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Gypsy Anatolians


Schutzhund/Protection Training

Long before I ever heard of the Anatolian Shepherd, I raised German Shepherds. At one time, I had a male that was huge for a German Shepherd. He weighed in at 150 lbs. He was lean and stood 30 inches at the shoulder! (Looking back, I think he really was an Anatolian in a German Shepherd costume!)

A friend of mine that trained guard dogs professionally was helping me with some advanced obedience training and suggested that we do some Schutzhund/Protection training with him. The idea was to make the dog more reliable as a home protector. Well, we had part of one session. Uncharacteristically, for the German Shepherd, when presented with a person in a padded suit, he went for the groin and throat areas, totally ignoring the arm that was offered. This reaction only increased. The dog knew what areas were vulnerable and they were his targets. The trainer called it quits and said the dog was DANGEROUS and would kill someone given the chance. From that day on, the dog had a strong dislike for that person and would not tolerate them being around me. Over time, I learned that this dog was very stable and never over-reacted to strangers. One day, while I was gone, he allowed a friend of mine to enter my home. He then proceeded to back them into a chair and required that they sit there until I returned!

Schutzhund training is for the dog that is easily controlled. Not for one that thinks for himself and uses problem solving abilities. I think when we talk about NOT training the Anatolian in Schutzhund, Janice Frasche explains far better than I could.

Janice of SEMAVI ANATOLIANS, owns the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Discussion List as well as moderates it, she writes:

The subject of Schutzhund/Protection training comes up frequently. Most of my responses can be found in the archives of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Discussion List if you wanted to take the time to search.

Schutzhund people for the most part, work with modern breeds that have been hand selected for generations to take work by-direction (the dogs are chosen because they follow orders well). They do not understand the Anatolian breed character. In fact many pet dog trainers and dog trainers in general do not understand livestock guardian breeds.

So there you have a chance to educate! :-)

First of all the ASD is a primitive breed in many ways, wolflike in many respects. This can be difficult to grasp when to many people there's an over simplistic view of canine hierarchy where a wolf is a wolf and dogs are generically "dogs" in different pajamas and sizes. The average dog person can name several "favorite" breeds but have usually amassed their 'favorites' list based on the appeal of appearance and/or size (cosmetics). Breed character is something of which most do not really have a full grasp.

In order to understand why the ASD is inappropriate for Schutzhund or Protection training, one has to understand the formative background behind their breed character, so I'll go into that a little here, before telling you what happens if you try to take the ASD out of its appropriate context.

The ASD is independent and makes its own decisions. It's been bred to do this while the shepherd sleeps or is away -- selected for this ability for hundreds of years. By its heritage, we can see that we are talking about a dog that will not easily pass the various levels of schutzhund because much of the sport involves *controlled* work and working by-direction (taking orders and executing them to precision). The ASD simply does not easily choose to work by direction as modern breeds have been selected to do. That's why we have modern breeds. And that's why we have LGDs (Livestock Guardian Dogs).

Secondly the ASD is a natural guardian, and will choose who it thinks is foe. You cannot just send your dog to GET someone that seems to be in your fence line for no reason. Depending on the dog, the ASD may simply walk up to the stranger and greet them, then gently, bodily block the path or otherwise impede progress on the stranger's route, or just go along for the walk in a civil but aloof manner. If the ASD is agitated or somehow made to have a short fuse, some ASDs will come out roaring in full bore and will slam themselves on the stranger if the stranger doesn't move fast enough. Some ASDs may bark no warning at all before or during their charge, then they will either tackle the stranger outright -- or stand back with a lot of warning and posturing. Some will be calling for the 'resident shepherd' with rapid staccato barks and physically drawing a line in the dirt that the stranger would best dare not cross.

More on character.... One of the early elements of protection training involves playing with the young dogs, where the dog is teased and incited to want to grab a rag with its teeth. The intensity of the dog's focus on the rag can be quite natural in breeds that are most suitable for rag-play, who will quickly see the rag game as a GAME. It is often a test for choosing appropriate dogs with lots of potential in some aspects of schutzhund (it's not all attack training and only attack training).

NOW... If a stranger is chosen to tease an ASD to grab at the rag, the typical reaction of the ASD will be tolerance, indifference and/or confusion about the situation. Many ASDs with the option, will just get up and leave. They don't understand the game. None of that demonstrates natural talent for the schutzhund sport.

What are the instincts involved in that reaction? Well, were the rag really a lamb or goat kid bouncing all over the dog, with a working ASD, tolerance or leaving would be appropriate reactions. If the dog is surprised, confused or unsure how to react to playing babies, the shepherd must teach the dog appropriate behavior. In general, the ASD will react to different stimulation along the lines of their true heritage.

The ASD has natural bite inhibition, natural independent character, and when you override this to appease the demands of a sport where bitework has certain rules, you alter the rules by which the ASD has been selected for generations.

In real life, teasing a dog that doesn't think it's a game results in some degree of agitation... If an ASD is teased to the point that it will go after the rag, it may no longer just be a game but something far more serious.

Protection training with LGD breeds has certainly has been attempted. And people have lived to tell about it and have usually advised others, "don't do it". Years ago on the list, there was a trainer that worked with Anatolians in Turkey for a military dog training program, and it was pretty much decided after seeing what that dog could do, that the dog was better suited for sentry work rather than man work. Sentry work is quite similar to what we usually want our ASDs to do as guardians.

Abroad, in situations where LGDs (like the CO) have been used as protection dogs -- the dogs are usually sentry type dogs who may have had some degree of agitation training, which makes them virtually unstoppable MAN-stoppers. There's a huge difference in mob control and in schutzhund sport type training. In the USA, the protection and schutzhund sports have several areas of training that are tests of the handler's control of their dogs. This is definitely not the LGD genre's homeplace. :-)

In third-world Mob control situations, there is not the matter of civil rights or the personal welfare of people to be concerned about. The dogs may initially be muzzled, then simply turned loose to control (terrify and maul) the people in the crowds. People have serious chunks of their bodies torn out... this is not like padded sleeve training where sport dogs are encouraged to grab and bite a padded arm. The LGD's are more likely to take a person down by an unprotected area. Why grab a padded sleeve when the work can be finished with less effort by tearing out the man's throat? Protection is not a game. The dog handler in mob control doesn't expect to be able to call the dog off and direct it to another specific target and there is no guaranteed off button. For that matter, this is sometimes why some of the Russian-bred COs may be shorter-fused, and more people-aggressive than other LGD breeds. For a time there was more focus on manwork than on traditional flock guarding. This may be a reason for the difference in modern CO temperament, compared to the landrace COs which still work as LGDs.

LGDs really don't understand the nature of this "sport". We would do well to continue to emphasize that the dogs are LGDs and not encourage people to attempt any kind of manwork with them.

It's rare, but people have successfully trained ASDs to high levels of obedience or agility (areas that require precision and control) and have also done some training in search and rescue. In those cases, defeating the bite inhibition of the dog and directing them to attack no longer is part of the score. A strong positive relationship between the dog and handler is required. It *still* involves having a sense a humor because the dog is sometimes going to make its own rules. And in this case, at least the life of a human is not at stake.

Janice Frashe is an ethical breeder and member of the ASDCI, Inc. Please take time to visit her site: SEMAVI ANATOLIANS

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