The tall, lean, white-coated Akbash is a livestock guardian breed from Turkey. He is also a flock guardian in this country, but he can be a family companion or show dog as well. The Akbash has many good qualities, but he is not the easiest dog to live with. If you want the calm, confident dog that is the Akbash at his best, be prepared to do a lot of homework to find him and put in plenty of effort training and socializing him once you bring him home.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Akbash is quiet, watchful and protective of his family, including other pets. His goal is to keep them safe from two-legged, four-legged and winged predators, and he tends to watch over them from a central or high area that gives him a good view of his surroundings. He is suspicious of strangers and can be aggressive towards dogs he doesn't know.

While his protective nature is attractive, the Akbash is not the best choice for a novice dog owner. He needs someone who can guide him with kind, firm, consistent training, never force or cruelty. He is an independent thinker but responds well to routine.

Begin training as soon as you bring your Akbash puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. That 20-pound ball of white fluff will quickly grow much larger. Many Akbash breeders recommend a nothing-in-life-is-free program, requiring puppies to "work" for everything they get by performing a command before receiving meals, toys, treats or play. It's always a good idea to take an Akbash to puppy kindergarten followed by basic obedience class, especially if you are working with a trainer who understands the Akbash mindset.

Early, frequent socialization is essential to prevent an Akbash from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different. Purchase an Akbash puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes. Continue socializing your Akbash throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, visits to friends and neighbors, and outings to local shops and businesses. This is the only way he can learn to be discriminating, recognizing what is normal and what is truly a threat.

The mature Akbash has a low activity level, but puppies are active and need room to run in a safe, traffic-free area. He is best suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least five or six feet high. This is a territorial breed, and he must learn his boundaries. Do not rely on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. The shock it provides is nothing to this tough dog, and he won't let it deter him from leaving the yard if that's what he wants to do. Remember that this is a giant breed, weighing 90 to 130 pounds.

Like any dog, Akbash puppies are inveterate chewers and because of their size, they can do a lot of damage. Don't give them the run of the house until they've reached trustworthy maturity. And keep your Akbash puppy busy; a bored Akbash is a destructive Akbash.

The Akbash can live outdoors, but he should spend plenty of time indoors with his family. Chaining an Akbash out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior.

The Akbash has a beautiful white medium-length or long double coat that sheds dirt but also sheds hair. Brush him at least once a week to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy. Clean the ears and trim the nails as needed, and bathe the Akbash on the rare occasions that he's dirty.

Health Issues Common to Akbash

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

The Akbash has some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include orthopedic problems such as osteochondritis dissecans and hip dysplasia; epilepsy; cardiomyopathy; and autoimmune thyroiditis. The breed may also be prone to gastric torsion (bloat), umbilical hernias, cruciate ligament injuries, and cancers such as osteosarcoma and lymphoma.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that a puppy's parents have OFA or PennHIP clearances for hip dysplasia. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Bloat Medium $1,500-$7,500
Osteochondrosis Medium $2,000-$4,000
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Cardiomyopathy Medium $500-$2,000
Umbilical Hernia Medium $150-$500
Cruciate Ligament Injury Medium $1,000-$3,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Akbash Puppy

Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. A list of breeders can be found on the website of the Akbash Dog Association of America.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Akbash aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since an Akbash can live to be 10 to 14 years of age, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.

Puppy or adult, take your Akbash to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of diabetes and skin problems, including ear infections.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Akbash

Pet insurance for Akbash costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Akbash are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Akbash are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Akbash is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.