Erick Conard's Lucky Hit Ranch

A First Time Owner’s Experience
Raising a Working Anatolian:
Step 3 – Correct Training Techniques Bring Positive Results
By Erick Conard and Niki DeZeeuw
Niki's son, Jason, and Max
Niki's son, Jason, and Max

Click here to see Part 1 of Max’s Alpha Training
Click here for Part 2 of Max’s Alpha Training

Step 3 – Correct Training Techniques Bring Positive Results



Why were we willing to put up with a food aggressive dog during months of supervision and training?  Why did we spend countless hours of repetition and wrack our brains to come up with creative training techniques?   Because scattered throughout the first year of Max’s life were remarkable incidents, reminders of his exceptional qualities and intelligence.  These reminders kept us humble in our knowledge that we really weren’t yet capable of accurately interpreting his other ‘renegade’ behaviors… and they gave us hope. 


One of the first times we became excited about Max’s amazing ability to interact successfully with our goats occurred when Max was just an oversize fuzzball about three months old.  One of our Nubians got her head stuck in a wooden fence.  The horizontal opening was just slightly wider at one end.  Max was right there, gently picking up her ear and trying to ‘lead’ her to the wider side of the opening.   His mouth was so incredibly soft, that even when she got scared and went back to the other side – he immediately let go.  My husband was so amazed he brought me out of the house to watch.  There were no marks whatsoever on her long, lovely Jacob’s Pride ears.  Max never lost patience trying to help her and never got rough with her.  After watching the puppy and the goat go back and forth for awhile, we helped Max and let her go free.


Early in Max’s fourth month, when he was fully entering his food aggressive phase, he had a run in with my chickens.  I keep my young pullets in a chicken tractor.  One day I made the mistake of putting food scraps in the chicken tractor before running errands.  I came home to chickens everywhere!  Feathers were all over the back porch and Max looked profoundly guilty.  I thought for sure he’d gotten at least one.  I ran around counting chickens, all the while reprimanding Max verbally.  While Max was hiding under the trampoline, chickens were running wildly and so were we, trying to catch and count them.  Max wouldn’t get up even when they ran right over him!  Eventually, we caught them all and realized none were missing.  However, the rooster was shy some feathers.  I reconstructed the scene as follows:  Max tore through the chicken wire to get at the scraps and the bantam rooster took offense and went after him.  Those little guys are very aggressive and repeatedly attack to defend their girls – hence feathers everywhere.  I think Max eventually either submitted to the rooster or let him go unharmed and the little fellow happily trotted off to freedom with his harem.  While it was irritating that Max had broken in the chicken tractor to steal the food scraps, it was reassuring that he hadn’t killed any chickens. 


Max clearly demonstrated his ability to discern when circumstances are wrong when he was about six months old.  He came up to the back sliding glass door and barked once.  He had never done that before, so we went outside to see what was up.  The boys, who had finished milking about five minutes earlier, had left a goat in the stanchion!  She was crying out, in distress at her predicament.  This is the only time Max has ever barked at the back door; he never did it again.  Max saw that things weren’t right and knew to come to us to fix it, reinforcing his value in our animal operation.  I felt like I owned Lassie! 

Niki's son, Andrew, and Max
Niki's son, Andrew, and Max


Another example of Max’s concern for his charges is seen when he walks the goats to and from the milking stanchion.  One of the goats, Blue, sometimes is afraid of the chicken coop, especially at dusk.  Max usually follows each goat to and from the milking stanchion.  However, when it’s Blue’s turn and she acts afraid, Max moves forward and gets between Blue and the chicken coop, allowing Blue to walk by without fear.  Max only accompanies Blue like this when she seem fearful.


Christmas of 2004 gave us an example of how protective an Anatolian can be, even in small things, and their amazing ability to perceive cause and effect. Max was only ten months old at the time.  My youngest son, Harry, received a two wheeled bicycle with training wheels.  We heard a crash and Harry calling out Max’s name.  We came running, thinking that Max had caused the crash and fully expecting to find an angry child.  When we came around the corner, Harry was untangling himself from the bike and the dog.  Because Harrison is easily frustrated, we were surprised to come around the corner and see Harrison loving on Max.  He told us that Max had tried to save him.  He explained he had lost his balance and tipped over.  Max had run up and put himself between the bike and the ground, allowing Harrison to fall on Max instead, breaking the fall! 


Another incredible Anatolian behavior occurred just after Max’s first birthday.  Our lead mare was due to foal.  We had retained her previous colt, still intact at 1 and ½ years old.  During the end of pregnancy, directly before foaling, the mare’s changing hormones put out a scent that can cause stallions to think mares are coming into season.  Our mare’s hormone changes affected our colt, and overnight he began breaking through or jumping over any and everything!  While we were moving the mare out to pasture, the colt jumped two stall fences to get to her.  Max was right in the thick of things – he never trusted that colt.  As Jon led the mare, Jon worried Max might be kicked and tried to call Max off.  Max completely ignored Jon and exhibited herding behavior like any typical border collie or herding type dog.  I told Jon that Max was fine and had Jon observe what Max was doing.  Max, within the space of about two minutes, herded that young stallion to the furthest corner of the pasture from Jon and the heavily pregnant mare.  Max held the colt in that corner until Jon had the mare safely away and then trotted away from the colt! I’m still amazed when I think about it! 


Another incident where Max displayed herding behavior – and I’ve never read about Anatolians displaying herding behavior – was when our four Nigerian bucks escaped.  My two older boys were trying to round them up and Max helped, but not in the same aggressive and energetic manner he displays when dealing with the horses.  Max walked very calmly with his head down to reassure the goats he’s just a grass-eating part of the herd.  When one of the bucks hesitated, Max gently touch his nose to the buck’s flank to get the buck moving again.  Max’s whole demeanor was one of understated presence; there was no energy to speak of.  This low energy behavior is in stark contrast to the high energy Max exhibited when interacting with the horses, where he lunged, leaped, barked, and snapped the air near their noses in order to move them.  Max again showed amazing Anatolian discernment and emotional control in his vastly different responses to horses and goats.   


A third type of animal toward whom Max displayed herding behavior is chickens.  The first time I released the rooster and his harem to graze freely, Max was very upset that the chickens weren’t where he thought they were supposed to be, in the chicken tractor.  Max kept herding them quietly; he nonchalantly walked this way and that, never engaging in direct eye contact with them.  He attempted to move them just with his bodily presence and appeared to be hiding the fact that he was focused on them. When he realized he couldn’t keep all the chickens by the tractor, he seemed to give up on keeping them there.  He changed his focus to an independent hen furthest from the group and began trying to keep her near the group.  I reassured Max everything was OK and went into the house.  About twenty minutes later I looked out the window to see Max carrying a chicken in his mouth!  I went outside to find Max lying down with the hen gently placed between his front paws.  When the chicken tried to walk away, Max got up and picked her up again in his mouth.  He looked at me like, ‘she won’t stay put – what do I do with her?’  I mildly scolded him for having her in his mouth and put her back with the other chickens, unharmed.  The hen he’d picked up was the same hen he’d tried to herd earlier.  Max had tried several different things to keep the hens where he thought they belonged.  He started with the least invasive methods and escalated from there.  He directed the flock to the tractor.  Then, when they wouldn’t stay there, he realized that keeping them in a group was more important than back in the tractor.  When one hen wouldn’t stay with the group, he adjusted and picked up that hen to keep her safe with him.  Max seemed to display an overly developed sense of responsibility… a good thing in an Anatolian! 


More recently, Max completely changed his sleeping habits after we released our new batch of egg layers.  He’d been sleeping on the back porch for almost a year every night. He now guards the chickens for most of the night, lying out front with the chickens until about three in the morning.  Before Max moved out front, one chicken preferred sleeping with him, seeking Max out in the evenings and roosting on the ground beside him!  Even though we have lots of owls and have seen coyotes trotting by in broad daylight, my twenty-odd hens free range our two acres unmolested.  Since we live less than ¼ mile from the Indian reservation, we also have numerous dog packs roaming around, some consist of large pet eating dogs.  I lost 15 chickens the year before Max came and only one since. 


We also raise a couple of batches of meat chickens each year in chicken tractors.  My husband and I were sitting on our pack porch, enjoying our time together after putting the kids to bed.  Max was out front, barking loudly.  It was his, “I know you are out there, and I’m right here too!” bark.  Based on Max’s behavior, we assumed it was an owl. Twenty minutes later we heard an enormous crash!  We dashed out front to find Max out of sight, barking and snarling.  The chicken tractor looked like it had exploded.  The removable top half was laying a few feet off, the birds were cackling worriedly, and the non-removable half of the tractor top was also off, skewed to the side.  After repairing the chicken tractor we went to Max – who was in no mood to talk.  He was working, racing the front fence furiously.  Not long after, a great horned owl broke out of the trees next door, right where Max had initially been barking and snarling.  Sighting this owl confirmed our earlier assumption.  We think the owl landed on the chicken tractor – not seeing the wire – and Max leapt after the owl, caving in the flimsy top (chicken tractors are built light-weight for ease of moving) and bursting out the removable top in Max’s race after the owl.  Not a single chicken was missing or injured. 


One of our meat chicks wasn’t white.  I thought I’d gotten an extra laying chick instead, so she missed the trip to the processors.  Within a few weeks she grew extraordinarily large and we realized our mistake, but it was too late!  The kids were attached, so I promised we wouldn’t butcher her.  She was a gentle, generous soul – and eventually topped out at around twenty five pounds.  She was quite a site, and popular with all our visitors.  We called her Bertha.  Bertha and Max developed quite a relationship.  One day Max was guarding, which means he was flat out on his side, looking for all intents and purposes sound asleep, or dead!  Bertha was pecking close by and I watched as she got closer and closer to his feet.  She was asking for it.  I watched her cock her head to eyeball his toenails.  I thought to myself, ‘don’t you do it, Bertha!’, but she did!  She pecked him!  Anybody that was ever pecked by a chicken knows it hurts; it isn’t gentle.  Max picked up his head halfway and looked at her, a sort of canine, ‘excuse me?’ and then flopped back down, already asleep.  Bertha must have gotten the message – as they remained friends and I never saw her peck his toes again.


The other day my husband caught a hen suspected of egg eating – high treason at our house.  She was making distressed sounds and our big young rooster ran towards Jon, when Max walked between the two and looked at the rooster.  The rooster immediately changed directions.  It was comical, the hen would cluck, the rooster’s instincts would kick in and he’d run towards her, Max would look at him, and, like someone had pushed a reverse button, off the rooster would run.  This happened half a dozen times.  Max never escalated things – a look was all it took.  He wasn’t angry or emotionally involved – he didn’t chase the rooster off.  He just stayed between Jon and the rooster in a nonchalant, almost ‘accidental’ way and looked directly at the rooster every time he came towards Jon. 


Twice dogs have strayed onto our property.  Both times Max has played ‘too roughly’ with them until they decided they’d rather leave.  He’d engage them and lure them further and further away from the animals.  One time we came out and found Max lying in the pasture by the animal pens and a huge hound was waaaaaay in the back corner – desperately trying to get out.  Max was between the dog and our goats, but the dog was too big to get out on its own.  The other time, two labs broke in ... dogs whom I’ve seen kill neighboring ducks.  Max played ‘rude’ and kept forcefully stepping on them until they decided to leave.   He followed them out and pushed them right under the fence as if he were saying, ‘and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”


One morning my nine year old son Jake was up early and getting a head start on chores before the rest of us were awake.  He’s weird like that sometimes.  He was milking a goat and heard the gate chain rattling and then saw a man come into the yard.  Jake said to him, “You shouldn’t come in here, we have a dog”.  The man just ignored him.  Jake had no idea who the man was or what the man was doing.  That’s a  scary situation for a nine year old outside by himself. He quietly said Max’s name.  Max is usually sound asleep in the early hours of the morning, resting after working all night, but he had heard the gate chain.  He was walking quietly around the corner when he saw the strange man halfway down our drive way.  Max ran towards the man barking furiously.  Once close to the man, Max began to leap towards him and then bound backwards, as if he were pouncing. He repeated this again and again, in a semicircle, moving the intruder towards the gate. The man stood his ground a couple seconds and then backed his way quickly towards the gate.  Jon heard the ruckus and sprang out of bed in time to hear the man, now outside the gate, ask Jake where his father was!  


We were digging fence posts one day and EVERYBODY was helping.  If we dig in a spot, Max starts digging as close to it as he can.  If we move out of the way, he will take over digging the hole for us!  Harry and Jake both had shovels also.   I was shoulder to shoulder with Max, who was laying down front feet in the hole.  We were both getting the dirt out with our ‘hands’.  My face was just inches from Max’s nose.   I was just opening my mouth to tell Harrison that he was digging too close to the dog’s tail when he chopped Max’s tail with his shovel.  Max leapt up into a sitting position, and then immediately folded in half sideways, nose to tail, leading with his shoulder, and fell over and rolled onto his back.  In the face of what he could have interpreted as a painful act of aggression – he had the perfect Anatolian response!  We loved and babied him and apologized to him.  I’m sure he understood by the tone of our voices that it was an accident. 


Jon was out of town one weekend and I was watching the boys by myself.  It was late and I let Jake and Andrew spend extra time outside bouncing on the trampoline.  Harrison was already in bed.  I had my bedroom door open and I could hear the springs squeaking as they jumped.  Next thing I knew I heard angry barking, shouting and the chain link fence clanging.  I ran out and this is what Jake and Andrew told me:  they were jumping and having a good time.  A group of boys (we found out later they were unsupervised) started heckling them from next door.  We have a very thick oleander hedge between the two properties.  The hedge is nearly twenty feet high and ten to fifteen feet thick in places.  My two didn’t realize the boys next door were even talking to them.  Since they didn’t get a response from Jake and Andrew these kids decided to walk to the end of the hedge and threaten them through the chain link fence. When they started over the chain link into our yard Jake called Max – who was out front.  Max reached them when they were almost over the chain link fence.  He was barking loudly and leapt up the chain link fence – Jake and Andrew said Max’s head was a foot and a half over the top of the fence line.  Kids were leaping off of the fence, jumping back away from the fence.  I was outside by this point, and Max wasn’t barking anymore.  He was trotting away from the fence. The five boys immediately got into their truck and left – with Max ‘escorting’ them along the inside of our perimeter fence.  He remembered that truck for over a year and always ‘escorted it’ by following it along the perimeter property line.  The thing that amazed me most was that Max would take care of an imminent threat like that, yet have the discretion to determine the threat was over, and trot away at only 10 months old.  He’s not like the ordinary dogs that I’ve passed on my walks; they bark and snarl furiously at every passersby. 


Then there was the UPS guy….Poor guy – he obviously had some emotional hang-ups from dogs he’d come across in the past.  I heard Max barking and snarling furiously.  I even heard the chain link fence moving.  Other than the stories I’ve relayed here, we don’t hear him sounding like that very often so I came out the front door to check.  What I saw was the UPS man hitting my gate with his hand trying to intimidate Max.  It wasn’t working; it was making him mad!  In the words of a famous comic book character, ‘you won’t like me (Max) when I’m angry!’  The UPS guy was preoccupied and didn’t see me approaching the gate and continued making mistakes with Max.  He was aggressive verbally, escalating the encounter and Max was accordingly increasing his aggression.  This is the only other time I’ve actually seen Max leap up and hit the chain link fence at a person.  Once I arrived at the gate, the guy went on and on about not opening the gate – can’t say that I blame him there – that the paperwork wasn’t worth it.  (the paperwork filled out for a dog bite).  The man was so emotional that it took some time for him to realize that once I got there Max was no longer barking or jumping, but sitting quietly ready, beside me.   I calmly told him Max wouldn’t bite him and he told me he had been bitten twice and that that’s exactly what the chow’s owner told him right before he was bitten! I told him he could leave the package outside the gate, for which he was visibly grateful.  He was truly terrified of dogs due to his past encounters.  During the course of our conversation he eventually noticed the change in Max’s behavior and asked what breed he was, and said he was a good dog.  I assume it was because Max sat quietly with me, allowing us to speak after showing such a strong response to the man’s attempt at intimidation.


In the first article we told how one of our goats broke Max’s leg just three days after he arrived.  Max never held a grudge towards her.  If anything, he gave her more space.  If he is escorting goats to and from the stanchion – he stays back twice the distance from her.  She used to go at him with head lowered, even if she happened to come across him.  She’d even go out of her way to threaten him!  Now, when she walks by him he makes a point of lying down, or staying down, for her.  They seem to have an understanding. 

Niki's sons, Harry and Jason, and Max
Niki's son, Harry and Jason, and Max


We also misunderstood Max’s relationship with the pigs.  Our next two pigs, bought at auction, were crazy – even the man we now deal with who raises pigs couldn’t figure those two out.   They just weren’t ‘right’.  When I would feed or water the pigs, I never entered the pen.  Max walked away from where I was feeding and pressed up against the pen with his head down like he was looking for food.  I would scold him because I didn’t want the pigs to bite his ears, which is what they’d try to do every time. He’d just look at me reproachfully, and not move.  One time, fed up, I decided he had to mind me and scolded him until he slowly walked off – but he kept stopping and turning his head with the most reproachful expression I’ve ever seen on a canine face.  Slowly the light dawned and I realized that Max was luring the pigs away from me, pretending interest in the ground so the pigs thought he had food.  He was a good enough actor that even I had believed him!  They always went over to him while I fed and watered without any interference.  No wonder he thought I was ungrateful.  We need to pay close enough attention to our Anatolians to realize when our dogs are being smarter than we are.  They may think things through better than we do, especially where animals are concerned!


We thought Max hated pigs (an example of burdening an animal with human emotion).  The reason we originally called Erick Conard is because both times Max fought our first pig over scraps, Max became aggressive with my husband, Jon.  Later he was aggressive with the two pigs described above.  After those two pigs were butchered, we purchased two more pigs from a local man who raises pigs humanely.  These new pigs are healthy, happy, friendly pigs we’ve had for six months.  With these pigs, Max has never deemed it necessary to become a distraction at the other end of the pen, as he did with the crazy pigs.  Max went with us every time we fed the crazy pigs; with our nice pigs, Max doesn’t escort us to the pen and just ignores them. 


We had two kittens born on our place we named Charlie and Harley.  Max was a rambunctious puppy in the cool of the morning and chased and tried to play with the two kittens, who were quickly overwhelmed.  While we worked on curbing Max’s play behavior, the girls were growing up.  Charlie seemed to hold a grudge, while Harley was affectionate with Max.  Charlie, with Max being submissive to her vengefulness, began to grow more self confident.  She would go out her way to take a cheap swipe at Max.  We would even find the dog running, tail tucked, with that tiny scrap of black and white cat chasing after him!  Whenever we saw Charlie being overly aggressive, we would remove her from the dog’s space.  If Max saw we were frustrated with her, in the beginning he took the opportunity as permission to chase after her so we correct him.  Our efforts paid off because we have six cats all spayed/neutered that Max does not chase.  The seventh is not here often and we really had to work with Max to accept him.   However, Max does NOT tolerate stray cats. 


One day I was coming around the corner and Max was actively walking away from Charlie – who was three feet behind Max and stalking him.  She leapt up onto his back and Max scoobie-scooted away with his tail tucked under him.  When Max stopped about ten feet later, Charlie was still attached to his back!  He turned his head and saw that his unwelcome rider was Charlie.  Max promptly crashed down onto his side and rolled over onto his back in submission, rolling right over Charlie in the process!  She was not amused and tore off, completely miffed that her evil plan to power trip on the dog had somehow horribly backfired!  She never ‘jumped’ Max again.


A really interesting situation arose when my brother, Scott, came to stay with us over the summer.  He is a college student and happened to get an internship close by.  Max is extremely accepting of my family and very tolerant of Scott.  You can tell because Scott can talk baby talk to him and grab Max’s cheeks and love on him.  Nobody else has ever attempted this!  A few weeks after Scott arrived, he told me that he felt absolutely safe walking around outside at night on our two acres.  Scott lives in our guest house.  When I asked him about it he told me that every single time he had been outside, no matter where he had gone – to the barn, or the garage, or to his car or the main house – or how quiet he tried to be, that Max always found him.  He would see Max peeking around the corner to check who it was.  A few times in the beginning, when Max wasn’t as familiar with Scott’s shape – Jon and I would come running when we heard barking and usually a yell of fright!  Every time we got there, Max was apologizing to Scott for the ‘misunderstanding’ – in other words as soon as he got close enough Max would realize it was Scott, drop his head, walks slowly, and wag the tip of his tail.  Then he would lean on him. 


After Scott had been with us a couple months, something happened that allowed Max to show Scott exactly where he stood in the scheme of things.  Scott was washing his car and Max found Scott’s towel.  Max did a walk by and nonchalantly picked up the towel. Scott told Max to drop it, called his name, and repeated “NO,” but Max ignored him completely.  Jake happened to skip by and observe what was going on.  Jake simply said, “Max” from about twenty feet away.  That was all it took.  Max immediately spit out the towel and moved off.  Luckily, Scott has a great sense of humor! 


A few days before Scott left, Max somehow got hold of a telephone book while the rest of the family was gone.  Max was at his front yard look out post, happily shredding the phone book.  Scott noticed from inside the house and went out to get the book.  Something in Max’s demeanor made Scott stop abruptly about twelve feet from him.  Scott leaned forward and in a somewhat subdued tone said, ‘no’.  Max gave him a silly look and then kind of jumped forward a bit, not moving from his spot – like when someone is attempting to intimidate someone by a real quick fake lunge.  Scott immediately went back into the house!  Hearing Scott tell the story was very humorous – that he gave his token ‘no’ and then quickly walked back into the house not daring to enforce his command!  He learned that he may be family, but he wasn’t “FAMILY” to Max - someone to accept and protect, to tolerate, but certainly not someone to be taken seriously!


While raising an Anatolian these past eighteen months Jon and I have learned so much.  The things we have learned have helped us be better parents to our human kids as well.  We were repeatedly humbled by our experiences with Max, the evidence of his intelligence, and his marvelous responses to our fumbling first attempt to raise an Anatolian.  Max will be two in April.  In the midst of the anguish of his food aggression, while we were trying to imagine a full-grown, 135 lb plus male, we were desperate for answers that would have a positive outcome.  Never in our wildest hopes could we have pictured the awesome, capable dog Max has now become. 


            As newcomers to the Anatolian breed our first experience has been an exhilarating ride of emotions.  From awe at Max’s beauty and intelligence to miserable despair as we realized he could be dangerous, we quickly reached the end of our limited knowledge of obedience training options.  We still recall the sickening feeling in our chests the days after Max’s second altercation with the hog.  We felt we had no hope to save him and couldn’t responsibly pass him on to another owner.  He seemed an unruly, sullen, teenage male for whom love didn’t seem enough – but as we learned from Erick, it is respect in conjunction with that love that means everything!  As the parents of three young boys, this lesson is a priceless bit of wisdom we learned before our own boys reached the unruly stage. 


I’d like to compress what we learned these past nineteen months for others who are raising or are thinking of purchasing an Anatolian. 


First of all, START ESTABLISHING ALPHA POSITION RIGHT AWAY!  … Even though that cute, laid-back “fuzzball” is the best behaved puppy you’ve ever seen.  That’s normal behavior for an Anatolian puppy, just as independent, teenage behavior is also normal for a six to eighteen month old Anatolian pup.  Although divergent, I think both traits are due to the uncanny intelligence of the breed.   It is MUCH easier to tell a twenty pound pup what to do!  Even by six months, Max had reached large dog status with a serious character flaw (food aggression) and no alpha leadership – a recipe for disaster.


Secondly, LEARN BREED BEHAVIOR/BODY LANGUAGE!  Posturing is of supreme importance when dealing with an Anatolian.  Our biggest hurdles were overcome when we finally began noticing the subtle changes in Max’s body posture indicating he was pushing or challenging a boundary LONG before he issued an outright challenge. Ironically, by noticing and reacting to the behavior, I became a worthy alpha leader, respected enough to be trusted! We experienced nothing but repeated challenges to our authority until we learned we could stop the confrontation even before it began.  We learned that we could not allow Max to get away with any response except for the correct deferential attitude toward us.  For example, the moment of epiphany for me was when I realized during one of Erick’s training exercises that Max was not turning his nose as far away from the bone as he had initially.  When I verbally reprimanded Max, he IMMEDIATELY gave me an extreme response, turning his head as far as he could.  HE KNEW exactly what I had reprimanded him for, as I was responding to HIS LANGUAGE.  I had acted on a hunch, but his response told me I had hit on something significant.   


As an aside, don’t ever plan on dominating an Anatolian into submission using only physical force.  One day your Anatolian will realize it is stronger than you are!  When that day comes, you’d better hope your dog loves and trusts (i.e. respects) you enough that, for those reasons alone, your Anatolian will choose to obey you.  If you aren’t trusted as the alpha leader, an Anatolian will make its own decisions, as best it can.  This bit of information probably isn’t as vital for a dog living in the pasture its entire life but anyone expecting an Anatolian to live indoors in a household situation is expecting this breed to adapt to a situation it has not been bred for until very recently.  I believe that refusal to establish alpha position with an Anatolian living in your space is dangerous, as you may not agree with the dog’s decisions.  At this point Max submits to me because he loves me – my husband is his alpha and due to my relationship with my husband, Max obeys me.  He obeys because of the love and respect and the hundreds of submissive responses we demanded during his training.


Thirdly, REPETITION IS VITAL!!!  Regular training sessions are important to establish a pattern of behavior within your dog’s mind.  Lessons learned from training sessions are what the dog will fall back on in a new situation, if the pattern is strong enough.  If the dog knows, after a thousand repetitions, that as soon as he submits, he will be loved, petted, and made much of – then when he’s scared, or makes a mistake he will want to hurry to that place of submission.  A case in point – we have never had the problem of Max not coming to us.  He never runs away either.  He may come slower than we like but the second he makes a step in the right direction, we just ooze good will and affection – and he comes running!  These dogs want to please and this is a powerful tool in our favor.


Fourthly, PAY ATTENTION TO THE DOG’S REAL MOTIVATION!   Even when the dog is acting tough the motivation behind the action may not be so obvious.  This is extremely relevant in young dogs.  The older Max gets the more his responses are tempered – you can see he gives just what it takes to control a threatening situation.  Because they lack experience, young dogs lack this discernment and this is what makes them unstable until they approach two and up.  All situations are new to a young dog.


The best example of our inability to pay enough attention to Max’s motivation was when we introduced Max to strangers when he was young.  We had not established alpha dominance, so meeting strangers was an especially scary, challenging and confusing time for Max.  Our concern about Max meeting people only added to his concerns as he picked up our vibes.  One time, well into our training work with Erick, we had a couple of friends come by that Max had not met.   These were ‘animal people,’ Monique and Dave, a couple whom we were able to inform ahead of time how to behave around Max.  Monique had actually grown up in Turkey and was enthusiastic about meeting Max.   While we stood outside talking with them, Max was not accepting.  His hair stood on end as he growled low, barked in machine gun bursts, and stared menacingly.  He sniffed and then scooted away, barking.  He just wouldn’t relax, even after fifteen to twenty minutes and even though we were speaking to our guests in pleasant tones. 


I finally knelt down in an attempt to comfort him just as he stepped on a rock and cried out!  I immediately loved on him and felt him shaking and trembling.  Up to that point, I did not have a clue how much strain he was under.  After I finished loving him, he walked about five to ten feet away and lay down, facing us.  He still wasn’t comfortable, but he was quiet.  After awhile, we went inside to watch our movie. When we went outside to see our guests off, Max came up to us wiggling… happy to see us, all of us. 


When Max was about half way through his training and we were still struggling, I passed by the pet shop at a mall.  You can imagine my shock and amazement to find an Anatolian puppy in one of the windows.  The breed is relatively new to the general American public and I can’t imagine people buying one from the mall pet shop.  I was outraged at the injustice done to that pup’s future and to the ignorant people who would buy it.  The responsibility is heavily upon the shoulders of the Anatolian community to educate people about the nuances of this breed.  Breeders must be willing to provide follow-up support or connect their buyers with someone who actually has the skill and patience to provide sound guidance. Our love for our companions and their lifelong service towards us demands nothing less.  To me, standards any lower than that reveal an irresponsible or ignorant breeder motivated by money.


Our country is fond of big, ‘tough’ dogs as status symbols and as such I can see warning lights ahead for the Anatolian breed’s future.  Max is a case in point.  We intentionally purchased an Anatolian livestock guardian but, never having owned a livestock guardian before, we were ill equipped to handle the dominance issues which can sometimes develop in superior flock guardians.  We couldn’t always recognize which behaviors were good working behaviors and which behaviors needed correction.  We had to learn how to “talk Anatolian.”  After a year of research, we accidentally bought exactly what we needed.  Unfortunately, we bought from a breeder unable to provide proper guidance and because of that, Max nearly met with a tragic end. 


[Erick’s note: Anatolians, who have a strongly wired flock guardian temperament and behaviors, are not a breed that can fit well into every household.  Many Americans interested in owning a large protective dog are not mentally or emotionally equipped to socialize a well bred Anatolian into their household.  Anatolians are not guard dogs… they are flock guardian dogs - a highly developed tool for guarding livestock. For thousands of years, Turkish shepherds selected Anatolians with superior livestock guardian behaviors and ability.  I believe that if we expect to maintain the Anatolian Shepherd as that same amazing dog we imported from the goat herds of Turkey, Anatolian breeders must diligently apply the same behavioral selection criteria applied by shepherds for millennium. This means that all responsible Anatolian breeders raise all of their Anatolian breeding prospects with sheep and/or goats 24/7 in a predator rich enviornment and that working ability is valued as the highest factor in all responsible Anatolian breeder's selection criteria. ANYTHING LESS IS DAMAGING TO ANATOLIAN BREED PRESERVATION! ] 


Niki DeZeeuw, who lives in Arizona, raises top quality show and milking Nubian goats.  She can be reached at 


Erick Conard owns Lucky Hit Ranch and, although a working dog owner for twenty years, currently co-owns the #1 AKC All Breed Anatolian, Birinci’s Yahsi (Handsome) with Kim Griffin Marcus of Inanna Anatolians.  Erick’s web address is , where you can find additional working flock guardian information. 

Click here for Part 1 of Max’s Alpha Training
Click here for Part 2 of Max’s Alpha Training

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