Erick Conard's Lucky Hit Ranch
Anatolian Guardian Behavior
Keeping Same Sex Intact Anatolians Together

Lucky Hit Anatolians on a 'Walk About'
Anatolians at Lucky Hit Ranch

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Keeping Same Sex Intact Anatolians Together
By Erick Conard
Lucky Hit Ranch

Although I have owned Anatolians since 1985, until recently I'd not considered keeping two or more intact adult male Anatolians together. (I consider adult males to be three or older.) Since I'm keeping two males from my 2001 litter, one male from my 2002 litter, and a fourth male I purchased in 2002 from another kennel, I've become very interested in this topic. I was advised by other breeders and Anatolian friends that I would not be able to keep intact Anatolian males together as adults. Not one person I spoke to felt it was possible. My oldest two male are only two at the time of this writing, so I'm still in a wait and see mode. However, knowing that intact males are kept together in Turkey causes me to believe that there must some way to make it work.

An Anatolian Male After A Fight After the third serious fight when the older males were only 8 to 9 months old, I began to believe that I was not going to be able to keep my adult males together. These fights were very serious and terrifying to observe. After a certain level of intensity between the males was attained, I was completely ignored until the dogs reached the end of their fight on their own - no matter what I did to intervene. The third serious fight was the last actual fight they've had. However, when the males fight all of my dogs tended to get involved! Incredibly terrifying!

I keep my dogs all together with the goat herd except when I have to move them around to guard different groups of animals in different pastures. Even when I move them around to separate pastures, I take all my dogs for a daily "walk about" around the property perimeter. One exception is a female Anatolian in heat. I never take a female in heat because it it just too dangerous. If the males have been kept in separate pastures, they posture and growl when I first get them together. Even the females do some posturing.

Expecting this behavior, I immediately discourage this interaction using my "Back Off" command. (See my article "Teaching the Back Off Command") When they disengage, I say "Let's go," which they know as a command meaning we are going to begin the "walk about." Only by being the ALPHA PACK LEADER am I able to get them to disengage from each other. If I were not so strongly alpha to my dogs, I believe I would be unsuccessful in keeping them apart.

In addition, I believe it helps me that they remember how painful the fighting was. Remembering the pain (all their fights ended without a clear cut winner and lots of injuries), they now are more willing to solve the problem with posturing and my alpha command to back off.

Shadow and some of her pups working together in the pasture In late 2002 and early 2003, my "walk about" was taken with a total of eleven dogs - ten Anatolians and a West Highland White terrier: two adult males, three adult females, three young males (under six months old), two young females, and an adult intact Westie female. All my Anatolians tolerate my Westie beautifully now, but they had to learn to tolerate her and do so because of my alpha position. One of the young male Anatolians and one of the young female Anatolians came from other breeders and are not genetically related to my dogs. Even though they were brought in as pups, my dogs resented these genetically unrelated pups and it took work to get them accepted. My alpha female was especially resentful of the young genetically unrelated female pup and I kept them separated for several weeks (except when I was physically present) until I felt they were safe.

It has been even more difficult to get the females to tolerate each other than it was the males. Like with the males, I'm still not certain I will always be able to keep my females tolerating each other. My females' lack of tolerance peaks when they come in heat. In heat, they become absolutely vicious to the females with a lower position in the pack. As a further complication, I've had a female be submissive until she was 14 months old and then engage in a serious fight over something small, changing the pecking order forever.

Using the subtle behavioral changes in my males when the females go into heat, I generally am able to isolate the females on their first day in heat. I place the females in heat in my steel stock trailer (my only escape proof location), which I place in a pasture with no dogs. I believe that physical separation helps eliminate male behavioral problems. When I've moved my dogs through the pasture with the trailer, the female in heat in the trailer focuses on the other females and lunges and bark/growls with incredible ferocity! My females act far more deadly towards each other than my males.

Although keeping intact males together is challenging, keeping intact females together is far more challenging. In summary, I believe there is always an element of danger in keeping intact Anatolians of the same sex together!

January 2008 Update on this topic....

Ultimately I found that the closer together in age and size intact working Anatolian males are the less likely they can co-exist peacefully as equals. When they are younger and close in size and strength, it is more difficult for them to sort out which male is the dominant dog. Older working dogs seem less interested in that kind of dominance and are more focused on what it takes to keep the livestock they are protecting safe and secure. Until males of similar size and age determine which dog is truly the dominant dog, they fight. I have, however, had some success with older males being placed with much younger males because the older male quickly and clearly demonstrates that it is dominant. However, when a female comes into heat, all bets are off and deadly fights break out!

In addition, some lines produce dogs that are more insistent on being the boss and refuse to be anything less. In those cases, after some serious fights there is ultimately a clear cut winner and loser and the loser is required to keep their distance and always be excessively submissive. I don't like what this does to the personality of the losing dog, so when I see this situation developing, I keep them in different pastures so each male can develop his full personality without one of them being reduced by the more dominant male.

Anatolian males maintain a strict pack hierarchy similar to a wolf pack, it seems to me. They can get along much of the time but when a female comes into heat even males that have been friends engage in deadly battle. Luckily, the males I have all get along with females beautifully so I've never encountered a problem in a male-female pair.

I have also worked with my females. I have managed to keep as many as five females together in the same pasture. There are some disagreements with these five females but they seem to be able to work out their problems without leaving too many holes in each other. I also feed them together in a trough. However, I am always with them when they eat and I punish any dog that growls over food by making that dog step back from the trough for one minute. With this punishment they quickly learned that growling was not a good way to get to eat!

I have two other females in the pasture with the five females but I had to removed them because they were not able to get along with the other five females. I now have them with a five year old and a ten year old female. They get along with each other and the older females. So it seems that part of getting along involves the personality of each dog involved! Just like people, some dogs just don't like each other and won't get along. Make your adjustments accordingly!

December 2020 update!

Bottom line! I NEVER keep two intact adult males in the same pasture! There is too great a chance of severe damage (even death) between males, especially when a nearby female comes into heat!!!

I hope you found this information about WORKING Anatolian Shepherd Guardian Dogs interesting and useful and gave you further insight into the temperament of good working Anatolian Shepherd Guardians. If you are having working problems with your dog, please feel free to contact me for assistance.


The most important factor when purchasing and raising an Anatolian to guard livestock is to select your pup from two proven and superior working Anatolians.

Good or bad working behaviors are inherited, just like good or bad hips, good or bad teeth, etc. Your pup has the greatest likelihood of having superior working ability if he/she comes from two superior and proven working parents. Before purchasing a pup you should visit the ranch and carefully observe the parents to verify that both sire and dam live and work 24/7 with sheep and/or goats in a predator rich environment. Check out the parent's behaviors for excellent and desirable interactions with their sheep and/or goats. If you don't like the parent's behaviors you might not like the puppy's behaviors!

Breeders who tell you "all Anatolians have good working ability" are probably just trying to sell their pups, since there is a wide variation in working ability depending on the working genetics of the parents! My experience is that when a breeder has failed to focus on superior working ability as their top breeding requirement, it is possible that the pups they are producing may not have the high level of working ability that you require!

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