The Caucasian Shepherd Dog (CSD) is a large to massive breed of masculine dog with long hair. It is a very popular breed in Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the North Caucasus mountain area. The typical height of a female CSD is between 64 – 70 cm while a male can reach a maximum height of 100 cm. Otherwise known as the Caucasian Ovcharka or Bashan pariy, this breed is strongly muscled, even-tempered, and heavily boned in proportion to height. It has a large wedge-shaped head that tapers to a blunt muzzle with the upper lips covering the lower jaw. It has brown medium-sized and oval-shaped eyes, a large black nose and highly set triangular ears that hang to the side of the head just below the eye level. It has a thick tail that hangs down to the hock when the dog is in repose and is carried above the back in a sickle-shaped hook when the dog is excited or in motion. The double coat consists of long and coarse outer guard hairs and dense undercoat made of dense soft and fine hair. The coat on the muzzle, forehead and the front of the legs is shorter and smoother while the coat on the cheeks and back of the head are pointier and wiry. The Caucasian Shepherd Dog has three types of coat depending on its home region:
Coat colours are agouti gray with or without white markings, white, cream, fawn/reddish fawn, tan/reddish tan, tawny with or without white markings, brindle, piebald or white with gray patches. A female Caucasian Shepherd Dog can weigh around 45 kg while a male weighs 50 kgs at the minimum.
This primitive breed is a descendant of the ancient dogs of the Caucasian Mountains and the steppe regions of Southern Russia, home to some of the oldest living Molosser breeds today. It was and is continually being used as a shepherd dog for guarding livestock against mountain predators including wolves, jackals, and bears. Selective breeding started in the former Soviet Union in the 1920s at the Red Star Kennel. Different types of indigenous CSDs were brought in from different regions of the Caucasus until the heavier Georgian type was developed and became the standard type. The modern breed has veered away from the ancient canines of the Caucasus and others believe that the modern Caucasian Shepherd Dog may have a blood from other Molosser breeds as evidenced by the long coat and heavier mastiff built common to today’s CSDs. The first Caucasian Shepherd Dog was brought to the United Kingdom in 2002. The numbers are still considered relatively small considering the cost of upkeep to having such a large breed but nevertheless, the total population in the UK is steadily rising.
In general, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog is alert, lively, protective and responsive. It is rather intelligent but can be audacious and decline to listen at times. This ever-watchful guardian is a unique mixture of a sweet-natured, child-friendly dog who will not be afraid to defend its property and family when threatened. As an adult, it is typically aloof and doubtful of people it is not familiar with and has a tendency to be aggressive with strangers, but this can be corrected with proper training. It is a rugged, hardy, and adaptable breed that can happily sleep outside in freezing condition or doze off on the couch inside the house as long as it is with his immediate family. However, different regions in the Caucasus have developed CSDs with varied temperament, with some developing very aggressive behaviour (such as the short-haired breed found in Iran), while most of the other regions have light to moderate aggressive attitude.
The protective nature of the Caucasian Shepherd Dog runs deep in its blood and will stop at nothing to defend its land, its home, and its people. For this reason, this dog is not for everyone. The owner must be aware that this dog needs strict but gentle training from puppyhood to become a well-balanced adult. Early socialisation is also the key to making an adult CSD more relax in the presence of house visitors. Training must start early on in life to teach the dog to be aggressive only when he or its guardians are threatened or in imminent danger.
The short-haired variety needs very minimal grooming. Occasional brushing from time to time will help keep the coat healthy. However, the long coat variety needs special attention as mats can easily form if not properly groomed. Daily brushing with a slicker brush will help remove tangles and keep the skin from irritation which may cause allergies. Brushing also helps in better blood circulation besides having a shiny healthy coat. Use a detangling solution on mats, then brush using a medium-toothed comb. Clip the excess hairs in between the pads but not the entire hair as these serve to protect the feet from the environment. The CSD sheds lightly all-year-round but sheds heavily twice a year, particularly during seasonal change.
The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is generally a healthy breed which can live between 10 to 12 years of age. Some dogs are known to be affected by hip dysplasia, overweight issue, and occasional heart problems. However, proper care and an extensive knowledge on raising a Caucasian Shepherd Dog can help alleviate any health issues.
This giant breed is best suited to a family with an all-adult member who knows how to handle such a large breed and give it ample exercise requirements. A house with a lot of well-protected open space is an ideal home for the dog where it can safely play and run. If it is to be kept as a pet, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog should be taken for daily long walks in order to keep it mentally and physically active. It will not do well in an apartment home or condominium as well as in humid regions.
This is a kid-friendly breed as long as the dog was raised with the family from a young age. However, due to its sheer size, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog must never be left unsupervised when it is around very young children as it can easily knock them down. It also does not tolerate rough play and may tend to become defensive when hurt or stepped on. Being a highly protective and dominant breed, it does not go along well with other canines especially unfamiliar dogs.