Central Asia Shepherd Dog
Other names: Alabai, Central Asian Ovtcharka, CAO, Aziat
With a history reaching as far back as 5,000 years, the Central Asian Shepherd Dog is an ancient, noble breed. This dog is proud, fearless, strong, brave, loyal and independent and was originally used to guard sheep and goat herds.
Now, the Central Asian Shepherd Dog is gaining popularity all over the world as a companion and/or working dog. Although they’re extremely affectionate towards and protective of their owners, this breed isn’t for newbie dog owners. Without consistent and confident training, the Central Asian Shepherd Dog will be hard to handle.
Key facts about the Central Asia Shepherd Dog
Origins and history
No one really knows the true origin of the Central Asian Shepherd. However, it’s one of the oldest breeds of dogs which still exists today, having been in existence for at least 4,000 years. They’re native to the mountainous Central Asia region and it’s believed that nomadic tribes used (and still use) this breed to protect their livestock.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 2 - Pinscher and Schnauzer - Molossoid and Swiss Mountain and Cattledogs
Section 2 : Molossian type
Physical characteristics of the Central Asia Shepherd Dog
Female : Between 26 and 28 in
Male : Between 28 and 30 in
Female : Between 88 and 99 lb
Male : Between 110 and 121 lb
Coats can be black, white, brindle, fawn, grey, white or red. The coat may come with or without white specks/markings.
Type of coat
The Central Asian Shepherd’s coat is normally short (3-5 inches) or medium (7-8 inches) in length.
This breed has a hardy thick, harsh double coat with a dense undercoat for extra warmth. Hair on the head is often shorter than the coat on the withers.
They possess dark, deep-set, mysterious looking eyes.
We’d describe the Central Asian Shepherd dog as bear-like! Their heads are huge in comparison to other dog breeds, though their ears are naturally petite in comparison. The neck is short and the skin hangs around their throat, which is known as a dewlap.
Their body is strong, robust and muscular with an impressively large bone structure. Their legs are straight and stocky and they have a long, broad back with a slight curve. You’ve only got to take a short glance to notice how powerful these beautiful dogs are! Their paws are smaller than you’d expect, but adequately padded.
In terms of size, they’re generally as long in the body as they are tall - yep, pretty humongous! Females tend to be slightly smaller and lighter than their male counterparts, though they’re still incredibly strong.
Good to know
During excavations in Turkmenistan, images of Central Asian Shepherds were found on silver dates. The images date back to around 4000 BC - so this is a truly ancient breed we’re talking about!
This breed is like marmite in terms of affection. They bond closely with their owner and family, but often act aloof and hide away with people they’re not so familiar with.
If you don’t mind their standoffish temperament towards strangers, you’ll be rewarded with an extremely loyal, protective family pooch who’ll happily curl up with you for a cuddle.
The Central Asian Shepherd tends to be playful as a puppy, but often loses some of its playfulness as it grow up. They’ll still play if they’re in the mood, but they’re not a great choice for families who want a pooch who is happy to play all day long.
Around their families, this breed is balanced, quiet, calm and gentle. However, that can completely flip on its head around strangers or in any situation that the Central Asian Shepherd feels threatened. They’re more than capable of standing their own ground and can become aggressive.
You can’t get a much more intelligent breed than this! The Central Asian Shepherd was highly respected in their native countries for their tremendous skill in protecting flocks and solving problems. They’ve also been successfully used as therapy dogs, thanks to their smart and gentle spirit (once they’ve been well-trained and thoroughly socialised).
You may expect this breed to have a strong prey drive considering their working past, but it’s pretty much non-existent. While it’s in their nature to protect animals, they don’t tend to herd or chase them. They actually have a seriously lacking prey drive - which is fantastic when keeping them as a companion dog!
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Central Asian Shepherd doesn’t take well to strangers. Though they’re unlikely to become aggressive unless threatened, they will be distant and aloof towards anyone unfamiliar. If someone they didn’t know entered their territory unannounced - especially if their owner wasn't present - they could become hostile. They will attack if they feel their family is in danger - in fact, they can become overprotective.
This breed worked independently in remote locations, proving that they’re incredibly clever and resourceful. While this is a fantastic trait, it does make the breed rather difficult to control. Due to to their independent nature, they want to be dominant and can often be terribly stubborn.
Behaviour of the Central Asia Shepherd Dog
The Central Asian Shepherd will tolerate small bouts of time alone, but won’t cope well with being home alone for more than a few hours. If they become lonely and frustrated, they may be destructive - and with their power, could cause a lot of damage! They’re best placed with a family where at least one person is home for the majority of the time.
Easy to train / obedience
This breed is intelligent and independent - so while they pick things up with ease, they don’t like to be told what to do. Training and socialization must start when the Central Asian Shepherd is a puppy and continue consistently. If they feel they are the leader of the pack, they will take advantage and can be hard to handle.
This breed needs to be in the hands of an experienced trainer who can handle it firmly, yet lovingly. Once they understand who’s boss, they make terrific pets - it’s just getting to that stage which is difficult!
When confronted with strangers or anybody they deem suspicious, the Central Asian Shepherd has a loud, sharp bark which they’ll use to excess. If this breed is not trained appropriately, they may develop behavioural issues which often includes excessive barking. However, in a happy, trained, socialised and healthy pooch, barking in the home will be minimal.