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Central Asian shepherd dog breed

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Foundation stock service group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 25-28 inches
  • Weight — 88-110 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Medium length thick double coat with low shedding.
  • Coat color — Colors include black, white, gray, brindle, and fawn. White and brindle markings are acceptable AKC breed standards, and these dogs typically have two or three colors.
  • Exercise needs — Average
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 10-15 years
  • Temperament — Calm, friendly, gentle, and good with children and pets
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — Asia

Central Asian shepherd fun facts

  • Calm, but not lazy! Central Asian shepherds evolved to withstand a difficult climate and terrain, making it necessary to preserve energy.  Because of this, they are often very calm dogs, but still energetic.
  • A dog of many names. These dogs go by many other names, such as Central Asian sheepdog, Middle Asian Ovtcharka, Central Asian Ovtcharka, Alabai, and Turkmen Alabai, amongst others.
  • Great for active families. While these dogs are fine lounging around, they enjoy space to run and would do well with families that like to go on outdoor adventures.
Central Asian shepherd close up

Central Asian shepherd temperament and characteristics 

Independent, confident, and brave, these guard dogs have a history of protecting not only the livestock in their territory, but the people as well. To their family — people and other pets alike — they are loving, gentle giants. Unlike some other breeds, Central Asian shepherd dogs love affection, but it isn’t essential. These large dogs are perfectly content with alone time, as well as snuggling with their favorite people.

When it comes to protecting their territory and everything in it, these dogs are large and powerful, making them very good at dissuading unwanted visitors or large predators.

Common Central Asian shepherd health problems 

Compared to most other breeds, the Central Asian shepherd is a uniquely healthy dog. Many other common conditions that impact larger dogs seem to pass this ancient breed by. But, there are a few issues for new pet owners to watch out for.

  • Hip dysplasia. Like other large dog breeds, the Central Asian shepherd is susceptible to hip dysplasia, which occurs when the leg bone and hip joint no longer fit together properly.
  • Epidermolysis bullosa. While not overly common, epidermolysis bullosa (EB) is an inherited skin condition that can cause blistering.
  • Bloat. Although not very common in the Central Asian Ovtcharka, bloat occurs when dogs ingest air while they eat or drink, causing their stomach to become distended.

Cost of caring for Central Asian shepherds

Central Asian sheepdogs are long-lived and pretty healthy, so it isn’t as likely that health issues will crop up. But, if they do, it’s best to have pet health insurance to cover the costs. Bloat can occur, and that can quickly become an emergency vet visit, which will add up very quickly. Planning ahead by building a budget and pet savings account can help with the immediate need, and pet insurance can provide financial relief after.

History of the Central Asian shepherd

Most dog breeds evolved with heavy influence from people, but that isn’t quite the case for this unique and ancient breed. While nomadic tribes may have played a part in the breed’s development, Alabai dogs mainly developed on their own, each generation becoming more and more accustomed to the extreme climates and terrain of their vast territory.

And while they are still very rare in the United States, and are more common in Central Asia,  they were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1990.

Central Asian shepherd resting

Caring for your Central Asian shepherd

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet to schedule your dog’s vaccinations, and begin to puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething.

No one likes to think about losing their new dog, but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Here are some other basics specific to the Central Asian shepherd.


Despite their size and energy, these dogs don’t need an overabundance of exercise. But, they do need daily walks and do best with a fenced in yard (the higher the fence, the better). They are powerful dogs, and it’s best that they don’t go off-leash on walks. But, for dogs with good manners and experienced owners, going off leash for hikes — these dogs typically have the endurance for long ones — should be okay.

Central Asian shepherds, despite having a thicker coat, do well in hot temperatures as well as cold ones. It’s still essential to protect their feet with dog booties, though, and recognize the signs of overheating!

Central Asian shepherd running


Despite their thicker coat, the Central Asian shepherd dog doesn’t require extensive grooming. An occasional bath may be necessary for adventurous pups that get into a mess, but for the most part, a weekly brushing will help remove errant fur from their coat. Brushing can be done along with regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing. Despite their low maintenance needs, pet owners should be aware of the “fur storm” which occurs seasonally as these dogs shed their winter coat. Plan on more frequent brushing, researching tips for keeping your home clean, and maybe a groomer!

Diet and nutrition

Like any other dog breed, it’s essential to feed Central Asian sheepdogs a diet that’s appropriate not only for their unique needs, but also their stage in life. Look for  high-quality dog food that’s designed for large and extra-large dog breeds, and what’s appropriate for your dog’s stage in life. While it’s essential to work with your vet when choosing dog food and how much food to feed your dog, dog owners should expect to feed their dog anywhere from four to five or more cups a day of dog food depending on their weight and needs.

Training your Central Asian shepherd

Central Asian shepherds are very intelligent dogs, which can make training challenging. Experienced owners may have an easier time training these dogs, but it’s still a good idea to find a professional dog trainer, or research tips from trainers.

Because these dogs are protective, it’s good to socialize them early so that they are more accepting of visitors. However, it’s also important to note that these dogs are highly protective and may still be very wary of newcomers.

Central Asian shepherd dog in snow

Breeds similar to the Central Asian shepherd

Not quite sure that a Central Asian shepherd is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Mastiff. Slightly larger than the Central Asian shepherd, the Mastiff has a similar personality, but is far more common.
  • Great Pyrenees. Pound for pound, the Great Pyrenees is about the same size as the Central Asian sheepdog, but with a thicker coat that some people like to spin into a yarn!
  • St. Bernard. The St. Bernard strongly resembles the Central Asian shepherd, but is a far more common choice for pet owners in the United States.

Frequently asked questions

What is the origin of the Central Asian shepherd breed?

The Central Asian shepherd breed originated over 4,000 years ago in the regions of Central Asia including countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. This breed was developed as a livestock guardian dog, used to protect herds of animals from predators.

What are the typical characteristics and temperament of a Central Asian shepherd?

The Central Asian shepherd is known for its strength, agility, and boldness. They are extremely courageous and have a natural protective instinct. These dogs are also independent, intelligent, and can be reserved with strangers, but exhibit strong loyalty towards their families.

What kind of care and maintenance does a Central Asian shepherd require?

Central Asian shepherds require regular exercise to maintain their large, powerful physique and mental stimulation due to their intelligence. Their thick coat needs weekly brushing and more frequent grooming during shedding season. Additionally, they need a balanced diet, regular veterinary check-ups, and plenty of socialization from an early age.

Is a Central Asian shepherd suitable for families with children or other pets?

Yes, Central Asian shepherds can be ideal for families with children and other pets. However, they are known to have a strong protective instinct which could turn into aggressiveness if not properly trained from a young age. They must be socialized early and treated as part of the family to ensure compatibility.