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Monday, September 15, 2008

So Tiny! (not!) - Realistic expectations when choosing an Anatolian

Here's a 2005 photo of Zoey with Phyllis.
It's a fun pic with Zoey's amusing expression as she scrutinizes the cameraman's antics for this photoshoot.

Zoey as a baby
Zoey as a baby.

I got happy giggles out of Brandi's blog posting here. Check it out!
She has several pics where she is sharing animal crackers with her Anatolians, who stand with their paws over her shoulders.
There are a lot of Turkish dog pics and videos on Flickr or YouTube and similar sites, with Turkish owners showing off dogs posed with paws up on the shoulders of their handler, so it is amusing for various reasons, and a lot of us with Anatolians (sometimes just us females who are decidedly not on a macho kick) just get a kick out of doing it. :D I'm not sure what message our amusement carries beyond our turf, but no harm intended. :)


Now for some concerns and rants...

Every once in a while, we get emails from people wondering if this is the breed right for them. More often than not, people are not really prepared for the level of responsibility required for ownership of a dog like this.

You can find any number of forums where people are listing their 'favorite breeds' and mostly all they are doing is talking about appearances or reputation of the dog, with little consideration for breed character, the amount of care required for coated breeds and any number of other issues. Sometimes their lists are so diverse it becomes a bit unsettling to me, and reminds me of why dog rescue is so necessary - you can't choose a breed solely on its appearance... it has to fit your lifestyle and you need to have realistic expectations. Hey, I've done the same when I was a teenager. I loved the look of certain fluffy dogs, of certain hero dogs (Lassie, Rin Tin Tin) or a dog seen in an advertisement (Borzoi, Afghan, Great Dane, whatever).

I get a huge kick out of all those people that would be PERFECT for a poodle. But the reason they don't want one is because of the 'hair cut'. What's with that? You can choose a mohawk if you like or just get the puppy cut if you like. You could even have your poodle trimmed like a lion. But what do these people say? "I want a breed that is "nonshedding", "non-allergenic", really smart and makes a great family pet. I'm thinking of getting a doodle." -- say what? Doodles are crosses with one of the most allergenic breeds there is and there's no guarantee on what many of the traits will be. Why not just get the poodle you ask, and the response is stupefying... "We don't like that haircut". Holey Toledo! There is no universal law about how a pet could be trimmed, and there's no limit to the lack of common sense out there.

I've heard about people giving up their Anatolians because the dogs turned out "too big". Actually, while that sounds kinda stupid, I can see how it happens. Often people meet the breed while the dog is outside or working with stock. Or maybe the dogs are at a show, or just hanging around on the patio at home and even with furniture in the area to help the person gain perspective -- the tightness of home living with a fairly large dog, just doesn't really settle into their consciousness just yet. The dogs they meet may be very polite and give a good impression so they come away thinking of the merits.

As they raise their pup, the daily issues of the dog's size in the house become realistic. Ponder the real estate the dog needs, the size of the crate or cushions, the amount of space the dog consumes on the couch or bed, or in a corner of the room, the amount of food and the cost medications (heartworm preventative, or maybe the dog steps on glass and needs 10 days of antibiotics for a mature 120 to 160 pound dog). They come to realize how powerful the dog is when part of a fence is reduced to kindling (we all have some regular fence maintenance when we have dogs like this!), or maybe a hole is dug next to the house, and the house tips and slides in, totally disappearing into the void and ends up somewhere in Turkey (okay, I got just a little carried away...). But all these do add up to a new perspective of reality.

Above, here's a picture of Helmut at one year. That table surface is about 29-30 inches high. He is not standing on a box! He is helping me to sort some books into boxes. (that is his sister Coco, in the background) Click the pic to enlarge

People who just are not prepared for this, feel like they have a miniature horse in the house.

Ruya with horses
Ruya with some horses.

Then, there are other considerations.....

We can sometimes be quite excited by anticipation, and might be guilty of glossing over the issues raised when the breed heritage and its character are discussed. (yeah, yeah, every breed has someone saying, this isn't the breed for everyone, ha) Now we can sometimes feel a bit invincible when originally getting the new pup. We plan to do everything right.

Since we get a dog from the start, we can feel we may be ahead of the game. But for some people, the problems begin fairly soon.

The Anatolian is generally not a dog that is a bully, but they are generally rather sizeable and fast growing. And here is where it gets tricky. While they can tend to be easygoing, they do sometimes opt to ignore their human when the person wants them to do 'something' and the dog has a different arrangement of priorities. This by and of itself doesn't seem like major obstruction to the pack order the human fully intends to have securely established in the end. -- BUT the problem, is that owners don't always realize that every interaction, every decision they make with their dog, actually has potential to set some precedents for that dog and future behavior.

Over time, it can create patterns of behavior. The dog may do nothing really 'wrong' for most of his puppy months, then some incident happens, like the dog crowds the children when the owner is giving the small humans affection and the dog will not wait his turn. Then the owner feels that suddenly the dog is too bossy and asserts that they have raised the dog right and have 'always been alpha'. But you know... all this time, the pup has been tucking feathers into his growing war bonnet. He's an analyst par excellence. He's been learning how to manipulate others in his sphere. Any analyst and strategist will recognize patterns and as the info accumulates, it can be used to an advantage or as may turn out, executed by the dog to the dog's disadvantage later.

I know of a few cases where people backed down when their four month old puppy raised a lip at them -- he was just testing to see what he could get away with. It could be a one time thing but it should not be ignored. (I won't say what has to be done, because each situation can be different and often people panic and want a paint-by-number cookbook of things to do if their dog does this or that... and sometimes it is the human that caused the problem, so we don't have enough info!) If they really want to work through the problem, they may contact their dog's breeder or find other sources for advice.

When you come right down to it, a big four month old Anatolian puppy is still a baby, but they can be pretty sizeable. (see growth chart.)

I encourage people asking about owning one of these dogs to consider a lot of issues. Many people do decide that perhaps they would be better off selecting a different breed. That's not a bad thing. Okay, rant over for now.


:edit: Here's a link to my post about using Anatolians as service dogs.

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Semavi Lady woofed at @ 9/15/2008 03:20:00 AM | Permanent link | (5) Comments

Anonymous Brandi sent us a woof // September 15, 2008

Great post! Yes they are big dogs! After owning them for a while, I look at mine and see an average size dog because I'm just so used to their size. When I take them somewhere and someone comments on their size, it doesn't seem to faze me anymore until I see an average sized dog or a picture of one of mine next to me. I also liked the comments on people choosing dogs for their looks. That is so true. People need to realize that they need to choose a dog or breed that suites their lifestyle instead of based on looks alone. Again, great post. I enjoyed it.   

Blogger Semavi Lady sent us a woof // September 16, 2008

Thanks Brandi.

Yep, we kinda get used to how small they are, seriously. And when I've got my 'coke bottle' glasses on, they are positively shrunken!   

Blogger Anatolian Indy sent us a woof // September 18, 2008

Gosh if I could just pass this out to every person that thinks Indy is beautiful when she volunteers as a therapy dog . . .

Every time I hear a person google and goggle over Indy, I very nicely add in my speech that this breed has good and bad, just like any other breed. I don't want people to think about getting one if they base on seeing Indy as a therapy dog because she is on her best behavior at this time. She see a beautiful, calm, affectionate dog and might think that is all there is too it; when I know it has taken daily dedication to raise an Anatolian.

I probably over react because most people don't know what I'm saying when I say what kind of breed she is, lol.   

Blogger Semavi Lady sent us a woof // September 19, 2008

I can relate to all you said.

Indy's beautiful! Keep up the good work!   

Blogger Edward Ott sent us a woof // September 21, 2008

That is a bog dog.