Caucasian Ovcharkas

The Caucasian Ovcharka is a flock-guarding dog from the Caucasus Mountains, in between Europe and Asia. There, his job is to protect sheep from wolves, as well as to guard property. This is a tall dog weighing 80 to 100 pounds or more with a large head, a long, thick double coat mostly in shades of gray with a ruff around the neck and feathering on the hind legs, and a heavily furred tail.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Caucasian bonds strongly with his family, including children and other pets, and he takes his guardianship of them seriously. With people he knows, he is steady, sweet and kind. He is an excellent watchdog, barking only at the approach of people who are unfamiliar. He is suspicious of strangers and may be aggressive towards dogs he doesn't know. This is not a dog who will be friendly to everyone he meets, no matter how much you socialize him. Be prepared for him to bark loudly at night, alerting you to possible dangers.

While his protective nature is attractive, the Caucasian is not the best choice for a novice dog owner. He needs someone who can guide him with firm, loving and patient training, never force or cruelty. He is smart, but also an independent thinker, traits that can cause a dog to be difficult to live with unless he has good leadership from his family.

Begin training as soon as you bring your Caucasian puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. Talk to your dog's trainer about instituting a nothing-in-life-is-free program, requiring the puppy to "work" for everything he gets by performing a command before receiving meals, toys, treats or play. It's always a good idea to take a Caucasian to puppy kindergarten followed by basic obedience class, especially if you are working with a trainer who understands the Caucasian mindset.

Early, frequent socialization is critical to prevent a Caucasian from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different. Purchase a Caucasian 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 Caucasian 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 Caucasian 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. Because of his low activity level, he can live in small quarters, but if you plan to keep the Caucasian in an apartment or condo with stairs, consider how you will get him up and down if he is ever sick or injured.

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

The Caucasian should have access to a fenced yard if possible, but when his family is home he should be indoors with them. Chaining a Caucasian out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior.

Brush the Caucasian's double coat thoroughly once or twice a week. He'll shed heavily (blow coat) once a year. Warm baths and frequent brushing will help the old coat come out faster and reduce the amount of hair floating around your house. Clean the ears and trim the nails as needed, and bathe the Caucasian on the rare occasions that he's dirty.

Health Issues Common to Caucasian Ovcharkas

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 Caucasian is a generally healthy breed, but he has some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip dysplasia and cataracts.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that a puppy's parents have OFA or PennHIP clearances for the hips and have been certified free of eye disease by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. 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
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Cataracts Medium $1,500-$5,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Caucasian Ovcharka 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. The Caucasian is not readily available, so you may have a wait of six months or even a year or more before a puppy is available.

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

Puppy or adult, take your Caucasian 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 Caucasian Ovcharkas

Pet insurance for Caucasian Ovcharkas costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Caucasians 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 Caucasian Ovcharkas are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Caucasian 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.