Foreword: I have no strong decision about a purchase. Not even a weak decision. Just a strong wish - at this moment.

I have this idea in my mind for several months, to get a dog. And according to my way of "feeling", bigger is better and therefore I ended up reading about the Caucasian Shepherd dog.

All is nice and beautiful, except:

  • they can be aggressive towards other animals, people and children;
  • they can be trained, but training is difficult, so they are not recommended for first-time owners.

Now, it is easy to understand the part with "aggressive", no question there.

But what does it mean that "training can be difficult"? How should I "prepare" myself for dealing with such a "beast"?

This topic is especially important, considering the shear size and force of the breed.

Note: this question is not about food, exercise, barking, drooling... Some information in that area might be interesting, but not the main concern.

  • Are you a first time owner? Dec 2, 2022 at 10:32
  • First thought about "difficult to train": You will regret each small failure you do in training for your whole time with such a dog. Reasons can be diverse but in this breed I guess it is because of stubborness, will to defend family and ground (so you have a big problem if the dog not agree you are part of the family) and the weight of the dog (you can not simple pull it somewhere if it is not following your rules) By the way: In some German regions this dog is classified as dangerous and so not simple ownable, in Denmark it is forbidden. Dec 2, 2022 at 10:38
  • Well, I am not really "first owner" with dogs. The only experience with Caucasians is that I saw pictures and read opinions on the internet. My parents have a pekingese, and I lived with them / it several years - before I moved out. Obviously, Pekingese and Caucasian is not the same from any POV. The Pekingese mostly educated himself - or rather adapted to our wishes - quite easily.
    – virolino
    Dec 2, 2022 at 13:28
  • Pekineses are underestimated - because they had the job to protect the chinese king... But in case of emergency you could simple carry pekineses to another spot ^^ short legs, less weight... Dec 2, 2022 at 14:31

2 Answers 2


Humans have bred different dogs for different jobs and by doing so, they influenced their behavior. So called "toy breeds" retain infantile behavior in adulthood, hunting breeds have a strong chasing and hunting instinct and guard dogs are very independent and vigilant.

Caucasian Shepherd dogs have been bred to protect "their" flock of sheep against thieving humans and dangerous predators like wolves. That's where the "can be aggressive towards other animals, people and children" comes from. It was a trait that humans selectively bred into this specific breed. In the tradition of Caucasian farmers and shepherds it was common that the pups grew up with their flock and it was virtually impossible to adopt an adult dog into a new family with a different flock.

Traditionally they were also left alone with their flock for an entire night or maybe even several days. So these dogs had to protect their flock without the explicit command from their owner and be independent and autonomous. Humans bred them to think for themselves and also to be strong-headed when facing dangerous predators. In a modern lifestyle "independent" and "strong-headed" can translate to "stubborn", "ignores me" and "hard to train". If the dog sees no practical value in the command you give it, it may simply ignore your command. If the dog thinks that the vet is a dangerous predator, you'll have virtually no chance of training it to tolerate the vet.

But what does it mean that "training can be difficult"?

Most dogs can be motivated in a training either with food or toys or play. If your individual dog isn't interested in either of them, you'll have a hard time convincing it of following any of your commands. If you cannot control your dog in a civilized environment (like a town or city with strangers walking their dogs or children playing), then your life and the life of your dog will be very stressful and isolated.

If you cannot interest your dog in games, it will get bored (because it doesn't have its traditional job in our urban environment anymore). Bored dogs can get destructive and especially dangerous if the breed is known for aggressive behavior.

As a practical example: A Caucasian Shepherd dog may find purpose and pleasure in protecting you and your home. It may "protect" you from your partner or friends and it may "protect" your home from your guests. Usually you could train a dog to tolerate or ignore guests by offering it something of more valuable, like a tasty treat or some play time with the guests. But if your dog doesn't feel that those alternatives are more valuable than the "protecting" it's doing, the only alternative is to lock the dog away when you have guests. This causes a lot of stress for you and the dog, because you always have to make sure your dog cannot attack your guests (no-one accidentally opens the door to the dog) but also you have to punish your dog for doing exactly what it was bred to do (by locking it out).

How should I "prepare" myself for dealing with such a "beast"?

You can only do that by interacting with different dogs and learning about their natural behavior and body language. More specifically, you should learn from dogs with problematic behaviors until you can understand the signals they send and the motivation for their problematic behavior. There is no book or video tutorial that will prepare you enough for this particular breed. Personally, I strongly advise against this breed for first-time owners.

If the primary factor for your decision is the size of the breed, please chose a more docile one.

  • Thank you for giving facts to my simple guessing :) Dec 2, 2022 at 14:32
  • 2
    Another aspect is that this is a breed that matures quite late, so that you can expect new behaviors (e.g. territorial behavior) to manifest at an age where smaller breeds are already “settled”. And you need to be super consistent, because you don’t want anything that encourages a “Wait a minute, that’s just an option?” thought in a life stock guardian dog in a domestic/urban environment.
    – Stephie
    Dec 2, 2022 at 20:50
  • The information I find most useful: "Most dogs can be motivated in a training either with food or toys or play. If your individual dog isn't interested in either of them, you'll have a hard time convincing it of following any of your commands." It is probably the closest thing to an answer to my question.
    – virolino
    Dec 9, 2022 at 6:34

Well, I also prefer larger dogs :-)
My current Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is actually a full size smaller than the Newfoundland Dog I grew up with.

I'll add some examples to @Elmy's great answer

How should I "prepare" myself for dealing with such a "beast"?

Firstly, by as @Elmy says, get experience with large energetic dogs. If you want to know the worst, try them at age 9 months - 1.5 years (adolescent), that's when they are really crazy and already very strong.

Secondly, I very much recommend to sit down and list what your requirements are, and what you can offer to the dog. Then compare that to the known characteristics and breeding purposes of different breeds. Maybe there's an alternative breed that suits you better and that in turn also you suit better.

As an example, here's how I decided:

  • I was looking for a farm yard guarding/watch dog (not a herd guarding dog),

  • with the idea that it should have sufficient size to be taken seriously by strangers,

  • without the need of actual aggression.
    I.e., I want a low-aggression-type of dog, that still makes strangers think it's maybe better to ring (as the sign says).

    This rules out almost all "purely" herd guarding dog breeds, except maybe Pyrenean Mountain Dogs (non working-line*).

  • In turn, I offer several 1000 m² that the dog can freely roam.

  • I do not want to have a hunting dog: many hunting dog breeds have been bred to not give up chase, and will follow game for hours (talk to the owner of a beagle or Dachshund). In general, this also means that such dogs derive a lot of pleasure from chasing. This is also a type of trouble I don't care to have.
    In contrast, my dog ignores mice/rats without any training. He gets aroused by e.g. deer, but will realize quickly that the deer is 3x as fast, and give up.

  • Coat. The dog lives in its doghouse during the nights, so double coat is needed for winter. In addition, I live in a region with a particular kind of loamy soil that will form a composite material with long fur (Newfoundland :-( ) similar to armed concrete.
    => Stockhaar (sorry, don't know the English term. It's a type of short to medium length outer coat that is quite self-cleaning and robust also in bad weather. In turn, it means that the dog will shed a lot. Always.)

* many working-dog breeds have working lines and "family dog lines", and unless you want the dog for that kind of work, I'd recommend a family dog line (owners of a family-dog type retriever would often be quite astonished about the behaviour/needs of a working-line hunting dog. If you have a working dog, you'll need to work hard with him.).

GSMD are historically mixed purpose between herd guarding, farmyard guarding/watchdog, droving and draft dog

  • the guarding/watchdog purpose means:

    • He's very active and alert and easily aroused (someone has referred to him as ADHD-dog when he excitedly ran around in a friend's garden for some hour before laying down [he's since become calmer with the years]).
      That's something that can happen, although it is more than what to typically expect.

    • He likes to bark (making a lot of noise and putting up a big show is the first line of defense for herd guarding dogs as well purposely bred in traditional watchdogs).
      If you do not have sufficient grounds, so that you neighbours live sufficiently far away not to be annoyed by it and that the area considered for guarding by the dog does not extend to onto a public street (false alarms) - a herd guarding or watchdog breed is likely not a good fit.

      When he barks of happy excitation when someone comes (surely for a hike :-) ) he's so loud that even a friend with a lot of experience with dogs told me if I hadn't told her that it's the greeting and he wants to be petted she hadn't dared to put her hand to him. (Once you've heard how he sounds when serious, you'll know the difference...)

    • He is stubborn, see below.

    • He has a strong attachment to his home (there are several places he considers home: home, office, and the car) and to a select number of people. This offsets the stubbornness to a certain extent. He may not be very obedient, but he'll see that he doesn't get lost on a hike.

  • Low aggression:

    • He's docile with kids. When he licks diapers, it means they're full. When small kids are too uncoordinated in their "petting" or he otherwise wants to have some peace and quiet, he simply walks away.
    • When the vet once cut open an inflamed sebaceous cyst, she didn't use a muzzle. He did not even growl, just wanted to walk away.
  • Not a hunting dog:

    • Pro: He quickly returns, even if he makes a start after some game.

    • He's not interested in fetching at all. Pro: That's good when kids play ball. Con: if for some reason I cannot walk or bike, I cannot work him out by fetching games. OTOH, with the grounds at his disposal, he doesn't need a long walk every day. He does fine with longer outings, say, 10 - 25 km, when there's the occasion and a couple of rest days in between.

But what does it mean that "training can be difficult"?

  • He's stubborn: many dog breeds have a characteristic called will-to-please: they feel pleasure when obeying commands. This is good and wanted for breeds that closely work with humans, such as herding dogs and many hunting dog breeds like e.g. retrievers. Other dogs have been bred to work independently, notably herd guarding dogs but also some hunting dogs like Dachshund or terriers. A dog bred to decide independently what to do, i.e. without human command and/or in the absence of their human, will also have a tendency decide on their own in the presence of their human. (You're telling me to sit in wet grass!? Think again! - 3 min later: I'll take a bath in the muddy puddle...)
    If you'd like to have an obedient dog, those are not for you.

  • Also stubborn: he will negotiate obedience with everyone separately.
    Anyone showing only slight ambiguity has no chance at all.
    (A female or castrated male would likely be less stubborn, though.)

  • Droving: they were used for doving cattle, and do so by nipping the cattle in the heels.
    We had a number of serious conversations until it was clear that nipping heels (Achilles tendon), calf and the buttocks is completely unacceptable.

  • Training in general: understanding a command and disagreeing may mean simply not to obey. Or to protest. Loudly. Personally, I recommend hearing protection.
    But it also restricts how and where you can train the dog to obey commands where he protests due to other people getting upset.

  • In particular, once his growth spurt was over, he wasn't so hungry any more. There were quite a number of "ideas" that were more important than treats (particularly as adolescent: "brain closed for reconstruction"). At one point, he even ignored a slice of blood sausage, and no treat so far could make him go swimming.
    (He's the least hoggish dog I know: he leaves his feed unfinished when he's saturated and will return for the rest later, staying at a slim muscular 50 - 55 kg)

  • Draft dog: He's not superfast, but has stamina and strength and loves to pull (a sled, me and the bike, ...). Having pulling tasks in harness is one thing. The other thing is not to pull when not supposed to, e.g. on collar and leash. The local dog school gave up on the usual ways of teaching him not to pull at the leash.
    I have to admit though that I go a lot by bike which suits his natural pace better and a few km of gallop work wonders in terms of docility ;-) with him besides me on a very short leash* - but which is also to some extent counterproductive to learning never to pull, since it will accidentally happen every so often that the leash has some force: that already happens when he turns around his head to look backwards, of if he tries to cut a corner a bit more than I can on the bike (we got mostly over the issue of abruptly stopping when an interesting smell hits his nose).
    Typically, he doesn't pull hard in terms of what he could pull - but 50 kg of "just a quick idea" does have a noticeable impact at the other end of the leash. You won't have fun with a dog if you don't know you can handle him in case.

* 50-ish cm so not to get entangled with the bike, actually it's just a short strap without hand loop so I can allow him to roam by letting the leash go and picking it up again later. I can manage this while biking, but would need to stop to hook a leash at the collar.

  • I hope you do not use a simple collar for pulling tasks. If so, you could train the dog to differ between "collar I am not allowed to pull" and a better fitting harnish "I am expected to pull the sledge/bike now". Pulling in a harnish, (I will not talk about a pulling in collar --> breathing!!) which is not made for this task, will damage the front-neck area, lungs and bones. Also the muscles may cramp, similar to our back with a heavy but not fitting backpack (backpack without belt at the hips for example). Experience comes from a Bernese Mountain Dog :) A draft breed too Dec 9, 2022 at 6:07
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    While the answer does not concentrate on the main idea of the question, it does offer a lot of useful background - so still being on-topic. Very nice.
    – virolino
    Dec 9, 2022 at 6:35
  • @Allerleirauh: :-D harness, I don't put him in armor - I clarified in the answer. But here I'm referring to a dog on collar and leash, walking or besides me on the bike getting a sudden idea even if only of "one jump's size" (we had once a roe deer jumping up out of the ditch maybe 3 m away). Dec 9, 2022 at 13:18

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