Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Ovcharka)

Height: 24-34 inches
Weight: 110-220 pounds
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Colors: Black, white, cream, gray, rust
Suitable for: Experienced dog owners looking for a giant, protective guardian, families with older children
Temperament: Alert, Strong, Powerful, Stubborn, Protective

The Caucasian Shepherd is a fierce, strong, and protective guard dog. He is not suitable for novice owners because he can be aggressive with anybody or anything that he deems to be a threat to his family. His grooming requirements are also challenging, and his size means that he will take a dominant position in your home as well as your life.

He is a giant breed that can easily reach over six feet when stood on his hind legs. He will assume the alpha role in your family pack, and it is up to you to show him that ALL family members are above him in the pecking order. We always recommend training and socialization of any breed, but this is especially important with the Caucasian. He needs firm training, but this does not mean physical or aggressive training, because if the Caucasian perceives a threat to any of his family, he won’t just bark, he is highly likely to attack.

This breed is intelligent but can be stubborn and highly independent. As such, he can be trained but it will take patience, firm training methods, and an experienced handler to get the most out of a Caucasian.

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Caucasian Shepherd Puppies – Before You Buy…

Energy
Trainability
Health
Lifespan
Sociability

What’s the Price of Caucasian Shepherd Puppies?

The Caucasian Shepherd, also known as the Ovcharka, does not come cheap. Keeping and breeding these puppies takes a lot of time, effort, and food. They are also used as prison dogs, and their temperament means that not too many breeders are willing to take on the mantle of producing the next generation. You should expect to pay between $1,000 and $3,000 for a good example of a Caucasian Shepherd puppy, potentially even more for a show standard dog.

It is essential that you use a reputable breeder when buying this breed. While most guard dogs need to be trained to be protective, the Ovcharka is different. He is aggressive by nature and needs training and socializing from as young as three weeks old, which is several weeks before you can take him home. This means that the breeder must take on some of the training and socialization responsibilities.

Visit any potential breeder you are considering using. Check to ensure that the puppies and parents are not kept locked away from people. If you take on a Caucasian that has barely had any human contact, you will have a serious struggle to raise a well-adapted Ovcharka.

This requirement for training and socialization, and the breed’s reputation for aggression, means that there are very few Caucasian Shepherd breeders. Join breed groups, check with your local kennel clubs, and ask any other Ovcharka owners if they know of any breeders in your area. Once you have a shortlist of breeders, check for reviews and determine their reputation. Arrange to visit their premises and meet the dogs. You will be able to ask the breeder any questions you have, and they should ask you questions about your experience with guard dogs, aggressive breeds, and even this specific breed.

It is possible, although very rare, that Caucasian Shepherds are found in rescue shelters. They are extremely large and their potential for aggression means that some unexpecting owners are unable to handle the breed, but their rarity means that they will not usually make it to shelters. If you do see one of this breed in a shelter, be extra cautious. It is likely that they have not had the appropriate training or socialization, or that they have shown signs of aggression, hence their adoption.

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3 Little-Known Facts About Caucasian Shepherd

1. Caucasian Shepherds are used as prison dogs.

The Caucasian Shepherd originates from Georgia, where he was bred to fight wild predators including bears and wolves. The breed is still used for this purpose today, but he has also found use as a prison guard dog, especially in Russia. A typical Ovcharka can reach 30 inches tall and weigh 200 pounds, which makes him a formidable animal. He is also dedicated to his handler, who he views as family, but can be highly aggressive towards any other people. He was even deployed to patrol the Berlin Wall in the 1960s. With a bite pressure of up to 700 PSI, this breed should not be trifled with.

2. They are difficult to care for.

The Ovcharka is a challenging breed even for the most experienced owner, and not just because of their aggressive tendencies. They grow to mammoth size and thus are not suitable for apartment living. Their size means that they will take over just about any house or dwelling. They can reach six feet when stood on their back legs and are surprisingly agile jumpers, which means that you will need a substantial wall or fence to keep them penned in the back yard, too. Finally, they also have substantial grooming requirements. They undergo a considerable shedding of their fur once a year, and daily grooming will be necessary to keep this in check.

3. Ovcharka are built for extreme cold.

One of the reasons that the Ovcharka requires such heavy grooming is their double-layered coat. They have a soft underlayer of fur, as well as a more bristle overcoat. This double layer enables them to roam the snowy Caucasus mountains, where they originate, and it keeps them warm and dry even during extreme temperature drops. Today, the Caucasian Mountain Dog can survive and live happily in extremely cold temperatures, which is why he is still used as a farm dog and a protector in some of the most extreme conditions in the world.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog
Image credit: DragoNika, Shutterstock

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Caucasian Shepherd

The Caucasian Shepherd breed is not for the faint-hearted or the inexperienced. His guarding instincts will never go away, which means that you will always have to keep one eye on him. Although he will usually accept you and all family members as being his own family, there is still his giant size, huge teeth, and thunderous paws to consider. He may bark or even snap at strangers and is not usually considered a good family pet if you have small children.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

The Caucasian Shepherd is a fiercely loyal family guard dog. This can be considered a positive trait, and it means that you can sleep easy, knowing that this mountain-dwelling giant has got your back. He will not only accept you as being his family, but he should also accept all human family members as being part of his pack. He will naturally adopt the position of the alpha dog in your family, and it is important that he is trained to understand that all family members are above him in the pecking order.

The sheer size of the Ovcharka means that he is not a suitable dog for families with small children. Even an accidental bump can send young children flying and leave them in tears. As with all breeds of this size, it is tempting for small children to try and sit on their backs, and this is never a good idea.

Although there are exceptions, and examples of the breed living with small children, we do suggest looking at different breeds if you have do have young kids in the home.

If your son or daughter has friends over and your dog perceives playtime to be getting too rough, he will see the visiting child as a threat and may take action to protect your child.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

It is not only the people in your home that the Ovcharka will consider part of his pack — he will treat his canine companions, and even family cats, as being part of the pack. As such, he can live with other pets, but you should consider the temperament of the other animals before introducing them. You will enjoy greater success if you introduce them when the Caucasian Shepherd is a young puppy.

The Caucasian will not get along with other dogs and animals outside his pack, which can make socialization and training particularly challenging.

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Things to Know When Owning a Caucasian Shepherd

The Caucasian Shepherd is considered one of the most challenging breeds to own. He needs a lot of grooming, can be aggressive, and his sheer size puts up a lot of obstacles. With that said, he will become a highly devoted, loving, and even calm member of the family once he has settled in. If you are experienced in owning this type of dog, he can make a great pet, but you should consider the following factors before rushing out to buy one.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Expect to feed your Ovcharka a lot of food. Typically, he will eat six cups of good quality dry food every day. Obesity is a potential problem for this breed, so measure food carefully, ensure that you feed a high-quality meal, and have him weighed on a regular basis. This should be a high-quality dog food with a high protein level. The Caucasian Shepherd is also known for drinking a lot of water, so it is especially important that a fresh source of water is always available.

Exercise 🐕

The Caucasian Shepherd may be large and enjoys patrolling his land, but he only has moderate exercise requirements when not working. When he is working, the Caucasian will work tirelessly for hours and this means that he can be taken on a 10-mile walk and will barely break a sweat. They make an excellent companion for agility activities like hiking, and they are well suited to hiking in mountainous regions, especially in the cold.

Although the breed can be lethargic when at home, providing lots of exercise is a good idea because it can help prevent obesity. If you intend to let your Shepherd out in the yard for additional exercise, he will enjoy patrolling the border, but you will have to ensure that the yard is secure and that fences and walls are high enough to keep this giant in.

Training 🎾

Training is absolutely vital to the breed, and they can be very strong-willed even as young puppies. All family members should be above the Shepherd in seniority, otherwise, they can be commanding and bossy.

Unfortunately, puppy classes might not be the best idea because the Ovcharka is often aggressive with other dogs from outside his home. Consider employing a professional trainer that has experience handling this kind of dog to ensure that they are well-adjusted members of your family.

All training needs to be geared towards the fact that the dog is not the pack leader. Even when taking your Ovcharka for a walk, you will need to instill this in them. Ensure that your dog walks to heel because if he is allowed to walk in front of you, it shows dominance and indicates to them that they are expected to be pack leader.

Socialization is important, and while it is recommended that most puppies start socializing from around eight to 12 weeks of age, the Ovcharka should be socialized from an even earlier age. Successful owners tend to introduce their Caucasian to new people from the age of three weeks so that they learn that new people are not necessarily considered a threat.

Grooming ✂️

The grooming requirements of the Caucasian Shepherd are another reason that this breed is not considered suitable for novice and first-time owners. They have a double-layered coat consisting of a soft undercoat and a wirier, longer overcoat. They tend to have long tufts of hair around the ears and may, although not necessarily, have a mane of hair around the withers. The hair will require daily grooming, especially during shedding season, because this will help keep your dog comfortable while preventing the massive buildup of shed fur in the home.

Beyond this, you should only bathe your dog when absolutely necessary, because the water and shampoo will strip their coat of naturally protective oils.

Check their ears on a weekly basis. This is especially important because the protective hair that grows around the ears can prevent wax from escaping, and it can also harbor mites and other pests. Wipe wax out with a damp cloth, if necessary.

Claws will need regular clipping, and this is something that you should start when the Ovcharka is a young puppy. Starting from a young age means that your dog will get used to the process, which can be uncomfortable and alien to dogs, and it means that you will find it easier when they get older and larger.

Finally, all dogs require help with dental hygiene, which means regular teeth brushing. The Shepherd still has his very long teeth, which would have been used in fending off and challenging predators like bears and wolves. You should brush them at least twice a week, ideally as often as three or four times.

Health and Conditions 🏥

The Caucasian Shepherd is a big dog, and although he is generally considered to be a hardy and healthy dog, there are some health conditions that he is prone to. Hip dysplasia, cataracts, and obesity are among the most common and serious problems for this breed.

Minor Conditions
  • Cataracts
  • Obesity
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia

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Male vs Female

The male will tend to grow a little larger than the female, but both genders are considered giant dogs. The male is sometimes considered to be the more dominant and aggressive, although this is not always the case.

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Final Thoughts

The Caucasian Shepherd, also known as the Ovcharka, is a giant dog breed that is naturally aggressive and can be highly protective of his entire family unit. He will want to be the alpha dog in the family and will require steady and consistent training and socialization from a very young age.

With that said, when well trained and well adjusted, the breed will become a seriously loving family pet. He will guard all family members, often including other dogs and even cats, and he will become closely connected to all of the family. He can be quite lethargic around the house but will have unstoppable energy when working or walking.

His size means that the Caucasian Shepherd is not suitable for life in an apartment, while his potential aggression and his rigorous grooming and care requirements mean that he is not a good breed for first-time owners. He is generally a healthy dog, has a decent lifespan especially for a dog of this size, and he will cope extremely well with a cold climate thanks to his history of living in snowy and mountainous regions.

He isn’t for the faint-hearted, but the Ovcharka does have a lot of love to give to the right owner.


Featured Image Credit: Aleksandra Saveljeva, Shutterstock