- Breed group – Foundation stock service (American Kennel Club ), guardian dog group (United Kennel Club)
- Height – 23 to 30 inches
- Weight – 99 to 170 pounds
- Coat length & texture – Thick double coat
- Coat color – Agouti gray, fawn, and reddish with white markings. A dark facial mask is common. Sometimes, Caucasian shepherd dogs are solid white with dark pigmentation.
- Exercise needs – Daily
- Intelligence – High intelligence
- Barking – When necessary
- Life span – 10 to 12 years
- Temperament – Even-keeled, protective, and kind
- Hypoallergenic – No
- Origin – The Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe
Caucasian shepherd fun facts
- Also called Caucasian ovcharka, Caucasian mountain dog, and Caucasian shepherd dog
- Exact origins are a matter of debate — recent findings suggest possible origins in Mesopotamia.
- Served as guard dogs since they were first developed
Caucasian shepherd’s temperament and characteristics
A Caucasian shepherd is a giant dog with a level-headed personality. Though exercise is necessary, this breed isn’t very playful, particularly post-puppyhood. They’re loyal and protective of their family but also independent. Their guardian instincts take over when they see strange people and animals. They often do best in households without young children or other pets.
Caucasian shepherds aren’t typically the life of the party. These calm, protective pets prefer day-to-day interactions with their households to a revolving door of strangers and guests. These dogs may bark if they see someone they have never met, and some do not allow visitors.
Common Caucasian shepherd health problems
Most Caucasian shepherds live happy, healthy lives, but they’re giant dogs and more prone to some conditions like hip dysplasia. Understanding signs and symptoms can lead to early treatment and improve your pet’s quality of life. If purchasing a Caucasian shepherd puppy from a reputable breeder, ask if they have performed the proper genetic testing to reduce the risk of diseases.
- Hip dysplasia. Large dogs like the Caucasian shepherd are more prone to hip dysplasia. This condition is a result of the femur not sitting snugly in the hip joint, which can be congenital or develop later in life.
- Elbow dysplasia. This condition is another health concern most commonly found in larger pups. Elbow dysplasia happens when elbow joints do not develop correctly. This condition can occur in one or both elbows.
- Entropion. This condition occurs when the eyelid rolls inward towards the eye, causing the eyelashes and sometimes the fur to brush against the cornea. This condition can lead to irritation and corneal ulcers.
- Bloat. Large breeds are more at risk for developing this potentially fatal condition that requires early detection and treatment. Bloat happens when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and fluid and then twists, restricting blood flow and causing a gastrointestinal obstruction. Symptoms may include a distended abdomen, frequent vomiting, the inability to hold down food and water, pain, and lethargy.
Cost of caring for a Caucasian shepherd
Routine care, such as exams, vaccines, and heartworm/flea and tick prevention, costs about $400 per year. However, if your Caucasian shepherd dog develops a serious health problem, treatment may result in a five-figure vet bill. Surgery for hip dysplasia can cost more than $4,000 per side. Elbow dysplasia surgery has a similar cost.
Treating bloat with emergency surgery is required to save a dog’s life. Vets charge about $2,000 to $5,000, but this cost can vary based on where you live, who is performing the surgery (i.e. local veterinarian or boarded surgeon), and the time of the day the surgery is needed. The cost of entropion surgery can range from $300 to $1,500.
Prevention is often the best medicine — and relatively it’s low-cost. You can keep your Caucasian shepherd healthy with daily exercise and a well-balanced high-quality diet. Pet insurance may also prevent costly surprises. Pet parents who invest in a plan before major health issues arise typically receive the most significant benefits. A pet savings account and financial aid programs may also be options for you and your Caucasian shepherd.
History of the Caucasian shepherd
The breed’s exact origins have been a matter of debate. One theory is that this breed developed from wolves in the Caucasus Mountains or mastiff-spitz crosses. Others believe the Caucasian shepherd naturally developed when a group of sheepdogs came to the mountains from Tibet. Recently, archeological evidence suggests Mesopotamia as the breed’s source of origin.
Regardless of how these dogs came to be, they’ve worked as guard dogs for hundreds of years. Herdsmen who lived and worked in the mountains of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Daghestan used Caucasian shepherds as livestock guardian dogs. The former U.S.S.R. developed state-run kennels for this breed to provide guardianship.
Introduction to the U.S.
Today, Caucasian shepherds in the United States are often used as guide dogs. The United Kennel Club formally recognized the Caucasian shepherd in 1995. The breed remains classified in the foundation stock service with the American Kennel Club as of 2022.
Caring for your Caucasian shepherd
A Caucasian shepherd’s level-headed personality can be a calming force in a pet owner’s life. However, caring for a new pet can feel like a big undertaking, especially at first. You’ll need to schedule the first trip to the vet and your dog’s vaccinations. There’s also the need to puppy-proof your home — this breed grows fast, after all — and get ready for teething. Here are some other essentials for keeping your Caucasian shepherd healthy and happy.
Caucasian shepherds aren’t the most active or energetic dogs, but regular exercise is still essential to preventing obesity. Obese dogs are more at risk for serious complications like heart disease. Daily walks are critical. These dogs also have the stamina for longer hikes. They need a human who can train them to walk on a leash and control them should they pull.
CSDs are loyal, but they’re independent, protective, and territorial. They’d do best in a home with a secure fence to contain and keep them safe. Caucasian shepherds love their families, but they don’t need constant attention. You can hold down a day job and still be a great best friend to a CSD. When you get home, these pups are keen to head out for a walk and then lounge around with you.
These Caucasian mountain dogs boast a thick double coat. The outer layer of fur has longer and coarser guard hairs, while the undercoat is denser, softer, and thinner. These dogs have a longer coat on the cheeks and the back of the skull, making them look like doppelgangers for a bear. Caucasian shepherds typically exhibit one of three coat types:
- Long coats. The outer coat is made up of long hair and forms a mane. These CSDs have lots of thick fluff on the hind legs.
- Intermediate coat. These pups have pretty long hair for an overcoat, but there’s less tail feathering and a shorter mane.
- Short coat. These dogs have shorter outercoats and lack a mane or tail feathering.
Caucasian shepherds have long hair and shed —so expect to clean the house frequently. Dental and gum diseases are common in all dogs. Daily brushing can lower the risk for these conditions. Nail trimmings once per month can reduce the risk of overgrowth or breakage. Caucasian shepherds aren’t noted for having ear infections. However, cleaning their ears once every two weeks is a great way to prevent infections and wax build-up.
Diet and nutrition
A healthy Caucasian shepherd within the weight range for the breed will do well on a dog food with the Association of American Feed Control Officials seal. The AAFCO seal means the food is safe and meets dietary standards.
A veterinarian is the best person to speak to about food portions for your dog. Generally, dogs eat twice per day once they hit the four-month mark. Younger puppies need three to four meals per day on average. Dog food bags typically recommend an amount. Divide it by two if the amount of food is for the entire day, not per meal.
The number of calories a dog needs per day depends on the food. A 130-pound caucasian Shepherd that is spayed or neutered should have about 2,400 calories per day.
A veterinarian can let you know if your dog needs to eat more or less based on any health conditions like obesity.
Training your Caucasian shepherd
Caucasian shepherds are intelligent, but their independent nature makes them a bit of a challenge to train. Start early with firm and consistent training, but firm doesn’t mean yelling. Reward-based training methods that lean into positive reinforcement, such as treats, are more effective than punishment and scolding.
👉 Because these dogs can be difficult to train, they’re not a good fit for first-time dog owners.
Even experienced pet parents might consider using a professional. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers maintains an index of trainers who use positive methods.
Proper training and socialization can only go so far sometimes. These dogs are highly territorial by nature. The Caucasian Shepherd Club of America warns that some will never tolerate guests in the home, even if they’re friends with them in other locations.
Breeds similar to the Caucasian shepherd
Whether you have your heart set on a CSD or are unsure if this breed is best for you, it’s always good to look into other breeds. Here are some similar to the Caucasian shepherd.
- Saint Bernard. Like a CSD, Saint Bernards are giant breed, bear-like dogs with calm personalities. However, they’re less territorial and more welcoming of strangers, so they may be a better option for social families.
- Akita. These pups are also highly protective and wary of strangers.
- German shepherd dogs. GSDs are also large and alert, but they tend to be more affectionate and better in a family setting.
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Frequently asked questions
Are Caucasian shepherds rare?
Caucasian shepherds are relatively rare, particularly in the United States. The breed is a somewhat recent addition to the UKC registry (1995) and remains in the AKC’s foundation stock service.
Is the Caucasian shepherd the largest dog?
No. Male Mastiffs can weigh more than 200 pounds and still be considered healthy, making them larger than CSDs.
Is a Caucasian shepherd a good family dog?
It depends on your family. A Caucasian shepherd does best in a single-person household or one without children. Their massive size and temperament require patience, control, and proper training. They’re best for experienced pet parents. The right people can help them be the best dogs they can be.