THE QUIET MAN: THE ANATOLIAN SHEPHERD DOG IN THE SHOW RING
When you approach a herd that has Anatolians guarding it, you likely won’t see the dogs until they stand out from the flock and warn you away. They are roughly the same size and color as the sheep and goats they guard.
They are masters of calm and blending in, and when you breed for working dogs, you select for dogs that are loathe to leave home and herd.
Over millennia, Turkish shepherds took the dog—a predator—and selected for behaviors (lower prey drive, heightened suspicion, pronounced maternal instinct regardless of gender, extreme intelligence coupled with a profoundly independent nature) and turned it from a threat into an animal that would protect the flock and be a comforting presence to a herd of wary prey animals. This no-longer-predator is the foundation stock of the dog that is the Anatolian. Whereas the Border Collie is a canine Swiss Army knife that can do almost any- thing well enough, and the Rottweiler is a multi-purpose farm dog that can bring in your cows, pull the cart with the milk to the sale, drive the beef to the butcher, and guard your purse on the trip home, the Anatolian is like a grapefruit spoon; he has one purpose in life, and that is to keep his livestock safe from harm. This purely utilitarian purpose (guarding livestock from things that would harm them) is the sole reason for the existence of the breed. RESERVE AROUND STRANGERS: THE CANINE INTROVERT When you approach a herd that has Anatolians guarding it, you likely won’t see the dogs until they stand out from the flock and warn you away. They are roughly the same size and color as the sheep and goats they guard. They are masters of calm and blending in, and when you breed for working dogs, you select for dogs that are loathe leave home and herd. You, as a judge, want to see the same calm, reserved demeanor in your ring. Puppies will be more accepting of strangers and exhibit far less suspicious behavior than adults, but this “willingness to tolerate” novelty goes away with age. Adult Anatolians will present a dour, sedate, even suspicious demeanor. Do not penalize a dog that does not want to be in the ring. An Anatolian that is made to leave its home and stock, and go out in public at the pleasure of its owner, is an unhappy dog and should not have this held against it. He is being true to his breed. This is not a showy breed, like a Doberman. You will not see Anatolians gaiting down and back and then “nailing a free stack” with enthusiasm. You do not want to see that behavior, as a judge, because it is incorrect for the breed. The only time an Anatolian moves with speed and intent is when it has warned a predator off and the predator has refused to leave. The typical Anatolian reserve translates into a dog, in the best case scenario, that is generally indifferent to your presence and, worst case scenario, completely shuts down in the ring. Some dogs will be avoidant and may move away from you. As long as they do not menace you, and you can touch them, they should be allowed to stay in the ring. Let the handler show the bite (front only) and make your exam as brief as possible. This is not a breed that requires extensive touching. Watching them move should give you a pretty good idea of structure, and you can use the brief exam to determine if what you saw was, indeed, the case.
250 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, MAY 2021
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