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Meet the Breed: 5 Things to Know Before Getting a Caucasian Ovcharka

Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Caucasian Ovcharka) running outdoor in snowy forest at winter day.

Meet the Breed: 5 Things to Know Before Getting a Caucasian Ovcharka

One of the most intriguing rare breeds currently recognized by multiple kennel clubs across the globe is the Caucasian Ovcharka, also known as the Caucasian Shepherd Dog.

Dating back to ancient times as a dog used by Armenian armies in the 1st century BCE, the breed originates from the Caucasus Mountains which run between Europe and Asia.

As this dog’s size would imply, the Caucasian Ovcharka was originally bred to guard flocks from predators and to protect their homes from outside intruders.

The breed first hit the show rings in Germany back in the 1930s. While it is still relatively rare today, the breed has started to gain popularity away from its place of origin, with some influence in North America. A Caucasian Ovcharka that appeared in the Finnish film Stormheart has contributed to global interest as the breed continues to seek full AKC recognition.

Here’s a look at five things to know before you seriously consider bringing a Caucasian Ovcharka home with you:

1. This is a breed that should be had only by expert-level dog owners.

The Caucasian Ovcharka is not for first-time dog owners in any sense of the word. Just as independent and loyal as the breed is, it is also equally as wary of strangers, with a strong protective instinct.

And with a dog of this type of stature, it’s important for owners to have experience both with larger breeds and those that have the same type of aloofness that must be handled with care. If this is your very first dog, it is best to opt for a different breed. Otherwise, if this is your first time specifically welcoming a Caucasian Ovcharka into your home, it is important to have a strong mentor with experience in the breed who can help guide you along the journey.

2. Do not underestimate how truly massive the Caucasian Ovcharka is.

The term “Molosser” is almost an understatement when it comes to describing this breed, which can be classified as among the largest recognized dog breeds in the world.

At the withers, the height is typically 25 to 30 inches (64–76 cm). Males are usually naturally larger than females, weighing in at 110 to 220 pounds, with females weighing between 99 and 155 pounds. Origins and bloodline can play a role in how tall and how heavy each individual dog of the breed is as an adult.

Males typically have larger physical features and are often shorter in body in comparison to their female counterparts. The FCI Breed Standard describes the Caucasian Ovcharka as follows:

“The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is a harmonious built, large, strong dog with plenty of bone and powerful muscular system; of a slight rectangular format. Sexual dimorphism is well pronounced. Males are masculine, with well developed withers and a bigger head in comparison with females. They are also more massive, bigger and often shorter in body than females. In dogs with longer coat-variety males have a distinctly pronounced mane.”

Life expectancy for the breed is usually between 10 and 12 years.

3. Large accommodations and a backyard are a necessity.

With great size comes the need for large accommodations for a breed like this one. The Caucasian Ovcharka is not a high-energy breed, but it does need a lot of space and is not a solid apartment dog because of the room needed to roam—and how much living space it would take away from its owner’s own accommodations in a small setting like that one. It is also important to remember that, even with proper space, it is unwise to allow the dog to live full-time outdoors without regular and consistent attention, as this can create a very wary and aggressive temperament that could become dangerous.

4. Make time for grooming—and a lot of it.

In addition to the Caucasian Ovcharka naturally being a large breed structurally, it’s got a huge double-coat to go with it. Be prepared for daily brushing and consistently keeping up with matting, specifically behind the ears which can be an issue across the board with breeds of this coat type.

Despite all the coat that this breed carries, one may be surprised to find that shedding is not as huge of an issue as may originally be thought. The breed drops its coat just once per year—which can be a big undertaking of cleaning and vacuuming annually—but it does not shed twice a year like many other breeds do.

5. Making a Caucasian Ovcharka a happy family pet takes time, awareness, preparation—and intensive, purposeful training.

Socialization and training are important for any puppy of any breed, but it is crucial for a dog of this temperament and size. To stay on top of things, it is essential to start training early, especially if you have small children or other animals in the household.

With proper training, your experience with the Caucasian Ovcharka can be one that develops into a dedicated family pet that serves as a true, loving guardian to its people with the ability to do outside services like therapy work. Several owners describe them as one of the most loyal and docile breeds in existence—when handled in the correct way from puppyhood. Without proper training, though, owners could quickly end up with an out of control situation on their hands that can be hard to correct.