Caucasian Shepherd is one of the most dangerous and dominant dog breeds in the world. However, this powerful dog can become a reliable protector and a good family member.
The strength and dedication of this dog have made it a popular working, police, and guard dog in Russia and in Europe.
The breed is recognized in most countries, including the United States (AKC) where they often call it the Russian Bear Dog. In Russia, its usual name is Caucasian Ovcharka which means Caucasian sheepdog in Russian.
Height: 26-29 inches (67-75 cm) Weight: 88-180 lbs (40-82 kg) Lifespan: 9-11 years
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- History of the breed
- Personality and temperament
- Ownership and training
- General FAQ
- Books and movies
- Breed names
Russian Bear Dog
Caucasian Shepherd is called the Russian Bear Dog mostly due to its appearance. It is a large, even-tempered dog with a powerful and muscular body, bear-look face, deeply set oval dark eyes, round-shaped ears and low carried long tail. The ears are usually cropped. (click for video)
It has a thick and water-resistant double coat in shades of gray, brindle, yellow, rust, red, or white. The coat may be longer or shorter depending on the region the dog comes from.
Why is Caucasian Ovcharkas Called the Russian Prison Dogs?
During the Soviet communist era, the severe Caucasian Ovcharka guarded prisoners of the Soviet Gulag camps and served as a border patrol dog along the Berlin wall. It was widely used by the Russian army's kennels to develop new Soviet dog breeds (Black Russian Terrier, Moscow Watchdog, Moscow Waterdog).
Being a fearless fighting dog, the Caucasian Shepherd is still employed in some former Soviet republics for dogfighting, alongside the Central Asian dog. In Europe and America, this big Russian dog is mostly a companion and a family protector.
Not only being prison dogs, these loyal and courageous Caucasian Shepherds were also trained to be military service dogs. Just like other service dogs such as German shepherds, the Caucasian Shepherd dogs would patrol borders and carry out other high-risk jobs. So having them printed on military and police challenge coins would be a cute way to reward service members. If you want to learn more about challenge coins, please visit GS-JJ.com.
History of the Breed
The Caucasian Shepherd, known also as the Caucasian Mountain Dog, is one of the oldest mastiff-type breeds, originating from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and southern Russia). It was used for centuries to guard flocks, kill wolves, hunt bears, and protect properties against trespassers and thieves. Its type differs a little from region to region.
The modern show class Caucasian Shepherd is a hybrid of established Caucasian types, selected and bred by Soviet Russian breeding kennels. The official standard of this dog breed is fundamentally based on the Georgian shepherd dogs (Nagazi) which are the largest, muscularly built dogs with attractive long hair.
What is the Personality and Temperament of a Caucasian Shepherd?
Softness and timidity are considered as serious faults for this working dog breed (FCI). The Russian Bear Dog is suspicious and aggressive towards any strangers including dog show referees. If not properly trained and socialized this vicious dog may demonstrate fierce and uncontrollable reactions (click for video).
Photo Credit: RebaSpike/Flickr CC
On the other hand, this dog can be extremely loyal to its owner and will stand by and defend him to the very end in any situation.
Caucasian Shepherd's temperament suits well a reliable guard dog. Their main temperament features are:
Height (at the withers):
Males: 28 - 29 inches (72-75 cm), minimum 26.5 inches (68 cm).
Females: 26 - 27 inches (67-70 cm), minimum 25 inches (64 cm).
Males: Minimum: 110 pounds (50 kg);
Females: Minimum: 99 pounds (45 kg).
Is Caucasian Shepherd healthy?
The Caucasian Ovcharka can live as long as 12 years with just a few health risks, though sometimes may suffer from large-dog problems like hip dysplasia and heart conditions.
Its heavy shedding coat needs occasional brushing.
Should I Own a Caucasian Shepherd?
Owning a big Russian dog-like Caucasian Shepherd is not an easy task. This independent and strong-willed dog will obey only a dominating and equally-willed owner whom it respects. Obedience training and early socialization are mandatory for this breed.
Forming a strong protective bond with its owner, the Caucasian Ovcharka would not raise other family members to the same level. It mostly suits active singles, experienced handlers as well as farmers and ranchers.
Caucasian Shepherd Owner's Experience
Kathryn Nissen: My husband and I have a female Caucasian Mountain Dog and she is the most amazing dog we have ever had. She was rescued from Romania and was fully grown and huge when we homed her. After being extremely wary of us for about the first month and flinching when I tried throwing a stick for her she is now a confident family member who trusts us absolutely.
She is very steady, kind, and loving. She moves forward and center to stand between me and other dogs when they bound towards us. She stands calmly waiting for them to reach her and then plays like any other dog-friendly dog. She barks very little. She accepts attention from strangers calmly though never effusively. Children adore her and she is gentle with them and careful never to knock them over.
She immediately recognizes when a stranger means no harm and returns no harm. Her first action to keep us safe is to firmly push someone back away from us with her nose. Her second action is to grasp clothes and pull them away from us, never growling or showing aggression but simply using the minimum force necessary to keep us safe. I have no doubt that if we were truly threatened she would employ whatever means necessary to protect us.
She always remains calm and placid and totally in control of herself. She ignores dogs who bark at her, She never chases or lunges at any animals, birds, or person. She has never pulled on the leash. With dogs who bark at her from fear, she sits calmly and waits for them to realize she is no threat… she calmly ignores dogs who growl or bark at her and never retaliates. She adjusts her demeanor in accord with other dogs' willingness to play or to their fear of her. Romping with the former and being still and calm with the latter.
She is truly amazing and wise and impresses me every day. We feel privileged to share our lives with her.
Are Caucasian Shepherds good with children?
Caucasian Shepherd is a one-owner dog that respects only the “leader of the pack”. It will love and protect its master’s children but it will not obey “puppies” and may try to teach them to behave.
Are Russian Bear Dogs aggressive?
Caucasian Shepherd is naturally territorial and aggressive towards strangers and intruders. To escape problems, the Russian Bear Dog needs early socialization and proper training.
Do Caucasian Shepherds shed a lot?
Caucasian Shepherd is a heavy shedder, particularly in spring and fall when it blows its thick undercoat.
Why are their ears traditionally cropped short?
Caucasian Ovcharkas are livestock guardian dogs that were also used in dog fighting. Their ears were cropped short to prevent predators or rivals from grabbing onto them.
Caucasian Shepherd Books and Movies
There are many good books and a few movies dedicated to Caucasian Shepherds.
“Stormheart”, a movie. The father of a Finnish family brings home a cute puppy, whose parents had served as guard dogs at the Berlin Wall. Pearl, his 7-year-old daughter, takes the puppy under her wing, and Stormheart, who grows up to the size of a bear, undertakes the task of removing all dangers, threats, and obstacles from the path of Pearl.
"Caucasian Mountain Dog (Comprehensive Owner's Guide) " is a great book written by one of the best Caucasian Shepherd breeders in the U.S.
Stacy Kubyn shares her insight into this remarkable breed and offers a candid view of Caucasian Shepherd's temperament, including her sound advice about owning this powerful and demanding working dog.
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Say it in Russian:
View the Caucasian Shepherd Breed Standard.
Find a Russian name for your Caucasian Ovcharka Dog!
Learn some Russian dog commands!
Comments ( 171 )
I personally believe people should be allowed to own this breed if they can’t afford the time to train it. A male especially basically only the Alfa it will listen to.
Females are better for family’s and you live on a farm your critters are safe too.
Male strong minded. Usually only people around them dailey are the only people should be around them. My personal opinion.
Shayne H Bronson says
I would like to find out more about owning one of these Dogs! Also if there is any Breeders of these Dogs in the U.S.A.
Please view our pages Caucasian Shepherd breeders in the U.S. and Caucasian Shepherd for sale or adoption in the U.S.
You may also want to browse a large number of articles and posts in the Caucasian shepherd category.
After I have been fixing up the house, after my sister’s Russian-imported dog died not too long ago from brain cancer at the age of 10 years, 1 month old — absolutely gorgeous, Zolotoy Grad champion dog — I told my sister that if she acquires a Caucasian shepherd to tame, train, and fully socialize, the dog will totally destroy the new wood floors, doors, walls, wood banisters, and new brass doorknobs (all of which I recently replaced, thanks to her BRT dog from Russia).
That Russian beast chewed anything and everything — and used his body weight to break down doors. I was forced to place heavy metal mesh over all of the doors leading outside or inside. Part of his training involved disengagement because he had been taken away from his siblings too young. Well, he didn’t like it, when my sister took off to lock herself in another room until he calmed down. Laugh!
Then, of course, he was trying to get to the female Bouvier des Flandres dog. She would frustrate him terribly. Eventually, she left two huge vampire holes in his forehead the morning of an important conformation show. He shattered car windshields when strangers came too close to the car. I would find shopping carts piled behind my car when I very briefly ran into the grocery store to fetch something for him. He liked to lay wait for strangers to come very, very close to the car before roaring and lunging.
Unlike a Caucasian shepherd dog, the very large, male BRT dog looks like a humongous fancy toy dog, but it’s not. He loved to tease and spook strangers. I guess he kept himself entertained by watching the humans jump with absolute fear. Once the humans jumped in absolute fear, he sat down again and acted nonchalantly — actually something a Bouvier des Flandres dog would do to entertain itself by teasing others. I told her that after having a Caucasian shepherd in the house for 10 years, she’ll have to stage a home fire to obtain any money for the house.
Her last big-boned, male German shepherd had to be kept outside in the garage at night because he was so destructive. He ended up chewing the outer wall of the foyer in the garage. I stopped him by stapling wire mesh all over the entire wall and throwing more huge toys and bones his way. Besides the vet bills, which are astronomical, very large dogs can cause an enormous amount of damages to one’s home and vehicles. It’s amazing how destructive these dogs can be to the interior of a vehicle. Even Bouviers can destroy the interior of a vehicle.
The BRT dog is like having three (3) crazy, male Bouviers in the car. Whereas the big-boned male Bouvier will crack and scratch everything, the male BRT dog will literally tear out everything inside of the car (including armrests on doors, door handles, and electric window controls). Without the electric window controls, the windows will not open. I spent like $500 to replace each window control — a total of 3 electric window controls. With the ups, there are always the downs. To fully train, tame, and socialize a real Russian beast, the owner will succumb to injuries without exception. Nevertheless even a big-boned, male Bouvier can slam its owner into a tree in pursuit of a squirrel, if the owner is not paying attention and is tired. When the owner is tired, that’s when the accidents occur. Dogs? A person has to think twice, three times, or more, when considering a dog like the Caucasian shepherd or a very large, temperamental, fear aggressive BRT dog. It takes a very intensive, formal, professional training program to tame the beast.
Socializing means taking the dog out at least 20 hours per week besides the 12 hours of professional training per week. One’s pockets are literally all full of the dog’s favorite treats to hand out to strangers to socialize the beast. These dogs will not socialize unless mommy or daddy hands a stranger (carefully selected, of course) his food. So it means filling one’s pockets, all of one’s pockets with food to hand out to strangers (usually husbands and wives, mothers with children, salespersons at pet shops, etc.).
One of my neighbors owned 2 American-bred BRT dogs, which were half the size of my sister’s Russian-bred beast. He was forced to give up his 2 dogs for adoption. His dogs were never fully socialized, which caused the neighbors to complain. My sister did not have the luxury of not socializing her Russian import, because he was absolutely mad. He had no biting inhibition — and he was extremely temperamental and obnoxious, to say the least. He was an absolute monster as an adolescent dog!
My sister won in the end. She fully tamed him. Guard dogs can be a bit codependent and smothering. Even if you want to get rid of them to spend time alone, they won’t leave your side for a split second. As they mature, they learn about personal space. The more beautiful the dog, the more tolerance the neighbors will have. That’s why my sister will only purchase the most gorgeous, conformation show dogs. Her dog was able to climb and jump like a feral cat. He literally was able to escape all enclosures without exception. These dogs must be trained not to jump out of a car door window or moon roof, because these dogs will get killed by jumping from a moving car. Dogs don’t know the difference between a stationary and moving car.
I have a 5 month old Caucasian shepherd, and I have been offered a job on an island in Thailand where the temperature throughout the year is 23 to 31 degrees celcius, 73-88 degrees Fahrenheit and between 60 and 70% humidity. The house is fully air conditioned and air conditioning would be on 24 hours a day in at least one room anyway because I need to keep temperature down on pc servers so it would always be cool in the house. It has a large garden with plenty of shade, a small pool and the door to house would always be open if she was outside. She would travel with me to work and back in an air conditioned car. The office is fully air-conditioned too and the air con is on from opening to closing time. The office is spacious and cool with loads of places for her to chill if she wants to and its on a beach so she could have a dip in the ocean whenever she wanted to or lie down in shade outside. Assuming I made sure constantly that there was fresh water in large amounts in outside areas at home (there already is at the office for some of the local dogs), then the only time she would be exposed to the elements would be when I play with her and walk her every day and when she chose to sit outside in garden or shade on beach. I love my dog and wouldn’t want her to be unhappy in any way, I’m not asking would she survive there, I’d like to know if you think it’s a good environment for her and if she would be happy? It seems to me that she would love it there and she would only be outside playing in water when she wanted to and can just come inside, seek shade, or drink when she got hot. I’m just scared that I’m thinking of what’s best for me and she will suffer. I have the option to leave her in uk with family who will look after her well but if she will be happy and healthy I’d rather she was with me. I appreciate and help or advice you can offer ?
(I have added this comment twice, but posted it here because it is the latest article and am hoping that it will be more likely to be seen, sorry if this isn’t OK, just want the best for my puppy ?)
Guard dogs and rare dogs at https://www.russiandog.net
My sister’s very large, Russian imported Black Russian Terrier dog hated the warm weather. In the summer, heavy steam would actually escape from his mouth. She kept him cool by raking out his dead undercoat every other day. Normally he stayed inside in the air-conditioned house.
When she took him in the car, she blasted the air conditioning to the point, where she was forced to wear a heavy denim jacket in the car. Because he was so hot, he tried to get as close to the air conditioning vents as possible by squeezing his body between the two front seats of the car (shoulders, neck, head, huge elbows, and front legs). He had to learn not to go near the shift of the car with his paws. Otherwise, he would put the car in neutral (automatic transmission).
When she was forced to run into the grocery store at night to purchase his natural meats, she left the car running with the air conditioner. Many times, the police would come into the store, telling her that someone telephoned the police because they were afraid the dog would shift the car into gear. It’s impossible to shift a Honda vehicle with an automatic transmission unless the brake pedal is held down. Now if a dog has the intelligence and dexterity to hold the brake pedal down with his left rear paw while shifting the car into gear with his right front paw, he’s taking the driver’s test and driving himself. It can be annoying, because you may find yourself leaving your dog in the car with the air conditioning running (meaning the car is running). Someone will always telephone the police. It simply means stopping to talk with the police and socializing with the police.
The most important thing is to keep the dog in air conditioning as much as possible. I would leave more than one huge metal bowl of water for the dog because the water becomes quite disgusting each time the dog drinks. The water has to be constantly changed. Also, make sure all of the dead undercoats are removed daily. Even in Russia, these dogs suffer during the summer weather.
Keep in mind that many Russian immigrants in Israel have Caucasian shepherd dogs. There’s a Russian immigrant in Las Vegas, Nevada that breeds the Caucasian shepherd and runs a security business, where he places two of his dogs in an office or factory building during the night. It’s always hot in Las Vegas.
The Bouvier des Flandres dog is another breed of dog that doesn’t do so well in the heat. Again, it’s important to remove the dead undercoat or as much of the undercoat as possible, using a Mars King Coat comb made in Germany (which comes in different sizes). Worse comes to worst, you can hose the dog down with water. There are also ice blankets on which the dog can lie down to cool off. The ocean water is good.
Dogs are happiest when they’re with their master. Dogs can adjust. If she is so miserable, then you can ship her back to stay with your family and friends in the UK. There are actually Bouviers (which absolutely hate hot weather, because their coats do not shed) living in Saudi Arabia — never mind in Israel.
Dogs and their owners adjust accordingly. When you ride in the car, you have to remember that the sun is baking down on the car and probably shining into the car. So even with the air conditioning blasting, the dog may be hot. Don’t be surprised, if your air conditioner in your vehicle burns out, thereby requiring you to purchase a new air conditioning compressor for your vehicle. My sister had to replace one of her vehicle’s air conditioning compressors.
Tamela Helms says
I think you should absolutely take your beloved girl with you to Thailand. I’m thinking if you didn’t and left it with even a family that would take great care of her she would suffer. Suffer as missing you and a broken heart not knowing where you are and not being by your side.. Wish you all the best and good luck to the both of you..
Is this dog a good family dog?☺️
It’s not the best breed to be considered as a family dog. It can become a good family dog depending on its breeding line but only in the hands of a very experienced owner.
SEERAUBERTAL SHEPHERDS says
My family have raised German Shepherd working dogs f0r over 40 yrs. We also have a Caucasian Ovcharka . Purchased at 8 wks and raised with much love and trained in a possible manner. Your right the breed is not for everyone. She is a absolutely fantastic girl . She comes on recall, does many tricks , stays, sits, downs perfectly. She does have her turbo moments. and a great, great dog. (FOR ONLY A HANDFUL OF OWNERS)
Mia Naseth-Phillips says
I live in Minnesota and think this breed is wonderful. I had a Rottie 20 years ago with my 2-year-old daughter. The investment in training was critical. How is this breed with children?