Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Ovcharka)

When it comes to certain breeds of dogs, the history isn’t always clear and some back story’s come with controversy. After all, history has its complications.

Meet the Caucasian Shepherd Dog or as some call this large breed, Caucasian Ovcharka. Bred to be the ultimate guard and protector, this fearless big may look the part, but at home, the Ovcharka is a giant teddy bear.

Just don’t mess with the Caucasian Shepherd’s people.

So why the controversy and what makes them such an interesting choice as a companion?

Here is what you need to know about the Caucasian Shepherd Dog.

History

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog comes from the Caucasus Mountain region. They were bred to protect villagers in northern Caucasus (Steppe Region) against predators like bears and wolves. Moreover, there are some who believe that the Caucasian Ovcharka derives from wolves. However, there is no proof to that legend. The exact ancestry isn’t clear for this breed. Some believe there is a cross between Balkan shepherds and Asian mastiffs. While some believe the breed has Spitz in its bloodlines.

Additionally, before the Soviets would place a claim on the breed, there are many accounts indicating that the Caucasian Shepherd Dog worked protecting live stock in Georgia, Armenia and other surrounding regions from bears and wolves. As one club notes, the claim that the Ovcharka would fight against bear and wolves isn’t true. Instead, it is more likely the breed was able to deter or dissuade these beasts until help was on its way.

According to the Caucasian Shepherd Dog club in America, this breed actually has various types. However, the club states that the west as well as the Soviets chose to focus on the one specific type; “Ovcharka,” which translates into sheepdog. Ironically, the Ovcharka isn’t a sheepdog, but rather a Molosser. 

During the 1920’s, the Soviets began selective breeding a standard for the Caucasian Ovcharka. The Soviets would use the Caucasian Shepherd Dog for military purposes and as a guard dog.

It appears that the breed its first show ring appearance in Germany around the 1930’s. 

The breed would never pick up in popularity in the United States. In fact, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog is much more popular in Georgia or Russia. Moreover, the first imports of the Caucasian Ovcharka was around 1990. In 1996, the breed was recorded in the American Kennel Club’s foundation stock service registry. 

In 1995, the breed would gain recognition from the United Kennel Club. Today, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog belongs to the UKC’s Guardian Group, while the AKC allows them to compete in companion events ever since 2008. Furthermore, the AKC did assign the breed to the Working Group.

Size

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is one of the largest known breeds. According to the American Kennel Club, the standard height for the Caucasian Ovcharka is between 23 to 30 inches. 

With regards to weight, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog can weigh between 99 and 170 pounds. 

Note: While the breed is known for growing up to 2 feet and more, there have been reports of the Caucasian Ovcharka reaching a weight of 200 pounds.

Personality/Temperament

If this is your first rodeo owning a dog, well, you may want to start smaller and with a different breed. Although some content circulating about this breed online seems to be from a physical judgement position, it is correct to believe that a novice would have a hard time handling a breed of this magnitude.

Also, this may not be a breed for the person with a family. Additionally, if you have smaller children, you will want to supervise these interactions especially during play. Again, this is a large breed that can do some real damage unintentionally.

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog can somewhat stubborn during training. They are an independent and intelligent but can be difficult to train. Some kennels make this claim but they also say it’s not impossible to train this breed if you get one as an adult. 

With the right hand, this is a loving and affectionate breed known to seriously attach itself to its master. Highly protective and not afraid of any challenge presenting itself. Beware of dog is an understatement, especially for an intruder, who will see the wrath of a dog that won’t stand for any threat to their family.

It shouldn’t surprise you to know that strangers may have a hard time around this breed. The Caucasian Shepherd Dog can be aloof and weary of strangers. 

Thanks to their imposing features and commitment to family, this is an excellent guard dog that should be busy with a task. They shouldn’t be left alone for long period of times, but handle themselves much better than some breeds. 

If you raise the Caucasian Ovcharka around others and smaller pets, this is a breed that gets along fine with others. However, if the breed doesn’t know the dog or cat, expect a confrontation and territorial encounter.

Finally, this is a breed that can be headstrong and it sometimes takes them longer as puppies to mature. Once they do, however, with the right person, this is a gentle and affectionate breed.

Health

When it comes to the subject health, there is much we know about the Caucasian Shepherd Dog. Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that the breed isn’t that popular here in the United States, therefore, due to the lack of registrations, there isn’t a ton of information to go on.

If you do decide to buy a Caucasian Ovcharka, make sure you purchase one from a reputable breed, who can provide you with the proper paperwork and health clearances. Additionally, when you schedule routine visits with a veterinarian, you enhance the chances of picking up on health issues before they worsen.

That in mind, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog is a breed that has a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years.

Most of the issues that affect this breed are somewhat obvious due to the breed’s size. For instance, the breed may be prone to issues affecting their joints and obesity. Obviously, these issues are preventable with proper diet and feeding balances.

Hip Dysplasia is an issue this breed may encounter. Hip Dysplasia is due to abnormal growth in the hip joint and sometimes can be a result of an injury, which translates into cartilage damage. The exact occurrence rate is unknown, however, you can look for signs like pain, discomfort and lameness. Breeds like Bulldogs, Boerboel, Brittany, Basset Hound and Dogo Argentino are commonly prone to this orthopedic disease.

For rapid growing and large breeds, there is always a chance of the Caucasian Shepherd Dog suffering from Bloat. Bloat is a deadly health complication. It also affects the dog’s breathing and is due to an excess of air that has no way in releasing itself from the stomach. This will cause the stomach to distend or twist. It can be incredibly painful, in which the Akita and Weimaraner is one of the more common breeds suffering from Bloat. 

Issues affecting the eyes like Cataracts, Entropion, and Ectropion may pop up within this breed. 

Finally, there is also a link of Hypothyroidism with this breed. This is a condition that is prevalent among coonhounds. Hypothyroidism is when there’s a lack of thyroid hormonal production in the thyroid gland causing the metabolism system to slow. Hair loss and lethargy are a couple of visible symptoms indicating your dog has a problem.

Care

For starters, this isn’t a breed that will mesh well with apartment living. Obviously, when a dog is pushing close to the second century mark, they will require a bit of space to move around. With that in mind, they will adapt to their surroundings whether it’s cold or hot climates. Yes, their coats make it harder on them to accept the heat, as they are much better in colder temperatures. 

Someone with experience is the best fit for this breed. The Caucasian Shepherd Dog isn’t for a slouch or beginner. They need positive and consistent reinforcement. Someone who knows how to handle a larger breed.

Early socialization is key with this breed. The Caucasian Ovcharka needs to learn as a puppy. This will make the dog much more personable and friendlier in the future. Integrating this giant dog with others help them deal better with strangers. Smaller animals including cats will then have a chance at living along side the Caucasian Shepherd Dog.

One of the bigger elements is maintaining this breed, which we’ll get into shortly. Yes, they drool, and yes, they do shed. The bigger issue will be their weight, which can invite serious health issues like obesity, bloat, and joint problems. Watch their weights to avoid an unhealthy dog. 

Brush their teeth daily or regularly, check their eyes for any complications or debris, as well as inspect their ears for bacterial infections. Daily exercise is always a good idea with this breed but good luck running side by side with this breed.

Feeding

As a larger breed, this will entail much more feeding. Of course, if you don’t have a working dog or you have a puppy, how much they eat will differ. 

Adults on average, should be getting anywhere between 5-6 cups of high quality dry food per day. Meat should be the first ingredient and items like lean chicken, turkey, salmon and lamb should suffice. 

You may need to feed this breed 2-3 times per day to help reduce the chances of overgrowth and bloat. 

Of course, you should always leave your Caucasian Shepherd Dog fresh drinking water.

Note: If you are looking for an amount on how many cups of food per day to feed your Caucasian Ovcharka, it’s always best to consult a veterinarian.

Coat

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog has a double coat. The undercoat is dense, fine, and soft. The outside coat is long and coarse. There are also three types of coats for this breed including; long coat, intermediate coat and short coat, which is the least common.

Any solid color will do with this breed other than solid black. You may find them with coats that are dark gray, white, fawn, brindle, and piebald. As far as markings, you may see a Caucasian Shepherd Dog with some gray patches and white markings.

You will need to brush your Ovcharka two or three times per week as they tend to shed quite often.

Random Caucasian Shepherd Dog Facts

  • You already know that this breed is sometimes known as the Caucasian Ovcharka or Caucasian Shepherd Dog, but they also are known as; Caucasian Wolf Dog, Russian Bear Dog and Caucasian Mountain Dog.
  • According to Caucasian Shepherd Dog commentators, there were at least 7,000 Ovcharkas in East Germany to guard the Berlin Wall.
  • This is a breed that can cost you quite a bit of dough. Expect to pay anywhere between $2,000-$3,000 for puppies.
  • This breed made an appearance in the National Geographic show, “Russia’s Toughest Prisons” as you guessed it, guard dogs.

Closing Words

According to the Canine Journal, the list of breeds in the top ten for biting people didn’t even feature the Caucasian Shepherd Dog. Why is this relevant? Well, you constantly hear people talk about how dangerous this dog is, how sharp their teeth are, and how aggressive they can be.

However, there isn’t much evidence to support any of these false claims. In fact, if you get this breed when they are young, raise them properly, and socialize them, you can bank on a large breed that is kind, loving, and will do whatever it takes to make sure you and your family is safe.