Canis lupus familiaris
These former bear-hunting dogs are used today as prison guard dogs in Russia.
Caucasian Shepherd Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Canis lupus familiaris
Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.
Caucasian Shepherd Conservation Status
Caucasian Shepherd Facts
- Fun Fact
- These former bear-hunting dogs are used today as prison guard dogs in Russia.
- Estimated Population Size
- These former bear-hunting dogs are used today as prison guard dogs in Russia.
- Other Name(s)
- Caucasian Ovcharka, Caucasian Sheepdog
Caucasian Shepherd Physical Characteristics
Caucasian Shepherd as a Pet:
- General Health
- Energy Level
- Tendency to Chew
- Family and kid friendliness
- Yappiness / Barking
- Separation Anxiety
- Preferred Temperature
- Cold climate
- Exercise Needs
- Friendly With Other Dogs
- Pure bred cost to own
- Initial purchase: $1,000-$3,000. Food, veterinary bills, and supplies can cost $1,500 or more a year.
- Dog group
- Male weight
- 110-154 lbs
- Female weight
- 99-110 lbs
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The Caucasian shepherd, also called the Caucasian sheepdog or Caucasian Ovcharka, is a giant-breed working dog originating in the Caucasus Mountains region. It was developed in the Soviet Union in the 1920s from several different varieties of strong shepherd dogs used for centuries by livestock breeders to defend sheep from wolves, jackals, and bears.
Caucasian shepherds are strongly-built, have keen senses, and are quick to fight even much larger animals or people to protect their families and territory. They make excellent guard dogs, but they are independent-spirited to the point of stubbornness and take a long time to mature. This makes training them more difficult than other breeds, requiring patience and skill from an experienced owner. They are playful, energetic, and affectionate toward children. These dogs are not recommended for homes with small children, though, because of their large size and potentially aggressive tendencies. They also have issues with separation anxiety, so Caucasian shepherd parents should not leave them alone for long periods of time. This beautiful animal is not for the faint of heart! But in the right environment, a Caucasian shepherd can greatly enhance your family’s safety and security as well as being a beloved companion.
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The 2 Different Types of Caucasian Shepherds and Caucasian Shepherd Mixes
There are two types of Caucasian shepherd mixes:
- Caucasian husky (a hybrid of the Caucasian shepherd with a husky)
- Caucasian Staffy bull (a hybrid of the Caucasian shepherd with a Staffordshire bull terrier)
Pros and Cons of Owning Caucasian Shepherds
|A fearless guardian|
Caucasian shepherds are massive dogs with unstoppable courage. Without hesitation, they will take on much larger threats, whether a bear, a wolf, or a threatening stranger.
The downside of this breed’s fearless protectiveness is that it can be territorial and aggressive toward people or animals that are not actually a threat. Early, consistent training is essential
This breed is quite hardy and healthy. They are adaptable to different climates. The only major health concern with them is hip dysplasia. They can sometimes suffer with cataracts as they age as well.
Puppies for this relatively uncommon breed can cost $1,000-$3,000. They are large and they eat a lot so annual upkeep can also take a bite out of your wallet.
|Manageable energy level|
The activity level of a Caucasian shepherd can be described as “average.” They need about an hour of activity a day, which you can accomplish with a walk around the neighborhood or playing in the backyard. It isn’t necessary to be an athlete yourself to maintain this dog.
Caucasian shepherds do struggle with separation anxiety. Because of their size and strength, they can do a great deal of destruction to show their displeasure at being left alone. They do best in a home with a fenced yard and a family member at home most of the day.
The Best Dog Food For Caucasian Shepherds
Because this is such a healthy, hardy breed, there are no special dietary concerns that would require searching for just the right dog food. Any wet or dry food of high-quality, natural products without artificial additives or preservatives will work fine. Pet owners will be glad in the long run if they invest in good quality food now, rather than dealing with unnecessary health problems in the future that might require expensive veterinary treatment and shorten the life of your animal.
That being said, giant breeds in general can suffer with orthopedic disease, obesity, and bloat at greater frequency than smaller breeds. It’s best to choose a dog food specially formulated for larger or giant dogs–and make sure to purchase specifically a puppy food blend or an adult dog blend depending on the age of your pet.
The American Kennel Club also recommends you feed your dog multiple times a day instead of one large meal, feed from floor level rather than a raised feeder, avoid foods with high fat contents, choose a large-kibble dog food, and avoid vigorous exercise 1-2 hours after eating.
A-Z Animals recommends Wellness CORE Grain-Free High-Protein Large Breed Dry Dog Food, available in puppy and adult recipes, and grain or grain free recipes for dogs with food sensitivities. It’s made from high-quality, healthy, non-GMO ingredients that are rich in nutrients to promote lean body mass and muscle tone, a healthy coat and skin, and a strong heart. This brand receives high ratings from dog owners on major retailers’ sites.
Health and Entertainment for your Caucasian Shepherd
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- A formula made from chicken, turkey, vegetables, and fruit.
- Larger kibble size for easier eating.
- Includes valuable nutrition with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics.
Caucasian Shepherd Size and Weight
Adult male Caucasian shepherds average 27.5 inches tall and can weigh anywhere from 110 to 154 pounds. Females on average are 26.5 inches tall and weigh 90 to 110 pounds at adulthood.
|Height (Male)||27.5” Tall|
|Height (Female)||26.5” Tall|
|Weight (male)||110-154 lbs, fully grown|
|Weight (female)||90-110 lbs, fully grown|
Caucasian Shepherd Common Health Issues
Caucasian shepherds are a generally quite healthy breed. The only major concern with them is hip dysplasia, which is an issue found in many dog breeds, especially the larger ones. Caucasian shepherds are also sometimes subject to cataracts as they get older; again, a common canine issue. Larger breeds can suffer from bloat, a rapid and sometimes fatal buildup of gas in the gastrointestinal tract that needs immediate veterinary attention.
Owners can best help prevent these issues in their dogs by being aware and alert to the signs to watch for, providing the dog with measured exercise that does not overstress their bones and joints, feeding their animal high quality food formulated for their age and growth stage, and getting regular veterinary checkups. Specifically for the issue of bloat, feeding the dog multiple smaller meals rather than allowing them to wolf down one large meal a day is one way to head off this problem.
Again, the issues to watch for are:
Caucasian Shepherd Temperament and Behavior
To understand the temperament of this breed it is helpful to think about the working conditions they were bred for. Livestock ranchers in the Caucasus Mountains needed a large, powerful, fearless animal to protect them and their herds from major predators still roaming the wilderness, such as bears and wolves. The Caucasian shepherd is not primarily a herding dog so much as a guard dog.
This explains why this breed can be highly territorial and protective, while at the same time not requiring extremely large amounts of exercise. It also explains their hesitation with strangers and tendency to remain on the alert and bark at unfamiliar noises, especially at night. If you notice these behaviors, your dog is just doing what generations of its ancestors have been trained to do.
This also means that training a Caucasian shepherd to be friendly, quiet, and easily adaptable to new situations goes against its instinct and takes some skill and patience. But if it is important to you to have a formidably large dog for protection as well as companionship, the Caucasian shepherd may be the right breed for you.
How To Take Care of Caucasian Shepherds
Caucasian Shepherd Maintenance and Grooming
The coat of the Caucasian shepherd may come in a variety of color combinations: grey, fawn, red, black, white. This is a double-coated breed, meaning it has an undercoat that will need special care. This breed sheds throughout the year and needs to be brushed several times a week to control the amount of hair it leaves in your house, yard, and car. Caucasian shepherds go through an especially heavy shed once a year, during which you may want to brush them daily and give frequent baths to speed up the shedding process. Some routine maintenance with these dogs, and in fact all breeds, is to check and clean their ears frequently to prevent infection, clipping their nails so they don’t scratch during play, and brushing their teeth to improve their breath and prevent oral infections.
Caucasian Shepherd Training
Training is essential to help bring out the strengths of a Caucasian shepherd, teach them to control their instincts and to distinguish between friends and foes. This breed is highly intelligent but has a strong stubborn streak and will resist training from an unconfident or harsh trainer. Owners who are not experienced in training a large alpha dog should hire a professional trainer or consider getting a different breed.
Caucasian Shepherd Exercise
Caucasian shepherds need about an hour of exercise a day, through taking a walk or playing in a fenced yard with their owner. They do get separation anxiety when left alone for long periods of time, so it is best that this exercise happen with their human companion. It is also important not to over-exercise a still-growing puppy as this can damage their growing bones, ligaments, and joints.
Caucasian Shepherd Puppies
As Caucasian shepherd puppies grow, be prepared to increase the size of their extra-sturdy kennels for crate training and sleeping as necessary. They love to chew and will need a steady supply of heavy-duty toys. Monitor these to make sure they have not begun to break off and eat parts of them. It is especially important with this breed to provide food properly formulated for puppies as their nutritional needs are different from those of adults.
Caucasian Shepherds and Children
When well-trained by an experienced owner, these dogs can be playful, energetic, and affectionate playmates and protectors for children. They are not recommended for homes with small children, however, because a giant breed such as this can accidentally hurt a child during play or just walking past a toddler and bowling them over. Moreover, Caucasian shepherds like to be the alpha and strongly defend their people and territory. They might hurt other children during routine play if they misunderstand and consider a neighbor child a threat. Although many owners have fine experiences with their Caucasian shepherds, parents should take this decision and the training needs of the dog seriously.
Dogs similar to Caucasian Shepherds
- Tibetan mastiff – Like the Caucasian shepherd, this breed is part of the working group. Tibetan mastiffs are smaller, have a longer life expectancy, and do better with children.
- Irish Wolfhound – Irish wolfhounds are also a giant breed dog, but they are a better choice for inexperienced dog owners or families with children. They also do not need as much grooming.
- Bernese Mountain Dog – This breed barks and howls less, is more child-friendly and a better choice for inexperienced owners. However, it has high grooming needs like the Caucasian Shepherd.
Popular Names for Caucasian Shepherds
These are some popular names for male Caucasian shepherds:
These are some popular names for female Caucasian shepherds:
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Caucasian Shepherd FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
How much does a Caucasian shepherd cost to own?
Caucasian shepherd puppies can cost $1,000-$3,000 depending on their pedigree. Food, veterinary bills, and supplies can cost $1,500 or more a year.
Is the Caucasian shepherd good with kids?
These dogs are reported to be playful, energetic, and affectionate toward children. However, because of their large size, they are not recommended for homes with small children, as they may hurt them accidentally. They should be well-trained and socialized to children and pets as they may display dominant characteristics otherwise.
How long does a Caucasian shepherd live?
The average life expectancy of a Caucasian shepherd dog is 10 to 12 years.
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- American Kennel Club, Available here: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/caucasian-shepherd-dog/
- Calming Dog, Available here: https://calmingdog.com/blogs/main/why-your-caucasian-shepherd-keeps-whining-or-whimpering-anxiety#:~:text=Even%20though%20Caucasian%20Shepherds%20seem,when%20living%20in%20apartment%20buildings.
- DogBreedsList, Available here: https://www.dogbreedslist.info/all-dog-breeds/caucasian-ovtcharka.html
- Dogtime.com, Available here: https://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/caucasian-shepherd-dog#/slide/1
- Wag!, Available here: https://wagwalking.com/breed/caucasian-mountain-dog
- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasian_Shepherd_Dog