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Caucasian Mountain Dogs

Kelly Roper
Caucasian shepherd dog

The Caucasian Mountain Dog is known by several names, including the Caucasian Shepherd Dog or the Caucasian Ovcharka as the American Kennel Club (AKC) lists the breed in its Foundation Stock Service as breeders work toward gaining official AKC recognition. No matter what you call it, this is a fascinating breed.

General Description of the Caucasian Ovcharka

Body Characteristics

The first impression of the Caucasian Ovcharka is that this is a truly powerful, muscular dog whose thick coat makes him appear even larger than he is. His skull is massive, and his facial features resemble a bear. The ears are set high and are often cropped. The dog has a rectangular outline, and his thick tail tends to hang down when he is at rest and is carried up over the back when he is on the alert or moving.

Differences in the Sexes

According to the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) breed standard, males of this breed are slightly larger than females, with a broader skull and a heavier body, so the sexes should be easy to tell apart at a glance.

  • Males should weigh approximately 50 kilograms/110 pounds.
  • Females should weigh about 45 kilograms/99 pounds.


According to the FCI breed standard, this breed's coat comes in three types. All are double coated, practically thick enough to stand on end, and quite weatherproof.

  • Long-haired - This type of coat is almost reminiscent of a Chow Chow. It's relatively long, with a distinct mane around the head, shoulders and chest, and thick feathering behind the front legs and pants. The tail is also heavily furred.
  • Short-haired - The short coat is equally thick, but lacks the mane, pants, and leg feathering of the long-haired type.
  • Medium - This coat is a combination of the long and short coat types. The fur is longer than the short-haired type, but there's no mane or feathering, and the tail isn't as luxurious as the long-haired type.


According to the breed standard, various shades of gray from light to dark are acceptable, with a lighter undercoat and a darker top coat. Other colors and patterns include:

  • Caucasian Ovcharka dog
  • Red
  • Straw/yellow
  • White
  • Earth-colored
  • Brindle
  • Spotted
  • Piebald

Dogs may have white markings, and a black mask is desirable on solid-colored dogs.

The Mountain Dog Temperament

The Caucasian Ovcharka is an even-tempered companion to his owner, but he is still a guard dog at heart and naturally has a very dominant character. He's quite territorial, especially toward strangers. He'll remain on duty all night due to his protective nature, so owners can expect to hear barking and growling any time he hears something suspicious.

Socialization and Training

Due to this breed's temperament and strength, early socialization is necessary to ensure a puppy grows up to be a well-adjusted adult. He should be taken out and about so he can come into contact with a variety of people, pets and situations so he learns to adjust to whatever his present circumstances are.

Formal obedience training is also important because these dogs need firm boundaries, and must learn from the beginning that their owners are their leaders. They are highly intelligent and like to think for themselves, so it's import to gain their respect and obedience through firm but fair training.

These dogs are not for inexperienced owners. They do best with people who are equally strong-willed and understand the need to be consistent with them. Subsequently, they may not be the best companions for children unless these dogs are well trained and supervised by adults.

Exercise Needs

Caucasian Ovcharkas get their exercise the natural way by patrolling what they perceive as their territory. These dogs are most content when they're doing the jobs they were bred for, and this includes herding livestock. They will also accompany their owners on hikes and trot alongside them in their sure-footed gait.

Grooming Needs

These mountain dogs have extremely thick coats, and they do shed a lot. Shedding can be kept to a minimum by brushing them a couple times a week to remove loose fur. Bathing should be kept to a minimum to preserve the coat's natural texture and oils which contribute to its insulating quality.

Dogs that get enough time outside will wear their nails down naturally, but they may still require occasional clipping.

Health Concerns

This is a hardy breed that, according to Russian Dog, averages a lifespan of about 12 years. However, these dogs are prone to some of the same health problems as other large breeds. According to VetStreet, these dogs are susceptible to hip dysplasia and cataracts.

History of the Caucasian Ovcharka

According to the AKC, this breed has a long history of use as livestock shepherds and guard dogs. They were also used as guard dogs at Soviet gulags and along the former Berlin wall. Since these dogs are so hardy, they were transported and used all across the former Soviet Union.

Meet the Breed Before Making a Decision

The Caucasian Ovcharka is a magnificent dog, but it is definitely not the breed for everyone. These dogs require active leadership to help them find their proper place in the family hierarchy. If you are truly suited to the challenge, this mountain dog makes the companion of a lifetime. Visit breeders and spend time with adult dogs as well as puppies to get a feel of what it's like to live with one of these dogs before you decide if you should bring one home.

Caucasian Mountain Dogs