The Akbash Dog is a beautiful, large white dog that is alert, independent and highly protective. This dog breed is from Turkey and is quite rare. It was bred to be a powerful and relentless livestock guardian; to protect livestock and sheep in the snow.
This purebred dog breed is also referred to as an:
- Akbas Coban Kopegi,
- Akbaş Çoban Köpeği,
- Akbash Coban Kopegi dog,
- Askbash dog,
- Akbas dog,
- Or simply the ‘White Head’ dog
This large-sized purebred dog is a perfect guardian dog that cares about the flocks it guards and enjoys being physically close to them.
An Akbash has a low energy level and when socialized it is well-behaved around children, and makes a loyal and protective family pet.
It’s not stranger-friendly and will growl or bark if it senses danger, but it is not an overly aggressive breed.
An Akbash puppy is fairly rare to see but it is an adorable big white ball of fluff.
A brief history of the Akbash dog breed
So where did the Akbash dog breed come from?
The Akbash dog is a relatively unknown ancient large dog breed that is believed to have originated around 3000 years ago, in ‘the Fertile Crescent; a region within Western Asia that now includes the countries of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.
It was originally known as the Turkish ‘Akbash Coban Kopegi dog’ and was likely bred as a hunting and protection dog and later became a livestock guardian dog to protect shepherds’ flocks and livestock from predators; such as wolves and even bears.
The Akbash Shepherd dog is an amazingly attractive big dog with a pure white-colored coat that helps to camouflage it as it moves amongst the flocks of sheep, and goats, it is responsible for guarding in the snowy terrain of Turkey.
FACT: It is not a traditional sheepdog used for herding sheep it is a guardian dog that lives with its flock to protect it.
The name for this dog breed, known as the Akbash, comes from the Turkish word ‘Akbas’, meaning “white head.”
FACT: In the Turkish language, the names ‘Akbash’, ‘Akkush’, and ‘Kangal’ are specific types of livestock protection and guardian dogs within a certain region and “Coban Kopegi” means ‘shepherd’s dogs’.
So today’s white shepherd dog from Turkey is known by the name Akbash Coban Kopegi (Akbash for short).
When did it move to the USA?
In the 1970s, David and Judith Nelson, an American couple, were working in Western Turkey and began researching the Akbash working dog breed. They were fascinated by the protection skills and caring nature of this clever livestock guardian dog and decided to import it into the United States.
They are credited with establishing the Akbash breed in America. Shortly afterward, various Akbash breed associations were established to maintain the interest and standards of the breed; the Akbash Dog Association International (ADAI), the Akbash Dog Association of America (ADAA), and the ADAI’s North American affiliate.
Once in the United States, the Akbash dog breed was soon acknowledged for its ability as a protective and caring livestock guardian and its dedication to the animals under its care.
It was selected by The United States Department of Agriculture to be used in its predator control program.
The Akbash dog breed is not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the United Kennel Club, UK (UKC) or the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) – the World Canine Organization; only the Turkish Kennel Club formally recognizes this extremely rare breed.
The Akbash is recognized as the National Dog of Turkey.
The exact origin of the Akbash breed is unknown but it is believed that the Turkish Akbash dog breed may have been developed from a variety of established shepherd and working dogs:
The Akbash is not a well-known dog breed but it is considered the Turkish equivalent of other better known large white-colored livestock guardian breeds and shepherd dogs such as the Great Pyrenees (found in the mountain area of France and Spain), the Kuvaszs (from Hungary) and the Maremma (sheepdogs found in Italy’s plains and mountain areas).
Although Akbashes are considered to have a lower energy level than most other livestock guardian breeds, they make up for it in stamina and determination.
What does an Akbash dog look like?
The Akbash is a very alert, large-sized dog with a big white head and a powerful jaw.
Its coat is a white, weather-resistant, double coat that helps it withstand cold weather conditions. The coat is coarse, but doesn’t matt, and is free of the horrible doggy smell that water dogs have.
It is an attractive big dog with a kind face similar to that of a retriever but a much bigger body and taller like a Mastiff.
This Akbash dog breed has a combination of traits from both the Sighthound and the Mollosser (Mastiff) breeds, believed to have contributed to its bloodline; it appears to inherit its long legs, agility and speed from the Sighthound, and the strength, frame, and size from a Mastiff.
What are the main characteristics of an Akbash dog?
It’s alert, highly intelligent with great stamina.
This is an agile working dog with a great sense of hearing that was bred to protect livestock and still retains those protective and guarding instincts as a family pet or for flocks under its care; it is very maternal over its flock and quickly forms trust with those it protects.
Akbas-dogs have strong instincts and are good at sensing danger or predators approaching. They are quite fearless and will bravely fight a battle beyond their ability to protect those around them.
Barking and patrolling is their main method of defense. They are not an overly aggressive breed but they will growl or bark at strangers, or if they sense anything unusual; this makes them a good watchdog at night or guardian for children and animals.
As a very large and strong dog, it is fairly robust when it comes to playtime. This big dog can manage the playfulness of boisterous children, but not very young children, as it loves to play rough and is unlikely to get hurt easily.
However, despite being top class for playfulness the Akbash has a relatively low energy level and it may need more time out than most of the other working dogs it resembles.
They have an independent nature, probably from herding and guarding on their own in isolated terrain. This dog breed enjoys its own company and enjoys some solitary time so it is not common for them to suffer from separation anxiety when they are not with their master or family.
The best environment is a blend of personal space and the company of loved ones in a big fenced space, where the conditions are not too hot! This dog breed does not tolerate heat well due to its dense double coat
Loyalty and companionship:
The Akbash is a very loyal livestock guardian dog that will want to please its owner and keep close, but not all the time!
The Akbash is a gentle dog who is very protective of their family. They’re independent and will want to guard their space and home; it does not like strangers in its space.
This breed is known as a hard-working livestock guardian dog that is protective of its flock but not usually aggressive. It can be friendly and will engage with people when trained and socialized, and because of its big size and powerful stature, it can endure lots of rough and tumble type play.
But remember it is important to treat all protection dogs with respect otherwise it might feel challenged and react in a negative or aggressive way.
The Akbash is not a very well-known dog breed but within the Akbash circle of owners, it is very popular, lovable, and well respected.
The Akbash is moderately easy to train as it was bred to guard flocks of sheep and other animals like goats and therefore disciplined to follow orders.
Training will need to be consistent.
Harsh training tactics are not recommended with this powerful dog as it might rebel in an aggressive way or become timid and not cooperate.
They’re active, curious, and independent so early leash training is strongly recommended in the early years of life for this determined working type dog.
This dog was bred for guarding in solitary conditions so it will enjoy a lot of space to run around in and to go off for some solo time, from time to time.
Power and intelligence:
The Akbash dogs are smart, alert, and aware of everything around them. They have a good sense of smell, sight, and hearing and work on instinct.
They have great resilience and determination, and their coat helps protect them from general inclement weather conditions and especially in the snow.
Akbashes are obedient and strong guarding dogs with very sharp instincts. They are capable of guarding flocks of sheep and goats against predators and will challenge regardless of how fierce the predator is.
They have a great sense of hearing and are vigilant and wary of pending danger and always ready to protect whoever or whatever is guarding. Its loyalty, alert nature, and strong senses would make it suitable for therapy work or search and rescue. Its ability to bond to its family would make it a good watchdog.
When this breed of dog is socialized and obedience trained properly as a puppy it will blend in, and form a strong protective bond with its family. It will double as a loyal companion and affectionate but protective family pet.
Early leash training is a must to keep a herding–type dog under control. They are independent and like to wander so walking with a leash will be needed as the puppy grows and gets used to its surroundings; crowded public places, dog parks, and local traffic.
When socialized properly this large dog will demonstrate affection and playfulness, and love open spaces but not thrive in an apartment environment.
It’s an obedient dog breed but it’s powerful and determined therefore not recommended for a novice or weak dog owner.
It’s relatively easy to train, as long as it has a purpose and will be eager to please its master, but they aren’t naturally fond of other animals, especially same-gender dogs, and may prefer to be the only pet in the household.
This great big dog needs to be properly socialized and obedience trained early.
They won’t bark excessively but they are alert to noises and will bark or become destructive if bored or don’t get enough stimulation and exercise. It is therefore important to make sure this dog gets enough exercise, but not too much as its energy level is not very high; typical one hour of daily exercises and play.
Physical Characteristics of an Akbash dog
The Akbash is a large-sized purebred dog with a solid white coat, it’s lean with a springy gait and a long tail that’s tapered at the end.
|Height||Up to 30-34” (76-86cm)||Up to 28-32 (71-81cm)|
|Weight||90-130lb (41-60kg)||90-130lb (41-60kg)|
|Lifespan||10-12 years||10-12 years|
|Litter Size||6-10 puppies/litter (average 7)|
Coat: A thick, weather-resistant, double coat; the protective finer undercoat is for insulation against the cold. Non-matting and not smelly!
Color: A Solid Whitecoat
Eyes: Almond-shaped eyes, color can be light golden brown to very dark brown.
Ears: Are V-shaped and set high on the head, slightly rounded tips that sit flat to the skull and hang down like pendants
Temperament: It’s gentle and friendly when trained and good around children. This dog is very independent and not overly energetic; it needs some time-out on its own.
How should you train an Akbash puppy?
An Akbash puppy has a fairly low energy level and should be trained gently, in stages, and in the early months.
Akbash dogs are determined and curious. They will want to investigate rather than be told what to do. Training must be consistent and firm but not aggressive or harsh, as it can become aggressive if chastised and may refuse to cooperate.
This puppy will need ongoing positive reinforcement and little food-based treats will work well during training but not too much as it should not put on excessive weight which could pressure on its hips.
Praise for good behavior and gentle reprimands for not behaving will work best. It will need to be able to go out in public and needs to know how to follow orders – for its safety and to follow the rules in public.
There are various types of recommended training: obedience, discipline, agility, and socialization.
So, if you are not going to use a professional dog trainer:
1) Develop your basic command words: Find keywords such as Stop, Sit, and Wait, etc. and be consistent each time you use them.
2) Crate – Buy a crate and get this wary and curious puppy used to going into it. This will eventually become its nest and it will sleep there. You will have to lock the cage in the early days so it knows it has to sleep there and it’s useful to experience for bladder control and when transporting this breed.
3) Potty training – This may be hit and miss for a new puppy who gets easily excited and lacks control, however products are available, such as mats and odor sprays to attract puppy go to the same spot each time
4) Walking on a leash – Voice commands and road awareness is important for this nosey puppy’s safety, as they may want to wander off.
Health problems and health issues
Any purebred dog breed, like the Akbash, can inherit certain genetic health problems; similar to those of its Mastiff ancestor:
Hip Dysplasia – an abnormality where the ball and socket of the hip joint are not a neat fit. Excessive movement can lead to further damage to the limbs, extreme pain possible bone disease such as arthritis. Dogs with known Hip Dysplasia should not be bred.
Hypothyroidism – a thyroid gland disorder, causing the thyroid gland to be underactive. It is fairly common in dogs and it causes its bodily functions to work more slowly. Symptoms include lethargy, weight gain, and a change in its skin and hair.
Gastric torsion (bloat) – common in large dog breeds that eat too much or too quickly and suffer a build-up of gas that impacts on other organs in the body. This is a serious condition and needs medical attention.
Canine Dilated cardiomyopathy – this is a heart disorder, where the cardiac muscle in the heart doesn’t generate enough pressure to pump blood through the vascular system. This will need medical attention.
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Caring for your Akbash dog – what’s needed?
Akbashes are prone to weight gain because of their low energy levels.
It will need around one hour of exercise a day, with walks, activities, and playtime. It will want to please the master and will use its inherent stamina to do what it has to do, but it’s best to split activities over the day for this breed.
They would suit a fenced yard and a large area for them to wander around and where they can exercise themselves, but not where they can escape!
Akbashes should not be overfed.
Feed as a large-sized dog. This kind of dog is a meat-eating type and red meat is the ideal kind of food but it also requires high fiber food. A diet rich with vegetables is also good for its health.
If it’s being fed formulated dog food it will require 3-5 cups of high-quality Kibble per day, split into 2 feeds a day to prevent bloat; the amount depends on size, build, metabolism, and activity level.
Their coat can be long or medium in length and is dense and double-coated so it will shed moderately. Therefore only moderate maintenance required; needs to be brushed 2-3 times a week, to remove debris and dirt.
A slicker brush is useful to remove dead hair. This breed is not hypoallergenic.
This big double-coated dog only needs to be bathed when needed as it does not have a smelly coat, and its natural coat oil can be stripped with over-bathing.
Certain dog formulated shampoos have a double effect of cleaning the dog coat and protecting it against fleas and insect bites.
Cleaning teeth, nails, and ears
Check teeth to prevent a build-up of plaque and avoid gum disease. Nails need to be trimmed regularly and ears checked for dirt build-up, and debris collected that can lead to infection.
Positives and Negatives of Akbash ownership
- An Outdoor-type
- Good in an emergency
- Attractive dense white hair
- A loyal and protective companion
- Alert and obedient, makes a good watchdog
- Adaptable and fun-loving
- Bonds strongly with owner
- Child friendly when trained and socialized
- Independent and needs its own space
- Not stranger friendly
- Alpha male that doesn’t like same-gender dogs
- Mischievous and destructive if bored or left alone
- Low energy level
- Needs fenced space to run, not for apartment life
Commonly Asked Questions:
Q. How much does an Akbash puppy cost?
A. Budget approximately $600- $2000, from a reputable breeder, or consider adopting one for around $300, do your research though as this is not a commonly available breed.
Q. Why is an Akbash puppy so expensive?
A. They’re a rare dog breed. Each litter produces on average 7 puppies so there is usually a waiting list. They are usually fully vaccinated, chipped, and should be passport and name registered. This all adds to the overall cost.
Q What other costs should I expect?
A. A good quality dry dog food, Kibble, and they like a meat diet too, plus Vet’s fees, vaccinations, medications and accessories and toys, collar, leash, grooming equipment.