Russian ovcharka dogs are known by a variety of different names, including the Caucasian shepherd, Caucasian ovcharka, Russian Caucasian dog and Caucasian sheepdog. Whatever you choose to call them, these big dogs can make wonderful, yet challenging pets. If you're thinking of owning one, you should do plenty of research first to ensure it's the right breed for you.
The exact history of the Russian ovcharka is unknown, but they've been used as herding, guarding and fighting dogs in the Caucasus region for hundreds of years. Despite the name, Russian ovcharkas are thought to have originated not in Russia, but from areas of Georgia, Armenia, Daghestan and the Kabardino-Balkar. Although they cannot yet be registered with the American Kennel Club, they're part of their Foundation Stock Service Program, which helps to maintain the integrity of rare dog breeds.
Russian ovcharkas are large dogs, standing between 24 and 34 inches at the shoulder, and weighing between 80 and 100 pounds, with males being larger than females. They can have long, short or medium-length fur, but they're double-coated, which gives them a fluffy appearance. They come in a range of colors, including various shades of gray, red, rust, straw, white, yellow, piebald and spotted. They have large, broad heads and medium-length muzzles.
Russian ovcharkas are very gentle and loyal toward their families, but are extremely protective. They should be laid back and balanced, with a calm nature unless they feel threatened. They're very intelligent and will need lots of positive-reinforcement style training from an early age, from an owner who is willing to take the role as leader. They like to guard their families, so don't be surprised if they wake you up in the night barking at some perceived threat.
Russian ovcharkas are intelligent and independent thinkers, so they aren't suitable if you're an inexperienced dog owner or they're likely to run circles around you. They're distrustful of and can even be aggressive toward strangers, so they might not be the ideal dog if you have a lot of different house guests coming and going. They'll need at least twice-weekly grooming, so you must be willing to put in the work, and you'll need to be prepared for some major shedding once a year.