The Greek Shepherd's Beginnings
For centuries, the Greek shepherd dog breed has protected sheep and goat herds in the mountain regions of our country, and is rightfully part of our natural and cultural heritage. It is a very important breed because it is perfectly adapted to the natural conditions of the mountainous countryside, and has become a valuable and irreplaceable guardian, able to face the attacks of large carnivores, such as bears and wolves.
There is no real information about its timeline of development as no records were kept. It is known that they were often used in pairs and did spread across the country. There was superstition surrounding the dog. Stories were told that they had magical powers or healing abilities, children were encouraged to care for puppies so that the strength of the dog would feed into the children. Owners of the Greek Shepherd would also crop or remove completely the right ear of male dogs believing it would protect them from evil spirits and improve its hearing.
New Lease on Life
The Greek Shepherd today is a very rare and unknown breed outside of Greece, and even in it native country its numbers are declining with an estimated less than 3000 dogs being left. This is in part due to there being less need for them as there are fewer livestock farmers, and also partly due to uncontrolled cross breeding which has led to a number of hybrids and fewer purebreds. Since 1998 the Greek ARCTUROS has been trying to save and revive the breed with the implementation of the Greek Shepherd Dog Breeding Program. It is not recognized by the AKC.
The Dog You See Today
The Greek Shepherd is a large to giant dog weighing 70 to 110 pounds and standing 23 to 29 inches tall. It has a large solid body that is very strong and powerful. It has a wide and deep chest with arched ribs, long legs and feet that are surprisingly small. Its tail can vary some have no tail, some have shorter ones and some have long ones that are thicker at the base and abundant with fluffy hair. The coat is long and especially fluffy around the head too. It is thick skinned and had a double coat that is dense and common colors are white, browns, black and grey. Its head is large and broad with a curved skull, strong broad muzzle, strong jaws and lips that are slightly loose. It has brown eyes that are oval shaped with tight eyelids and a fold of skin underneath them. Its ears are floppy, v shaped and large, they should not be cropped.
The Greek Shepherd does not naturally get along well with anyone other than their owner and leader. It is wary and aloof with strangers and some can even be somewhat reserved around people they know. It certainly does not make friends very easily and needs time to get used to new people and proper introductions. It is not a breed for new owners and is really a working dog and companion rather than just the latter only. It is independent thinking which means it can be stubborn but it is hard working, brave, loyal, protective and decisive. It needs owners who are very strong and confident in terms of leadership. In the right hands it is very dutiful and takes it flock protecting role seriously.
It is not an aggressive dog unless it feels its flock is being threatened and then at that point it will become aggressive towards the predators and bark loud and deep and frequently. If the bark is not enough to warn off the threat, it will then pursue and attack. It is used to working in pairs and does not like to be alone for long periods. It is a calm dog until it needs to act and it can be surprisingly quick for a large dog. Its flock guarding instincts would transfer to its home and territory so it would be a good guard dog for you too.
Living with a Greek Shepherd
What will training look like?
As this dog does not get along well with anyone other than its owner it is essential to socialize it and give at least basic obedience training from a very young age. That way it will likely still be aloof but will not perceive threats where there are none. Socialization means introducing it to different places, people, sounds, animals and situations so it knows how to react appropriately. It is difficult to train because of its strong dominant nature and tendency to be willful and stubborn. It needs experienced owners who are firm, consistent, patient and skilled. It will test your leadership and you need to know how to deal with. Do not be harsh or physical with it though, gentle and positive training techniques are best, you just need to stick to the rules you set.
How active is the Greek Shepherd?
The Greek Shepherd needs a lot of activity and mental stimulation, it is primarily a working dog, it likes and needs to be busy. It will need at least two hours a day of two long and brisk walks and it needs physical play with you. When walking it should be leash trained and kept on it to ensure it does not chase after something. It needs a yard or even land really, it definitely is not an apartment dog. It is able to handle tough terrain and climates and has a lot of stamina and endurance. If it gets bored it gets hard to live with, destructive, loud and even sometimes aggressive. This is not a breed for your regular dog owners.
Caring for the Greek Shepherd
Its coat is long so it is best to brush it at least every other day to prevent tangles and to remove debris it picks up when outside. It sheds an average to frequent amount so there will be some hair around the home to clean up too. Regular brushing will not only move its natural oils around the coat it will also help remove some of that loose hair. Only bathe it when it really needs one, bath time is not easy with some large dogs anyway and doing it too much actually damages those natural oils. Only use a dog shampoo to wash it with too. It should not need professional grooming.
Other needs include brushing its teeth for health teeth and gums using a canine toothbrush and toothpaste, at least two to three times a week. The nails should be clipped if they get too long though if it is outside all day and active often they may be naturally worn down sometimes. Only use proper dog nail clippers or scissors and do not cut into the section where the nerves and blood vessels are, this causes bleeding and pain. Last but not least are the ears. They should be checked weekly for infection, checked for burs and debris and also wiped clean once a week. Use a damp cloth or dog ear cleaning solution just do not insert anything down into the ears, this can cause pain and damage.
The Greek Shepherd will eat about 4 to 6½ cups of a good to excellent dry dog food a day and that should be split into at least two meals to avoid problems with bloat. The amount varies as it does depend on its age, health, metabolism, size and level of activity. Make sure it has access to water and try to change that for fresh water fairly regularly.
How is the Greek Shepherd with children and other animals?
The GS does not get along well with others and it is important that if you intend to have it join a family or interact a lot with others that you make sure it is socialized very well. In terms of children some are more friendly if raised with them but supervision is still needed especially when the children are young. Do not leave it alone with strange children that come over, especially if the children engage in rough play. It also does not like strange dogs though it does like to be raised with a second dog that it then works with, it is best though not to have one of the same sex. Other pets are not a good idea, it has a high prey drive and it is likely to go after them.
What Might Go Wrong?
This dog lives for between 10 to 12 years and there are no real major health issues known to be a problem for it. Some health concerns that can arise that are something all dogs can have problems with include bloat, ear infections and joint dysplasia.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
The Greek Shepherd puppy will cost about $750 from a respected breeder and more if you want something from a top breeder or want to try showing it. There are very few breeders outside of Greece so you will have some research to do and possibly have to pay for transportation costs if you live anywhere else in the world. Make sure you avoid turning to disreputable breeders at puppy mills, pet stores or backyard breeders. There is the option of adoption that will cost around $50 to $400 but it is unlikely you will find a Greek Shepherd purebred so perhaps consider that a mixed breed has a lot of affection and companionship to offer.
Initial items needed for your dog will cost about $220 and that should cover a few essentials like a crate, collar and leash, bedding and bowls. For initial health needs like vaccinations, micro chipping, deworming, spaying or neutering, a physical exam and blood tests expect a cost of around $290.
Health basics will cost another $485 a year for check ups visits to a vet, shots updated, tick and flea prevention and pet insurance. $300 should cover the annual cost of a good to excellent quality dry dog food for it and dog treats. Then miscellaneous costs like license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous items are another $245 or so. This gives an annual starting figure cost of $1030.
The Greek Shepherd is not your everyday pet dog, it is best as a working breed and it is best with a single owner. It needs very good socialization and training, it is not a family dog, or a gentle giant like the other dogs it resembles. It needs strong leadership, a large amount of stimulation and activity and should always be supervised when around other animals or people. In the right hands it is not an aggressive dog, so be sure you are not over estimating your experience and activity level so you get the dog suited to you.