More Things We Have Learned Along the Way...
1. They are truly the most intelligent dogs I have EVER worked with - which means that they learn quickly and well, but that they also problem solve very well. For example, Dexter will jump the gate to get out and chase off coyotes and bobcats and bears. We are on our sixth version of a "Dexter-proof" gate! It is now over 6 feet tall with two rows of PVC roller bars at the tops and you can see him sitting there working out how to get over the newest version (he jumps, climbs, and wiggles his way through any weak point). Some of these dogs are runners, meaning they will run off the predator (which is what Dexter does) and some will stay with the flock/herd, etc. to keep them safe. Right now Lumen always stay with the critters and Dexter is the runner who actively chases off predators. If you only have one dog, it is most likely going to bond with the livestock and will stay with them and not run, but that is not a guarantee. Dexter did not become a runner until we added Lumen. Then once he knew she was guarding the animals he felt his best role would be to actively patrol and chase off all threats. See, very intelligent. To the point where, it won't matter what you tell them, when they are working they believe they know what is best and odds are you will talk until you are blue in the face and they won't listen. We have tried everything in our power to get Dexter to stop jumping that darn gate. But, he believes it is his job to run off the predators, so that is what he does. He always comes back, but there are some high-stress times when he is gone for over two hours chasing off a pack of coyotes.
2. They are driven by instinct to guard. They naturally seek the high ground or best vantage point. They naturally seem to know what is a threat and what isn't. For example, they will alert at owls, eagles, hawks and falcons, but not at crows or sparrows. They know opossums and raccoons are threats, but they aren't bothered by squirrels or rats. They assess the threat (whether human or animal) and determine the amount of force that is needed to make the threat go away. They will generally just run a threat off rather than engage and kill it, but repeat threats are killed on-site. For example, we had a family of opossums living in a tree up on our acre. They hadn't caused any problems. The dogs alerted at them and ran them off. But, one night one of the opossums got in and killed a turkey hen. The next time they saw a opossum they attacked and killed it.
3. They MUST have a job guarding livestock; they are NOT pets... I have seen several situations where owners tried to turn them into pets and ended up with a huge problem on their hands. Too many of these amazing dogs end up being re-homed or turned over to shelters because the new owner's just don't take the time and do the research and understand the needs of the dogs. These dogs are bred to work. It is their true desire to work. They are not pets and do not want to be pets. If they do not have something to guard they get bored and then they tend to wander and act out. If you are not planning to have livestock (whether it is chickens, ducks, goats, cows, sheep, etc.) then I would not recommend this breed. These dogs get big and they are strong and powerful (bite force is the greatest in the world) and you don't want a bored one on your hands. They are still loving and affectionate to their humans, but they are happiest being outside 24/7 guarding.
4. They are super eager to please. They definitely want your approval and they are very sensitive to your moods. You never have to raise your voice or use physical reinforcements. However, that can also be a challenge. A stern voice and a correction with positive reinforcement generally shows them what it is you want from them.
5. They are truly gentle giants. They are great with small animals, babies, etc, but they are not "nanny" dogs. A lot of people who raise goats and sheep have great success with Anatolian Shepherds guarding the lambs and kids. I don't have personal experience with this, as we haven't yet bred our goats, but I can see them being wonderful with the little ones. However, I also think they have no true concept of their size. They like to "hug" their human as a way of greeting. They will walk up to you and jump up on their hind legs and put their paws on your shoulders and sniff your face and then hug you. It is how they check in and say hi. It usually happens once a day per dog here, more if I leave and go somewhere. They are also intimidating looking and, even though they have no ill intent, they can scare people just by their size and looks.
6. They are the most stubborn creatures on the planet. If they don't want to do something then they just won't do it. I have heard people compare working with Anatolians to talking to rocks! They are extremely challenging animals, but, if you are willing to take the time and effort and have the patience to show them what your expectations and needs are you will be richly rewarded.
7. It is inadvisable to plan to have more than one intact male and/or one intact female at any given time. This was a REALLY hard lesson to learn and one I feel the pain of every single day. If you are going to have multiple males or multiple females, it is strongly recommended to have them neutered and spayed. That being said, it is also advised that you wait until they are at least 18 months old (preferably 24 months) before undergoing these surgeries. It should also be noted that Anatolian Shepherd's are a large breed dog with a higher risk of anesthesia fatality, so finding a veterinarian experienced with high risk, anesthesia-sensitive breeds is strongly recommended.