Positives & Negatives of a Caucasian Ovcharka (CO)
The Negatives Most breed profiles state that their breed is not for everyone. In this breed, we go one step further: the Caucasian Ovcharka is only for a very hardy few. If you want a big furry dog, get a Newfoundland or a Saint Bernard. If you want a rare breed flock guardian, get an Akbash. But if you need a dog that will play with your children and defend you with his life, maybe a Caucasian is for you. Their protective reaction is termed in the standard "actively defensive". Read, the dog will attack anyone, repeat anyone, that he perceives to be a threat to his home or family. In every respect, the responsibility required to effectively control this breed is that needed for a loaded gun with the safety off. You don't leave it laying around, you know where it is every minute, you know who is in control of it and that they have been trained in the proper and safe handling of it, and you keep and maintain it in a controlled manner. The point here is not to paint an image of a terrifying and unpredictable animal, but rather to establish the fact that the Caucasian's mission in life is to protect and defend, and they will do whatever is necessary to achieve that mission. Let's take a hypothetical situation: a Caucasian is destroyed when he bites a neighboring youth after a tussle between his teenage master and the other teen gets rough. This would not be the dog's fault. He would only be doing what he has been bred to do for centuries -- protect his own. The fault, if fault could be found, would lie in the failed communications between those who would educate the populace about the breed, and the populace who must listen, and take the responsibility seriously. This failed communication has already been responsible for several CO bites in the U.S. It is a sad failure, and one which the dog inevitably pays for with his life. If this profile seems harsh then, it is only to prevent a doomed breed/owner mismatch.
The Positives So why would anyone want a Caucasian Ovcharka? Well, this is a very special-purpose breed, and if your needs fit into this category, no other breed will quite fit the bill. Like a firearm, a Caucasian is designed for protection. A fierce guardian with highly evolved predatory instincts, the Caucasian will be as soft and submissive with his owners as he is hard and aggressive to strangers. Large and basically low-energy, Caucasians do quite well on a small property, as long as lengthy daily walks are given. These traits make them well-suited to providing formidable guard dog duties to even in-town dwellers, (though apartments or townhouses are not suitable due to the CO's propensity for barking every time the slightest sound emerges from the next dwelling). If a family guardian is needed, a more ferocious guard could hardly be found, no matter what the "family" might consist of -- extended family, close friends, or other pets. We bought our first Caucasian to protect our Siberian Huskies from mountain lions, which are a problem in the area of Montana where we were building. He bonded with the Siberians and he protected his "flock" with the intensity born of centuries of guardianship!
Another plus of the Caucasian is that, for all their size, (males can reach 180 pounds) and ferocity when challenged, they are willing workers that respond happily when praise is plentiful. Caucasians need to have a job to do, and if the "job" is only a walk through the neighborhood everyday (their version of a patrol) or a quick obedience session, they are happy. Because of this, obedience training is easy, if not flashy -- due to their size. They are easy to housebreak and are highly intelligent, picking up the meaning of new words on their own. Professional Dog Trainers who have dealt with the breed describe them as "soft", which means that less physical correction is required to obtain compliance or halt a transgression in progress. This however, does not apply to their Defensive Reaction, which means you will have to rein in your charge using all your vocal and physical strength when he bounds out of your vehicle in the grocery store parking lot and tries to eat the shopper that ventured too close to your car.
Caucasians are extremely devoted to their family and flock, and upon greeting family members will wag their front ends almost as fiercely as their back ends, threatening lamps, end tables, and the balance of any small children or elders in the vicinity. With family and close friends, they are the manifestation of a marshmallow, bowing and whimpering upon receiving a verbal thrashing for gleefully gnawing through a table leg. They are sensitive giants who visibly sulk when expecting and not receiving their usual attention or treat or walk. They will mope if a favored canine friend moves from the neighborhood, and males become so lovesick over a local bitch in heat that they can stop eating completely for the duration of the event.
But just let a stranger become threatening in any manner and this same marshmallow will transform instantaneously into a demon.
I learned this many years ago when, sitting on the sidelines with my marshmallow watching my (now ex-) husband act as a police-dog agitator, I failed to reckon on how threatening our nine-month-old pup would find the attack work. Before I finally had him back under control on the sidelines, I was covered with mud and leaves, and had left two long deep ruts through the officer's lawn. I'd plowed these with my feet as our marshmallow went berserk, until I'd finally gone down, face first, to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to leave a body-wide swath of grassless yard behind me. In the end though, that was all the damage that was done, and I came away with smug satisfaction at the look in the officer's eye for having managed to control -- albeit in a not so dignified manner -- my 130-pound raging demon.
So if you are looking for a family protector, consider the Caucasian. It is our belief that, as a natural guardian, the Caucasian cannot be beat. After having trained and worked with dogs for over 40 years, I cannot envision a dog that could be any more aggressive and still be a part of the home and family.
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