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
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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.
Tendency to run away
The Central Asian Shepherd may chase dogs who grind their tears or whom they deem strange, causing them to run off and into harm's way. It’s best to keep them on a strong leash with harness when out in public.
If this breed becomes frustrated, bored or irritated, they could become destructive and hyper. Due to their size, this is best avoided. Don’t leave them home alone for too long, ensure they get enough exercise and don’t house them in a small home or apartment.
Greedy / Gluttony
Though they’re not an overly greedy breed, the Central Asian Shepherd Dog will eat any food its given. It’s important to measure out food portions to avoid unwanted weight gain.
If you’re looking for a competent watchdog, this might be the perfect breed for you! The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is courageous, brave and protective of its family. They’ll bark loudly and excessively if an unknown person or animal invades their territory. However, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened.
First time dog owners may find it hard to handle this breed. They’re dominant, intelligent and stubborn and require an experienced trainer who can ensure they grow into obedient, calm dogs.
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Central Asia Shepherd Dog in a flat
As natural workers, this breed needs space to roam and burn their constant energy. Their curious and smart minds will quickly become bored in an apartment setting, leading to hard-to-budge behavioural issues.
Need for exercise / Sporty
The Central Asian Shepherd dog has an impressive stamina and will naturally patrol their territory for hours on end. They have a medium exercise requirement, but will happily take on more if they get the chance. They’ll need at least 1-2 hours of exercise per day, as well as a secure back garden to roam around.
Travelling / easy to transport
Due to their enormous size, travelling with a Central Asian Shepherd isn’t easy. They’re also extremely wary of strangers and may struggle around unfamiliar people.
Central Asia Shepherd Dog and cats
If this breed is brought up alongside cats, they will get along well with them. However, an unsocialized Central Asian Shepherd may be wary and aggressive towards felines - making early socialisation essential.
Central Asia Shepherd Dog and dogs
Inside the home, this breed will get along with other dogs, so long as they have been socialised from a young age. However, they may not tolerate males. Due to their natural protectiveness, they may be aggressive towards dogs whom they consider a threat whilst out and about in public.
Central Asia Shepherd Dog and children
The Central Asian Shepherd is actually super sweet around kids. They form strong bonds with their family and will protect the children to the ends of the earth. Despite their strength, they tend to be gentle around kids within their circle. Although this breed is unlikely to be purposely violent towards children in the familiar, play should always be supervised because of their sheer size and power.
Central Asia Shepherd Dog and the elderly
This breed needs adequate exercise and stimulation, otherwise, they may be destructive. They’re also extremely powerful and could easily knock over a frail elderly person. For these reasons, they’re not a good dog choice for the elderly.
It’s difficult to get a Central Asian Shepherd - you may need to search for a reputable breeder and go on a waiting list. They’re not cheap dogs and will cost you upwards of £1160.
Per month, it would cost you between £70 to £100 to care for your dog.
This breed is fairly low-maintenance in terms of grooming. They’ll need a weekly brush to remove loose hair and minimize shedding, along with an occasional bath to keep them looking polished. However, their nails grow impressively fast and will need regular trimming. Remember to brush their teeth regularly and check their ears and eyes, too.
The Central Asian Shepherd is a light shedder for most of the year. However, during ‘shedding season’, they shed excessively - so be prepared!
Nutrition of the Central Asia Shepherd Dog
It’s no surprise, due to their hefty size, that this breed requires huge amounts of food! Ideally, they need a formula which is made specifically for giant breed dogs in order to meet their high energy requirements.
Health of the Central Asia Shepherd Dog
Strong / robust
The Central Asian Shepherd is one of the strongest dogs around - they’re proper toughies!
The dog must be able to be hide from the sun in a shelter with fresh water during periods of heat wave.
The Central Asian Shepherd’s stocky body and thick coat means they’re able to adapt to cold climates and harsh weather.
Tendency to put on weight
Obesity isn’t a huge problem in this breed, though they’re likely to pile on the pounds if they don’t exercise for at least 1-2 hours per day. However, they are prone to bloat. To avoid this, it’s important to feed them on a raised surface and split up their daily food into at least two servings per day. In addition, make sure you don’t exercise your pooch right after a meal.