"What kind of dog is that!?"
"Oooh, she's so cuddly! I wish we had a dog like
"Does she bite?" "Great dog! Bet she'd have good looking puppies!" "Is she friendly?"
"Wow! She sure is big! I could get one of those and breed them with a pit bull, so I'd have a really ferocious guard dog..."
Nushi at 11 months
These are just some of the comments we've heard and questions we've been asked as we've taken on the enormous task of socializing and living with a Caucasian Mountain Dog.
Caucasian Ovcharkas (COs) are not desirable for the average dog owner who just wants a family companion. They are highly intelligent beasts who fiercely defend their territories as they see fit. Much of the challenge of living with a CO is establishing yourself as the householod leader, and teaching your CO to live by your rules, not theirs. This is the socialization process, and it is exhausting, exasperating, and neverending.
Proper socialization teaches the CO when it is appropriate to guard and defend on territory, and acclimates them to modern societies' many sights and sounds so they do not fear the unexpected. As they mature, and begin to show their guarding instincts, the owner must provide correction or praise for every incident. This means you must supervise barking, lunging, or roaring at 2:00 a.m. as well as at 2:00 p.m. A person walking by on the public portion of the sidewalk is not a threat; a bark or two will suffice to alert the owner. Someone walking up the driveway to the door is more urgent, and a different level and length of barking is appropriate. But, the dog must be taught this fine distinction.
Centuries of evolution in the Caucasus have bred an instinct for viewing wolves and other predators as a threat. Other dogs are no exception. COs will always consider a passing dog a threat, and a dog walking onto the property is fair game. This is when even the best socialized CO may erupt into a full roar, charge the windows or fence, and liberally salivate and spit as they mount a ferocious display designed to deter the perceived threat without an actual fight. However, if warranted, a CO will attack an intruder if their vicious display fails.
Because of this potential, the responsible owner MUST have their CO under control at all times. Since the body language of dogs may be difficult for the average person to read, the critical task is to be able to curb their behavior appropriately. They must respect you, and look to you for guidance. This means you must work with your CO in both obedience class and daily at home, and be consistent with your corrections and commands and lavish with your praise. Postive Reinforcement Training is the preferred method.
Nushi was born April 2, 1996 in Hungary and brought to the U.S. by Thunderhawk Caucasian Mountain Dogs (no longer in business). . Her registered Hungarian name is Felegyhazi Hetordog Aida (Hetordog means "seven devils"). Being extremely caring and responsible breeders, Thunderhawk chose to spay Nushi and offer her to a good home because her hips did not meet their high breeding standard. Nushi is a Georgian type CO, with a gray brindle long hair coat, and has had her external ears removed as shepherds have done for centuries to reduce vulnerability to wolves.
Nushi's name was devised from a variety of meaningful words. The Russian word "ushy" means ear, "Nusi" is a Hungarian female name (the s is pronounced "sh"), and nushi means "almond" in Georgian. Between her Russian heritage, her Hungarian birthplace, and her Georgian type, we believe the name fits her perfectly.
Our lives have been changed forever by adding Nushi to our family. Training and socializing Nushi has given us an awareness and understanding of the complex nature and social interactions of dog behavior, something which we will never again take for granted, even in a dog as gentle as Tyler, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. For even Tyler, who we see as entirely benign, has his feisty and dominant moments. The task of educating the public to the importance of training any dog to live in human society is formidible. We hope we can pass our experience on to others.
Nushi is now a fully mature, naturally suspicious and territorial 7-year-old CO. We are constantly alert to her defensive nature and continue to supervise every alarm she raises. We are very aware of our responsibility to have her under control at all times. Life with Nushi is never dull!
If you think a CO is the dog for you, send me a note. We'd love to educate you!
Answers we give to the questions and comments:
"What kind of dog is that?" -- depending on our assessment of the person asking the question, we either say Caucasian Mountain Dog or Caucasian Ovcharka.
"Oooh, she's so cuddly! I wish we had a dog like that!" -- We warn about the deceptive appearance of a huge animal with soft fur, but also an enormous set of teeth and the ability to snap another small animal's neck in an instant. We also tell them how much she sheds!
"Does she bite?" -- We tell them no, not if they ask before they pet her, and we tell the dog it's ok. But we're very watchful, and assess the surrounding area for other dogs which might trigger an alert. If she does meet another dog, we ascertain her acceptance level, and even then maintain a watchful state in case we miss the subtle dog body postures or movement that might trigger aggression.
"Great dog! Bet she'd have good looking puppies!" -- We note that she has been spayed, that the breed is prone to hip dysplasia (as are many large breed dogs); that we have NO experience in genetic assessment and temperament evaluation; and that there are far too many unwanted puppies in this world anyway, so it's better to adopt from a shelter or take in a rescue.
"Wow! She sure is big! I could get one of those and breed them with a pit bull, so I'd have a really ferocious guard dog..." -- we caution that cross-breeding these dogs is not a good idea, that this breed is a natural guardian, that pit bulls are not naturally nasty, but have to be treated badly to turn out that way. We emphasize how dangerous it can be to breed a dog without understanding its genotype and the basic principles of genetics related to temperament. An out of control dog is dangerous ... to the owner as well as bystanders.
Comments to Pamela M. Rose
Last updated 4 April 2016.