Erick Conard's Lucky Hit Ranch

Some Thoughts on Anatolian Temperament
based on reading
By AKC Judge Sidney L. Marx
July 2005
Volume 9, Issue 5, Page 80

By Erick Conard, Leander, Texas
Lucky Hit Shadow Kasif (CASE) leading his flock back to the barn
Lucky Hit Shadow Kasif (CASE) leading his flock back to the barn at Lucky Hit Ranch
Some Thoughts on Anatolian Temperament

The author of the Dogs in Review article, "Of Sound Mind," is AKC Judge Sidney L. Marx. A licensed handler and an AKC judge since 1974, Mr. Marx currently judges the Sporting Group, Beagles, and BIS.

The introduction to "Of Sound Mind" asks "Are the temperaments of our show dogs getting worse?" Sid Marx feels show dog temperaments are getting worse. He provides some specific examples of temperament problems in different breeds that clearly illustrate the temperament the dogs expressed was not the temperament indicated in the breed standard. Sid Marx then makes the following assertion. "I understand that this is not the preferred breed temperament. If that is the case, then these exhibitors certainly need to accept responsibility for the training and socializing of their exhibits, and the parent club needs to make sure that breeders take temperament into account when deciding to breed or not."

I agree and feel that we in the Anatolians Shepherd Dog Club of America (ASDCA), as the parent club for AKC, have the responsibility to insure proper temperament is taken into account in Anatolian breeding decisions. For Anatolians, bred as flock guardians of sheep and goats for thousands of years, proper temperament means working flock guardian temperament. One way those of us in the ASDCA could insure proper temperament is a breeding consideration is by placing flock guardian temperament requirements in our code of ethics. When we do, we need to write requirements that reflect the breed's working temperament requirements rather than temperament requirements we'd like to see in a good show or companion dog.

Of course, that means to me that experienced working Anatolian owners need to be asked to take the lead for the ASDCA in creating the temperament requirements rather than the many "show-only" and/or "companion-only" breeders currently in leadership positions in the ASDCA who have no experience in true working situations. As a working breeder who has recently begun to show my dogs with some success, I've discovered that excellent working temperament can result in excellent behavior at shows. While my Anatolian, Ashley Manor DivaKiz of Lucky Hit (Kizzie - the #2 AKC Breed Female Anatolian in 2007), was being judged in Group, the Judge commented that she had never seen such well behaved Anatolians as the dogs I'd brought to that show. All the Anatolians whose behavior the judge complimented are full time working dogs who live 24/7 in the pasture with goats, llamas, ducks, and geese in a true working setting where predators are a real concern.

I trust Anatolian breeders place the same level of concern on breeding for correct working temperament as they place on breeding for correct physical characteristics. To date, I'm mystified how show/companion only breeders (without flock animals) determine that they have correct working temperament, since I believe it is difficult to truly ascertain correct (i.e. working) Anatolian temperament in Anatolians raised without flock animals. Because many Anatolian breeders do not raise and maintain their Anatolians with sheep and/or goats I'd love to know the criteria those breeders use to determine correct working temperament in Anatolians that are not engaged over time with a flock! To me, serious Anatolian breeders will not only select the pups with the best conformation to breed, they will select the dogs with the best working temperament to breed.

Sid Marx also said "I have detected a subtle change in ring temperament in many different breeds, and we need to catch it before it goes any further."

Marx asked what it says about the breed if judges place dogs with improper temperament in the position they would have been placed if they'd had proper temperament. He asked "Isn't temperament an important trait in the breed?" Personally, I think temperament is the single most important trait in an Anatolian and correct working temperament should be a major factor in deciding any Anatolian's placement, whenever possible. While it is difficult to accurately determine an Anatolian's working temperament in the ring, a knowledgeable judge can note improper temperament if displayed and take the improper temperament into consideration when determining placement. Excitable, high-strung, high-energy behaviors help identify adult Anatolian Shepherds who many have poor flock guardian potential. The problem is that what can be seen as proper in the ring may be considered improper at the ranch! So it seems to me that the responsibility for insuring proper working temperament lies mainly with our Anatolian breeders who hopefully will favor Anatolians in their breeding program who have demonstrated their excellent working temperament in a real world working setting with flock animals!

Sid Marx said that a judge that allows improper temperament to be overlooked "is adding to the demise of that breed." I agree. He asked "Who should shoulder the responsibility for this? All of us." And it seems to me that the AKC parent club, the ASDCA, should be even more concerned than any one individual because the future of the breed rests in the hands of the parent club. (Parent clubs author the breed requirements.) Furthermore, I believe whoever is responsible for AKC judges education seminars should have experience with and knowledge of working Anatolians so comments to judges accurately reflect true working temperament.

Sadly, many (most?) ASDCA club officers and board members do not maintain Anatolians in a real world working setting with flock animals. How knowledgeable regarding correct working (flock guardian) temperament can one be without experience? What kind of decisions regarding the breed will inexperienced club officers and board members make? I think it's a shame the ASDCA doesn't have at least as many club officers and board members who own true working Anatolians as they do officers and board members who own show and/or companion Anatolians. Looking at years of "The Anatolian Times" it appears to me that the working Anatolian is not being represented equally with show Anatolians and working accomplishments are not touted with the same high regard as show wins.

Mr. Marx made a great point when he said "We are supposed to judge - and hopefully breed - for type and soundness. Let's remember that soundness of mind is at least as important to a breed as the ability to walk to the end of the ring and back." I really like this judge!!!

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