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Subject: rec.pets.dogs: Caucasian Ovtcharkas Breed-FAQ
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:39 GMT
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997
There are nearly 100 FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
alteration provided that this copyright notice is not removed.
It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
than the URL listed above without the permission of the Author(s).
This article may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in other
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without express or implied warranty.
Copyright 1995 by Catherine Goldman, Robin Leff.
Caucasian Ovtcharka International
PO Box 2355
Boston, Mass. 02130
Table of Contents
+ What is a Caucasian Ovtcharka?
+ How big do they get?
+ What colors are allowed?
+ What kind of temperament do Caucasians have?
+ Are they good with children?
+ Are they good with other dogs?
+ Are they good house dogs?
+ What is their level of energy?
+ What about shedding?
+ Aren't they messy dogs?
+ Do they eat much?
+ How do Caucasians do in weather extremes?
+ Do ears have to be cropped?
+ What about obedience training?
+ Should I breed my dog?
* Health Issues
+ Do they get hip dysplasia?
+ Any special advice or issues that should be known about
* Getting a Caucasian
+ Why would you not recommend a Caucasian?
+ Should I get a male or a female?
+ Should I get a puppy or an older dog?
+ What does "show quality" vs. "pet quality" mean?
+ How much do they cost?
+ How do I locate a breeder to purchase a puppy?
+ How can I tell if a breeder is reputable?
* Dog Shows and Breed Clubs
+ Showing dogs looks like fun but scary. How hard is it?
+ Why don't I see Caucasians at AKC dog shows?
+ Where else can I show my dog?
+ What should I expect from a breed club?
+ What are the benefits of joining a breed club?
+ What you can do for your club
What is a Caucasian Ovtcharka?
In the remote regions of the Caucasus Mountains and Steppes, which
span several territories of the former Soviet Union, there hails one
of the significant rare breeds of our time. This breed is recognized
by many authorities not only for its incredibly attractive bear-like
appearance but for its supreme versatility. The Caucasian Ovtcharka,
as we know it today, is indeed testimony to Darwin's theory of
survival of the fittest!
The Caucasian Ovtcharka, a member of the working group, is a very old
breed of Molosser origins. This large, generally rough coated dog has
been considered by many to be a descendant of the Tibetan Mastiff;
however, current archaeological evidence suggest otherwise. The most
recent research suggests that the ancestors of all the working
sheepdog breeds most likely originate from ancient dogs that lived in
the forested hills of Iraq and Mesopotamia.
Nomadic tribes settling in the remote regions of the Caucasus brought
working dogs with them which evolved with little outside intervention
into the hardy, intelligent Caucasian Ovtcharka. The breed takes its
name both from the region of origin and from the original purpose of
Caucasian refers to the regions of the Caucasus, which include
Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Daghestan, Iran and Turkey. Ovtcharka, a
Russian word, translates to Shepherd or Sheepdog. Not to be confused
with herding breeds, the Caucasian is actually a livestock guardian,
bred for the role of bonding with the livestock and effectively
fending off predators -- whether wolves, bears or thieves.
For centuries, the breed was little known outside these remote regions
and were first seen in European dog shows in 1930s Germany. In 1952,
the breed was sub-divided into two distinct types: the Transcaucasian
Ovtcharka, the heavier boned, more massive dog from the mountain
regions; and the Caucasian Ovtcharka, the lighter built dog of the
steppe regions. In 1976 the two types were re-classified as one breed
with all dogs expected to conform to the same standard. However,
individuals of the breed can still be identified by regional type
today, with each area of the former USSR having its own varieties,
including numerous sub-types. Today, the best examples are considered
to be of "Georgian" type, a heavy-boned, heavy-coated type often said
to most resemble a bear.
The Caucasian has an elaborate history that goes well beyond its
pastoral origins. Realizing the versatility of the breed, the Soviet
Army enlisted the Caucasian as a service dog and it was used as a
guard in both war and peace time. Breeding and promotion of the breed
for military and industrial use became the responsibility of the famed
"Red Star Kennels" where many modern dogs had their origin.
As the Caucasian has slowly become known in the West, it has continued
to uphold a reputation for trainability and adaptability, making the
breed an excellent candidate for service dog, family
companion/guardian, and flock guardian in the appropriate situations.
How big do they get?
A typical male should stand anywhere from 25 1/2 to 30 + inches at the
withers and should weigh 100 + pounds. Females are a bit smaller, 80 +
pounds and a minimum of 24 1/2 inches.
What colors are allowed?
All colors except solid black and solid brown, black ticking and
combinations of black and brown. Most commonly seen are various shades
of gray. Other colors described are rust, straw, yellow, white,
brindle, earth, spotted and piebald.
What kind of temperament do Caucasians have?
The Caucasian was developed to guard flocks and thus is naturally
protective. Though their appearance may be fierce, in general they
should be a calm and steady dog with even temperament. They should be
well behaved with and accepting of all family members, but naturally
wary of strangers. Although more eager to please than many flock
guardians, they still can be quite independent and stubborn when
compared to more easily trained breeds such as the German Shepherd dog
or Golden Retriever. It is important to "socialize" the Caucasian at
an early age to properly adapt to different people and situations. If
you are planning to use your Caucasian for flock guardian work, it is
important to start exposing them to the livestock as early as
possible. With proper socialization and training, you should have few
Are they good with children?
Yes. most Caucasians are good with children they know and would never
hurt them purposely. However, it is imperative to establish the proper
pecking order from the beginning, making the Caucasian understand that
it cannot push the children around. It is also essential to realize
that they are large dogs and sometimes forget their size. This can
result in a child accidentally being knocked down or stepped on. As
with any pet, it is important that young children be supervised by an
adult when playing with your Caucasian. Also, as a dog bred to protect
their flocks, Caucasians will substitute the family for its flock and
may try to keep strangers or other threats away from the children.
Older children with an active social life need to realize that
although their friends may like dogs, it may not be appropriate for
the dog to interact with every visitor.
Are they good with other dogs?
Most Caucasians are able to live with other dogs, cats and of course
livestock. If you have other pets it would be best to get a puppy so
everyone learns to get along.
Females are more likely to be able to live together; two male dogs who
have not been neutered can rarely be expected to live peaceably.
Are they good house dogs?
Well, that depends on what you mean. If you have a pristine house with
many precious and breakable items, you may need to think twice. If you
have a good vacuum cleaner, have moved the crystal out of the way and
are ready and eager for an adventure, than yes, the Caucasian can be a
great house dog.
Any dog can be trained to behave in a house and the Caucasian is no
exception. Puppies need to be housebroken and taught what is
permissible behavior and what is not. All puppies and young adults
chew and crate training can be of great benefit to you and your dog in
this regard. Talk with your breeder, trainer or experienced dog owners
about the value of using a crate.
Caucasians respond very well to steady and consistent training.
Caucasians are not really that different from most other dogs, except
that you can never forget that they are a large dog and the problems
or challenges may be correspondingly bigger. For instance, you may
find the crate for your dog is bigger than the kitchen table! You may
also want to buy stock in the company that makes rolling hair removers
for clothes and furniture. Although large in size and requiring
regular exercise, CO'S make excellent house or apartment dogs as they
generally do a lot of lying around. Their activity level is quite low
compared with many smaller breeds.
What is their level of energy?
As with most livestock guarding breeds, the CO is generally a
phlegmatic, low activity level dog. Originally they were bred to lay
around with the sheep all day and keep predators at bay. As most
predators are nocturnal, you may find your CO much more active at
night. If you are planning on keeping your dog outside, you must
realize they are alarm barkers and will give warning to anything
encroaching their territory. Do not be fooled by their habit of lying
around, appearing to be dozing. The slightest disturbance will rouse
them and most CO'S are surprisingly quick and agile.
What about shedding?
Although they lose hair all the time in small quantities, most CO'S
"blow coat" at least once a year. When this happens large tufts of
hair are everywhere! Get out the rakes and combs and go to work. With
proper grooming, the mess can be minimized and save that fur! Clothing
knit from CO fur is said to bring good luck and longevity to the
Aren't they messy dogs?
Well they do shed and like the mud. Pound for pound, they are no
messier than most other dogs but since they are big dogs, any mess is
Do they eat much?
For their size they are an easy keeper. While a growing puppy or a
pregnant or lactating bitch might consume as much as 8-10 cups a day,
an unstressed adult dog will likely consume much less. You should feed
your CO a high quality food that provides necessary nutrition. Check
with your breeder to see what they recommend. Some breeders supplement
the diet with cooked meat, yogurt, goats milk, etc. Young pups need to
be fed 2-3 times a day, while adults 1-2 times a day.
How do Caucasians do in weather extremes?
CO'S do well in all kinds of climactic conditions. They absolutely
love cold weather and snow. Under normal conditions a good solid dog
house with plenty of bedding is sufficient. They tolerate heat equally
well with sufficient shade and water.
Do ears have to be cropped?
No. This is a personal option. Ear cropping is traditional (as a flock
guardian, dogs are at an advantage if the prey have no ears to bite
at) but not required even for show dogs. Although a cropped ear is
preferred, many European countries have banned cropping for humane
reasons. The cropped ear does change the expression, however, and some
feel it makes the look of the dog.
What about obedience training?
As soon as your pup is old enough, a "Puppy Kindergarten" is highly
recommended (contact a local obedience or breed club to find one),
followed by a basic obedience class. Caucasians respond well to
positive reinforcement training methods and will enjoy short, fun,
creative training sessions. Obedience training also helps to establish
the bond between you as pack leader and your dog as a respected member
of the pack. Beyond the obvious benefits of having a well trained dog,
many people enjoy working with their dogs in obedience competition.
Through breed and all-breed clubs, Caucasians can compete for the
Companion Dog (CD) or more advanced titles. Any large breed of dog is
encouraged to attain AKC'S Canine Good Citizen title, which several
Caucasians in this country have already achieved. With a Caucasian, it
is particularly important to remember that obedience training is not
for 1 hour a week for 8 sessions, it's forever.
Should I breed my dog?
Before you consider breeding, talk to a breeder about the problems,
pitfalls, expenses and heartaches and have your bitch properly
evaluated by knowledgeable persons. Have you ever handled the breeding
of large dogs before? Its not as automatic as you think! Are you
prepared to pay for all the necessary expenses? Testing before the
pregnancy? Caring for a pregnant bitch? Are you willing to pay for a
cesarean section if necessary? What if the bitch dies? Have you ever
had to hand feed a large litter before? Are you ready to watch the
litter 24 hours daily to insure the mother doesn't roll over on them?
Do you have a Vet lined up to come into your home? Are you willing to
pay? What if you can't sell all the pups by 8 weeks of age? Will you
be able to continue to pay for the vaccinations and extra mouths? If
you can't sell them right away, what about housing, housebreaking,
socialization and training? No dog needs to be a mother or a father to
You should breed your dog only if:
1. Your dog meets the approved standard.
2. You have proven this by showing your dog, or by having it
evaluated by more than one knowledgeable person.
3. You are prepared to care for all the resulting puppies regardless
of when they sell.
4. You are willing to take back any puppy/dog you have bred, should
the circumstance arise.
You should not breed your dog if your main motive is to make money, or
to recoup your purchase price, or expenses! When breeding is done
right, it is doubtful you will accomplish either. Dog breeding is not
a casual venture. Before breeding your dog, visit the local animal
shelter and talk with the staff.
Do they get hip dysplasia?
Caucasians, like any large breed, can be afflicted with hip dysplasia.
Adult dogs should be x-rayed for signs of the disease. The Orthopedic
Foundation for Animals, (OFA) issues numbers to dogs with acceptable
hips. When buying a puppy, always try to find a breeder that is using
x-rayed stock. Ask to see OFA certificates or letters from a certified
Veterinarian. Reputable breeders will guarantee their pups against hip
dysplasia and other severe genetic defects.
Any special advice or issues that should be known about health?
As of this writing (1995) Caucasians appear to have few genetically
linked health problems. As mentioned before, hip dysplasia is of some
concern. In the FCI and Russian breed standards eye disease, cataracts
and loose lower eyelids are mentioned.
Getting a Caucasian
Why would you not recommend a Caucasian?
CO'S are not a dog for everyone. Why not? They demand time, attention,
frequent training and handling. They are strong, willful and cannot be
expected to like everyone. Without proper training, they can be very
aggressive to both people and dogs. They do bark a lot and have a lot
of hair. They require firm, steady and consistent training. A CO needs
to learn manners well enough to be trusted to react as you would want
and expect in all situations. If you know you are totally confident in
your ability to handle a large, dominant dog even in threatening
situations and are able to supply the necessary time, energy,
attention and money to raise and keep a dog for its full life, only
then should you consider a Caucasian.
Should I get a male or a female?
As with many breeds, males are generally larger and can be more
aggressive. Females may be a bit easier in the house because of their
smaller size. Also females are usually less dominant and can be easier
with children. The answer for you depends on personal preference,
whether you've owned a Caucasian before, whether you have other male
dogs in the house or whether you've had experience with other flock
guardians or large working breeds before. This should also be a point
to discuss with your breeder.
Should I get a puppy or an older dog?
Some people prefer to acquire an older dog that has already been house
broken, has some training and is no longer chewing. Some people are in
seventh heaven around a pup and don't mind the trials and tribulations
of puppyhood. Some are even crazy enough to have more than one puppy
at a time.
What does "show quality" vs. "pet quality" mean?
To determine its show potential, each dog is compared against its
breed standard. A dog or puppy displaying any disqualifying faults
would be graded as pet quality. Sometimes the faults are only visible
to a knowledgeable person, while sometimes the fault is very visible.
Show quality means that the dog has no serious faults as defined by
the breed standard. This does not mean that the temperament will be
good, that the dog will ever win at shows, or will become a champion.
Puppies graded show quality at the time of sale by the breeder are
considered only to have the potential to be shown.
If you pay show quality price, you should have a written guarantee
that the puppy will be replaced or part of the purchase price be
refunded should the puppy develop a disqualifying fault, or other
defect or disease which would prevent it from being shown. Show
quality is much easier to assess in an adult dog. If your heart is set
on a show dog, you may be happier purchasing an adult whose structure
and quality are already clear.
Pet quality dogs cannot be shown in the conformation ring. However,
they can compete in obedience, agility or make a perfectly suitable
livestock or family guardian. Generally these dogs should not be bred
and should be neutered, as they can pass on their faults to their
offspring. Most breeders will register pet quality puppies under a
limited registration or with a spay/neuter contract.
Usually pet quality dogs have a less expensive purchase price. There
should be no difference in the dog's abilities, or the amount of time,
training, cost and care that they require.
How much do they cost?
The cost of a Caucasian depends on many factors including whether one
or both the parents have championship status; whether or not the
animal is American bred or imported; and whether health and hips are
guaranteed. A pet quality puppy might range from $500.00 to $1,000.00.
Show quality puppies generally cost $800.00 and up. Imported dogs can
cost more. Older dogs may be priced higher or lower depending on the
quality of the dog and whether or not it has earned any championship
points or has had obedience training.
How do I locate a breeder to purchase a puppy?
One way is to visit a rare breed show and talk with exhibitors and
owners of CO'S. Various dog publications list breeders or clubs. Rare
breed organizations often have breeder referral services.
How can I tell if a breeder is reputable?
Start by looking at the conditions. Do the bitch and her pups appear
healthy? Ask a lot of questions. How long has the breeder been active
in breeding, showing and training dogs. What dog clubs do they belong
to? How long have they had Caucasians? How many individual dogs do
they own? How often do they have puppies available? Be sure to ask for
references. Expect that you may have to get on a waiting list to get
what you want.
Make sure the breeder can substantiate all titles claimed, as well as
furnish proof of X-rays. Beware of people that keep what would
logically seem like too many dogs, or have multiple litters annually.
The breeder should be just as interested in you as you are in them and
ask lots of questions. Beware of complicated co-ownership contracts
with future breeding commitments. Make sure you get a written contract
that you've read and completely understand.
Dog Shows and Breed Clubs
Showing dogs looks like fun but scary. How hard is it?
If you've never been to a dog show, you must go! It's a canine lover's
paradise with dogs of every size and descriptions, vendors selling
every dog related item you could think of and lots of people enjoying
their passion. If you've seen Westminster dog show on TV, you must
realize this is the "super bowl" of dogdom with the finest dogs,
handlers and judges. However, the average dog show is not nearly as
extravagant. If you think you could be bitten by the bug, talk to your
breeder and find a breed handling class in your area. Here you will
learn proper ring technique.
Showing your dog can be a great hobby for you and the whole family.
Its a great way to meet other CO owners and dog enthusiasts and have a
lot of fun.
Why don't I see Caucasians at AKC dog shows?
Caucasians are just one of many breeds not recognized by the American
Kennel Club (which only recognizes about 1/3 of over 300 separately
There are many types of flock guardians and most countries with an
agrarian culture have dogs that have been used as livestock guardians
throughout history. Some of the more popular breeds, such as the Great
Pyrenees, Kuvasz and Komondor, are recognized by the AKC. However, the
vast majority of flock guardians are considered "rare breeds" in the
U.S. In addition to the Caucasian Ovtcharka, some other examples of
flock breeds are the Maremma Abruzzi, Anatolian Shepherd Dog and the
Sharplaninatz. While some are rarer than others, all these breeds are
considered purebreds, which means that the dogs and all prior
generations before it are purebred. Each country has various
registration bodies which records pedigrees, keeps a stud book and may
provide shows. Currently, Caucasians and other rare flock guardians
can be shown at the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA) shows.
Where else can I show my dog?
In addition to ARBA shows, Caucasians can be shown at other rare breed
shows and at match shows where rare breeds are invited. You can find
out about these venues through your breeder, various publications and
from other rare breed enthusiasts.
What should I expect from a breed club?
You should expect that the breed club will give honest and unbiased
information. You should expect the club to keep accurate and fair
records. That it will be run in a democratic fashion and not be a
soapbox for one person's vision or opinions. That, in the case of the
Caucasian Ovtcharka, it follows the world standard, which at present
is FCI #328. A club should be open to all fanciers of the breed and is
not a private organization. It is not a broker or an importer or a
front for these individuals. It is not a guarantee that a puppy or dog
registered through a breed club is anything but purebred. A club
registration does not validate individual dogs temperaments or
standards of beauty. This is up to the individual to study for him or
What are the benefits of joining a breed club?
A breed club keeps the official stud book. It registers individual
dogs and litters of puppies. It will offer breed information and
breeder referral to its members and other people making inquiries
without prejudice. It will sponsor honest shows and working
evaluations as a forum for people to evaluate their stock and breed
for improvement. It will publish an informative newsletter on a
regular basis. It will serve as a clearinghouse for new and important
information about the breed and its history, health and
accomplishments around the world.
What you can do for your club
All the services provided by the club cost money. By joining the club,
you pay dues which help to support these services. The club needs not
just your monetary support but your physical help as well. If you have
the time and the inclination, please volunteer your services! The club
cannot function without you, the members!
Caucasian Ovtcharka FAQ