Is the Akbash Dog Ideal For You?

And How to Choose a Breeder

Akbash Dogs are found throughout the world. They live in suburbia, as members of families, and on farms and ranches, as protectors of sheep, goats, emus, alpacas, and poultry. Akbash Dogs are almost always selected for their protective instincts. They don't retrieve frisbees, excel in obedience training, or sit quietly in your lap, nor are they ideal show dogs due to their independent nature and tendency for aggression towards strange dogs. Thus, the main reason for having an Akbash Dog is and should be protection. The fact is, along with protection comes a gorgeous dog who can be very affectionate and a devoted companion.

It is difficult to adequately convey the character of a breed in a few written pages. Based solely on this kind of information, you might select a breed in one week, and regret that choice for many years. Therefore, most of this section will be devoted to selection of a breeder, so that you can learn in detail what this breed is about, from the most knowledgeable people.

Akbash Dogs are not for everyone. Their attributes include a strong protective instinct, loyalty to owner, intelligence, good health, and striking beauty. In the right settings, they will protect livestock or children, farm or home. On the other hand, they shed copious amounts of hair, wander if given a chance, and compete with back hoes as excavators. The most serious draw-back (which is also their strength) is behavioral. Akbash Dogs have been selected for millennia to act independently. They protect their property and charges without commands from people. Therefore, if they don't respect the people they live with, or if they have reason to believe the children in their family (translate family = pack) might be in danger, Akbash Dogs may bite people or animals. Any dog that weighs over 100 pounds at maturity is likely to present behavioral problems to those who don't know how to raise and train a dog, maintaining firm discipline. This is true of all breeds, just amplified in protection breeds. The bottom line is, you've got to know what you are doing when you select a livestock protection breed for your home.

For starters, do you have a large, extremely well-fenced yard for a big dog to exercise in? Remember, these are large dogs who can jump, climb, burrow or dig their way out of many types of enclosures if they are so motivated. Do you know how to recognize early dominance displays, prior to outright aggression? If not, then you either need some thorough doggie education, or should consider another breed of dog. As a companion dog owner, you must be prepared to provide a LOT of early and continuous socialization for your pup as he matures into an adult, take him to puppy classes, and later perhaps to obedience classes. Socialization means exposing the pup to all kinds of other animals, places, people and things, like car rides, walking on-leash in traffic areas and entering buildings such as veterinary clinics. As a large breed, Akbash Dogs must be constantly supervised around children, until they are fully mature and reliable which can be up to 2 to 3 years of age. They are not automatic babysitters inside or outside the house, even though they generally like children, especially the children in their own family. Exposure to other dogs is critical, since the breed is naturally suspicious of and often aggressive towards strange dogs. This can be a serious problem in an urban environment where there are other pet dogs in close proximity, or when taking the Akbash Dog for a walk. Normally, they are not safe in dog parks, where they may take a dislike to another dog, or where a challenge from another dog may result in a fight.

If you, the adult choosing a breed, lacks the experience of raising and training a more malleable, less protective breed of dog, perhaps you should look elsewhere for a suitable companion dog. There are many fine choices available, some of them being discussed in our references at the end. Otherwise, continue reading, to learn about ways to evaluate breeders.

Selecting a Breeder

Many people are not certain how to evaluate puppies and breeders. This is not surprising when you consider that the average dog owner will select only a few puppies in their adult lives. Taking a few minutes to learn the basics will help you to make better choices. You may save some money as a result, but more likely, you'll gain the peace of mind that comes from having
selected a breeder who is likely to provide top quality puppies.

Selection Is A Two-Way Street. Some breeders will ask you to fill out a questionnaire or ask what seem to be personal questions about where you live, how you spend your time and what your expectations of a dog are. These are usually intended to make sure you have a suitable environment for one of these dogs. You are entitled to ask questions of breeders, as well. Don't be afraid to ask for references. Ask the breeder's opinion about preserving the working qualities of the breed. Ask which breed club she/he belongs to and endorses. Request back copies of the breed club's news journal. Its contents may tell you something about the person. You can only benefit from taking a while to learn as much as possible about the breeders you are considering buying a puppy from.

Expect a written guarantee. And more. It is your right to expect a written guarantee with a puppy. The ideal guarantee will provide for a healthy puppy at the time of sale, that never in its life will it develop a major inherited disease or condition, and, in the case of Akbash Dogs, assurance of a guarding instinct. The breeder should be happy to provide you with photocopies of the hip evaluations of the parents of the litter, and phone numbers of owners of previous puppies from the sire and dam, if there have been any. In short, a good breeder will not keep secrets or leave you in doubt. If a breeder ever uses high pressure sales tactics, or suggests
that Akbash Dogs (or any other breed, for that matter) are perfect for all situations, look for another breeder.

Look for a breeder who will help you to select the correct puppy. The personalities of the sire and dam of a litter are probably the best predictors of puppies' personalities. A good breeder will give you an opportunity to watch the sire and dam, to get to know them. If you live too far away for a personal visit, the breeder should be asking a lot of questions about your lifestyle, preferences, etc., in order to be able to match the ideal puppy personality to you and your family. You can expect a breeder to use a quantitative puppy aptitude test (PAT). If you know anything about PATs, offer to pay for a copy of a video tape of the PAT, if the breeder is able to film them, or ask for a photocopy of the written scores. At any rate, don't select a puppy just because it’s the cutest one in the bunch. At the very least, watch the litter for a half hour or so, to discern the different personalities. If you have determined that the breeder is knowledgeable, trust their judgement when they select a pup for you.

Take advantage of breed clubs. Most breeds are represented by at least one breed club. If you talk to its leaders, you'll learn about the backgrounds of breeders. Many clubs have a code of ethics, maybe even a specific code of proper conduct for breeders. If you learn about these from the breed club, you'll have useful information about the breed when you begin to evaluate breeders. Don't worry if a club representative doesn't personally know the breeder you are investigating. Be more concerned with an endorsement of proper breeding ethics, and some form of indication that the breeder has good quality, registered dogs. Breed clubs know which genetic problems are important to their breed, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their breed. They are often the best source of this information.

Be suspicious of breeders who 'push' the breed standard to extremes. If a breeder emphasizes exceptionally large or small or white or colored or whatever puppies, you should wonder why. Extremes of size may predispose bone and joint problems. Too much emphasis on appearance may be at the expense of the puppy's temperament, which is far more important. There is something in our human nature that makes us want to have the best of everything, but don't confuse best with biggest when a puppy is being considered.

Don't be in a hurry. Some people buy a puppy on a whim, having put no more than a weekend or two in the selection process. Others invest up to eighteen months or even longer, to optimize their selection of breed, breeder, litter and specific puppy. If you know what breed of dog you would like to acquire, and have selected a breeder, what are the odds that the breeder will have a litter of seven week old puppies just then? Not great. Even after all the selection process is over, you may have to settle into a waiting period. Breeders cannot predict with certainty when their females will cycle again, or whelp. The ideal timing of a puppy purchase is one that leaves no questions unanswered, and the needs of the puppy, the breeder and the buyer satisfied. Please don't ask a breeder to sell a puppy at four weeks of age, just because your son is going to have his birthday next week. Instead, give your son a card with a gift certificate redeemable for one puppy in four or five weeks. There is one instance when a breeder may ask you to make a decision in a hurry. When puppies have reached eight to ten weeks of age, they should ideally be placed in their new homes. If a breeder has, say, a litter of eight puppies, and six firm reservations, you might be told that the remaining puppies will be sold to the first two people who send in deposits. This is an understandable position from the breeder's point of view. However, do not let this kind of time pressure influence the important decisions about choosing a breed and breeder. There will always be another litter to choose from.

Read ahead. There are many sources of information about selecting puppies. A few are listed below. They have been written by experienced dog enthusiasts who know what is reasonable to expect from well prepared puppy breeders and buyers. Many websites offer good information on breeds, although there is also a lot of misinformation on the internet, so read widely if this is your main source of information.

Reasonable expenses. In addition to the fee charged for a puppy, there will be other costs involved. A breeder ought to have begun a series of inoculations for the puppy; they should be included in the cost of the puppy. The breeder should pay for a medical certificate if the puppy is to be air-freighted. The buyer usually pays for the air freight bill and for the kennel the puppy is shipped in. Most breeders have small operations and they probably are not making a lot of money on their breeding activities. Still, you should expect the breeder to pay for the registration of the pup and you may request an pedigree if one is not provided. Some breeders provide a subscription to a news journal or membership to a breed club for a year. These are discretionary items, however, and should not be assumed.

Understanding Breeders. Breeders are humans. After investing hundreds of hours in the planning and raising of a litter, they care about their puppies. They would appreciate hearing good news about the arrival and settling in of your new puppy, not just the problems. If breeders appear to be prying into your motivations and qualifications for having a puppy, please consider that they have your interests, the puppy's, and their own in mind, and are trying to create a win-win-win situation. Responsible breeders who are in the business for the long haul don't want to sell a puppy if there appears to be a good chance the person-dog combination is going to create problems. Try to work with, not around, the breeder, in your selection of the best puppy for you. After a puppy has been with you for a few weeks, and has become a member of the family or farm, you may feel there is no need to keep that slip of paper with the breeder's phone number. Not so! The breeder should be the first person to call if you have questions about training or behavioral matters. The breeder's phone number belongs in your personal phone number directory. Some breeders will take the initiative and call after a few months, to see how you and the puppy are getting along. Breeders thrive on feedback from customers, as they attempt to find the optimal combinations of breeding pairs for future litters.

For More Information:

Livestock Protection Dogs - Selection, Care and Training, by Orysia Dawydiak and David Sims. Alpine Publications, 2004. Included are chapters on selecting a breeder and a puppy, and puppy aptitude testing.

Livestock Guardians - Using Dogs, Donkeys and Llamas to Protect Your Herd, by Janet Vorwald Dohner. Storey Publishing, 2007. A comprehensive guide.

Your Purebred Puppy, Second Edition: A Buyer's Guide, Completely Revised and Updated, by Michele Welton. Holt Paperbacks. 2000. AKC- recognized LPDs are included in this book, along with 175 other breeds. An honest appraisal of all the breeds, their strengths and weaknesses.

People, Pooches & Problems - Understanding, Controlling and Correcting Problem Behavior in Your Dog, by Job Michael Evans. Howell Book House, NY. 1991. Recommended for owners of companion dogs.