intruders.

    With a minimum of care, the Anatolian will live 14-16 years. We've had two or three older. At those ages, the dogs might not "win" a fight, but they rarely ever fight - they don't have to. They scare everything off.




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