Shep, a Working Caucasian Ovtcharka


You may not use nor distribute these photos without her express, written permission. Pril may be reached at this e-mail address:

Many thanks to Pril for helping me get this page together. Not only for her great photos of Shep, but for writing such a lovely article to accompany the photos as well. She was able to see what I wanted to accomplish which was: "Getting back to the basics with the Caucasian Ovtcharka". We all know these dogs can be tough, and they are certainly versatile as so many people know. But they were originally bred as a Livestock Guardian Dog. And that, dear visitors, is what I wanted to show on this website. Enjoy!

Shep came to us as a big, nine-week old puppy. He had feet as big as an elephant and had a head like a bear. In fact, his whole body resembled a bear cub more than a puppy. He was confident, calm, quiet, and sweet natured. We had planned for our new guardian puppies (three, counting Shep) to arrive during calving season so his substitute "mother" could show him his new jobs. He was always free both night and day with our other two new puppies . Every morning and evening, for two or three weeks, I made time to sit on the front porch with our new guardian puppies, as the cows went out into the wheat pastures in the morning and came back into the grass pastures at night. To keep them aware that it was all right and that the cows were big and black but our possessions, I often gave the puppies a bone as we watched the cows. Shep always lay not at my feet, but on my feet.

A hard working Caucasian Ovtcharka

Shep and the other two puppies went with me every where around the farm. They went into the corrals, farm buildings, barns and shop. They chased rabbits, got smelly from skunks, tried to catch the kill-deer birds who nest on the ground, barked at any noise, and played with one another. They would often go into the wheat pastures with their substitute mother during the day and into the grass pastures where the cows were at night. They touched noses with baby calves, who seemed to like them, although some mother cows resented and prevented this behavior. As the men fed cattle, worked cattle in the chutes, or drove cattle with the four-wheelers, the pups often watched or got in the way. When I checked calving cows at night, Shep and his two females buddies went into the barns ahead of me. Although they sometimes created problems, we continued to let the young puppies learn as they grew.

Circle Z Shep

We believe that a good livestock guardian dog comes with all the behaviors and instincts that he needs stored in his genes. Puppies need guidance, but they also need the freedom to learn and make mistakes. Soft words of approval help the puppy if he is doing right. If he is making mistakes, soft words that tell him to stop are effective, although they must be repeated for a young puppy . I do not remember ever having to do more than take Shep by the collar and lead him away or simply talk to him. There are no perfect dogs (or humans for that matter) but Shep has been and is an easy dog. He is an excellent guardian whom the cows and calves trust. He moves slowly and carefully around the animals, letting them know he is not a threat. I notice him looking away, deliberately turning his head to reassure a cow or calf. He has never chased cows, as some puppies will sometime do. He controls the environment from any threat, keeping it safe. He does not bark excessively, but does bark if coyotes howl and he feels it is needed. Shep is very territorial and he does not intend for anything at all to come into his place.

How he works

We cannot take credit for that. His substitute mother did some training; his instincts did the rest. He began to control the environment in his Caucasian style at about six months of age. He watches from a central location and is not fond of moving unless the occasion warrants movement. When it does, he can move very fast for such a big dog. Normally, Shenel is the perimeter guardian who makes the outer circle checks during the day and night. Spain stays very close to the house and will join Shenel if needed.

Shep's checking on his cattle

Shep lies in a number of places, depending on where the coyote howls are originating, or where he might suspect some change in routine or some danger. If Shenel’s bark changes to the bark that means "There is something here, NOW!" Shep is a speeding bullet or SuperShep- at- the- spot. If the chains that hold the corral gates in place make a jingle, Shep is there. If the cattle barn door is moved, Shep is radio-dispatched by the sound. Shep and his females do not like things that might go bump in the night. Coyotes do not come into this area. They can find easier places. Skunks do come in; raccoons come in and will not run, so our dogs have to kill them- not an easy job for raccoons are mean fighters.

The worst thing for our dogs are the porcupines. Shep has had a face-full of quills a couple of times. You can see the character of the Caucasian when he has 30-40 nasty, hurtful quills in his face. He is very patient as we have to pull the quills, seeming to understand that it must be done. His females have not had the quills, for Shep is the one who takes care of the tough jobs, a true Caucasian Ovcharka male working as a livestock guardian dog.

Because we care...

Because we want to be sure our dogs are healthy enough to do the job for which they were bred, our vet x-ray'd Shep's hips. The x-rays came back with a good report from the vet. We were never worried though, judging by his flowing movement and incredible strength and stamina. We're sure he'll move just as lovely when he reaches his father's age, as his father now does (fluid and flowing with every step)!
You may not use nor distribute these photos without her express, written permission. Pril may be reached at this e-mail address: