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Russian Prison Dogs 101: Meet The Massive Caucasian Ovcharka

Key Takeaways

  • Russian Prison dogs or more formally known as the Caucasian Shepherd are a highly protective dog breed with a bold, fearless, and self-confident temperament.
  • Caucasian Shepherd Dogs have a long-standing history of serving as guard and bear-hunting dogs. At present, they continue to fulfill the role of prison guard dogs in Russia.
  • The dog breed is generally healthy but carries the risk of hip dysplasia.
  • Different names know the dog breed depending on their regions of origin, such as Caucasian Ovcharka Dog, Caucasian Shepherd Dogs, Kawkasky Owtscharka, and Kaukasische Schaferhund.

Caucasian Shepherd Dogs have a rich history of being utilized for different purposes, ranging from guarding livestock and protecting homes to hunting bears. Currently, these dogs are still in demand for their guarding abilities, serving as Russian prison dogs.

As an owner of a Caucasian Shepherd dog, I can attest to their highly protective nature. My guard dog is bold, fearless, and self-confident, and it’s amazing to see how quickly it becomes fierce when faced with a potential threat. Despite this, my dog is also very devoted, kind, and they make for excellent family companions. It’s clear to see why these dogs have been used for centuries to guard livestock against predators and protect properties from trespassers.

Notably, these breeds are also common in some of the most violent prisons in Russia since they can look quite fearsome. Their sheer power combined with their fierce loyalty makes this dog breed incredibly effective in deterring unwanted behavior in a prison setting.

Currently, these breeds are kept as companions and watchdogs. I’ve also heard them called by different names like Caucasian Ovcharka, Caucasian Shepherd Dogs, Kawkasky Owtscharka, Kaukasische Schaferhund, and various others, depending on their region of origin.

Russian prison guard dog profile

The overwhelmingly popular breed is also known as the Caucasian Ovcharka, sometimes also referred to as Caucasian Shepherd dogs, and has a history of over 100 years. These dogs are absolutely massive in size—try to imagine what it would look like if someone could crossbreed a bear with a wolf, with a little husky thrown in for good measure. Most people confuse them for domesticated wolves or other dogs like the Tibetan Mastiff (ancient breed) but these are two separate breeds. Another lookalike breed is the Nepali Mountain Dog.

These healthy dogs can easily weigh more than 120 pounds and they would have no trouble taking down a fully-grown man with energy left to spare. While it might seem like their size is the thing that makes them the perfect Russian prison dog, it’s really more about their temperament than anything else.

The Russian prison dog health is generally OK but I advise you to watch out for usual health concerns like obesity, luxating patella, and hip dysplasia. Like all dogs, I suggest early socialization so that the breed can live well with other pets or other animals. I noticed though that their aggressive tendencies only come up when there’s a perceived threat from other animals or humans.

The Rather Unique Temperament of Caucasian Shepherd Dogs

Can Russian Prison dogs be trained? Of course! There are many things that are rather unique about this particular breed of dog. Aside from their truly massive size, they have a temperament that is quite balanced. They don’t tend to get spooked easily. In fact, many people have commented that the majority of them seem to be almost fearless, even in extreme environments. Since these are exactly the type of situations that can happen in prison, it makes perfect sense that this is the breed people would eventually choose to keep things on an even keel.

Moreover, the Russian prison dog breed appears to be able to tell the difference between a situation that warrants their involvement and the prison guards simply doing their jobs. This is crucial. In much the same way that police dogs are trained to protect their handlers, even while going after a suspect, these Russian prison dogs are taught to do the exact same thing for the guards. Even when guards and prisoners are mixed together in a fight, the dogs seem to be able to figure out who to protect and who to go after. In short, they have an uncanny ability to stay focused on the task at hand.

caucasian shepherd training

Like any other type of specialized dog training, the proper training process begins early on for those bred to be Russian prison dogs. More often than not, they start training them at approximately eight weeks of age. This training continues until the dogs are fully grown adults and are deemed ready for work as prison guard dogs. Of course, not everyone qualifies—much like with police dogs. They may start out with several puppies, yet only one or two out of that group actually make it through the entire training program and go on to work as part of the Russian prison dogs. This is because they have to show the right temperament in all types of situations. That includes the ones that would make most dogs overly aggressive or so panicked that they would want to run away.

In addition to regular obedience training, the puppies are exposed to the unique types of situations that are likely to occur inside a prison. Unfortunately, this involves deliberately scaring the Russian Prison dog with loud and sudden noises as well as plunging them into complete darkness in unfamiliar surroundings. The whole thing is designed to put the dog on high alert while simultaneously manipulating its senses in order to see how it will react under situations of extreme stress. It sounds cruel but these are exactly the same types of situations that a prison guard dog is likely to experience. Therefore, they must be exposed to similar training situations to be effective guard dogs.

Other than the fact that they’re wonderfully strong, the Russian Prison dogs bark in an incredibly intimidating way—making them perfect for discouraging would-be home invaders. While they’re intelligent enough to be service dogs, their sheer size can make it difficult.

caucasian shepherd – rugged Breed for cold weather

Russian Prison Dog.

This massive breed is well suited for work in Russia and the Caucasus Mountain region because of its thick coat. They have this attractive long hair and a thick undercoat that keeps them warm, even in the coldest of climates. That makes them a natural choice for working as Russian prison dogs. Many times, these Russian prison dogs spend their time in old buildings and are even outside for extended periods of time. Therefore, they need to have this coat in order to keep themselves warm so they can physically do the job at hand. Note that Russian prison dogs drool—a lot! So I advise you to teach them how to wipe their mouth on cue.

Can a Russian prison dog thrive in hot weather? I discourage keeping this dog in a tropical climate as it can be incredibly difficult for them.

Are Other Dogs Breeds Ever Used?

Several breeds can and are also being used as prison dogs including the Pitbull. In some cases, they use them in conjunction with the Caucasian Shepherd Dog. In other locations, Pitbulls are used almost exclusively. When it comes to training, Pitbulls have a very similar temperament to the Caucasian Shepherd Dog. They’re also strong enough to handle themselves well in a volatile environment such as a prison. Moreover, the majority of them don’t tend to be easily frightened and they are also relatively easy dogs to train. In these ways, both the Pitbull and the Caucasian Shepherd Dog are very similar. The biggest difference between them lies in their physical characteristics. Obviously, Pitbulls aren’t as big as the Caucasian Shepherd Dog, nor do they have the same type of coat. Therefore, they are not quite as well suited for work in the cold because they may not be able to stand such temperature extremes as well as the Caucasian Shepherds. Despite their physical differences, these are two of the strongest dog breeds I’ve ever had the pleasure of having in my pack.

Other Uses for the Caucasian Shepherd

Of course, the history of the dog breed goes beyond Russian prison use. In truth, they were bred long before the idea ever existed of using them this way. In fact, farmers in that region have used them for centuries as a means of protecting sheep and other vulnerable herds from wildlife in the area. As such, this Russian prison dog or the Caucasian Shepherd Dog was originally bred and trained to be a livestock guardian dog against wolves and bear hunts [1]. They may even be used to hunt bears off of the property of farmers successfully. They definitely have the size and temperament for hunting bears. That’s exactly what makes them a perfect fit for use as prison guard dogs in the first place. 

Are caucasian shepherds Found Anywhere Else in the World?

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is native to the Caucasus Mountain region in eastern Europe. As such, they are most likely to be found throughout Russia as well as neighboring countries like Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. However, dog fanciers have recently started to selectively breed the Russian prison dog in other locations such as the United States. As such, people have started asking a lot of questions about whether or not the breed is even legal in places like the US. As far as I know, to date, there are no laws against owning one of these dogs. However, it is important that people check with local regulations in any particular town or city as it is possible that there are specific regulations against dogs of a certain size. It’s also worth noting that some trainers may be reluctant to train such a large dog, especially if they aren’t already familiar with the dog breed.

Why is the caucasian shepherd So Hard to Find?

As previously mentioned, these Caucasian Mountain dogs are native to Russia and have largely remained in that region up until just a few short years ago. It was not until then that a few breeders got the idea of breeding them as excellent guard dogs for livestock in other parts of the world. In some cases, people in places such as the United States decided to start breeding them and making them available for sale because they are unique. This has a tendency to add monetary value, making it an appealing option for breeders. Even though the breed has not been widely recognized in other parts of the world, its popularity is definitely growing. Personally, though, I strongly discourage novice dog owners from getting the Caucasian Shepherd dog since they can be very powerful.

What should you do if you happen to run into a Russian prison dog unexpectedly? Fortunately, all large and giant breeds I’ve met are well-trained – including the Caucasian Shepherd dog breed. Despite their imposing size and the fact that they can be effectively taught to work as Russian prison guard dogs against some of the most violent prisoners in the world, they actually have a fairly mild temperament. Under the right circumstances, these dog breeds even make great pets!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the caucasian shepherd used in Russian prisons?

The dogs used in Russian prisons are known under a number of different names. The proper name for them is the Caucasian Ovcharka. However, they are also known as the Caucasian Shepherd, Caucasian Sheepdog, Caucasian Mountain Dog, the Russian prison dog, and the Russian bear dog. They ended up with the last two names because of the work they are commonly known for. Historically, they were used to protect livestock against potential threats such as wolves and bears. More recently, they have been used as prison guard dogs throughout Russia quite successfully.

Are Russian bear dogs legal in the US?

As previously mentioned, there are not currently any laws in the United States that specifically prohibit this giant breed. However, it is possible for certain municipalities to put limits on the types of dogs that people can have. In many cases, it is against municipal regulations to have dogs that are of a particularly large size. In other places, the regulations are breed-specific. In these types of instances, it may not be legal to have certain dogs such as Pitbulls, Rottweilers, or Russian bear dogs. One of the complications commonly associated with having this particular breed of dog in the United States is that they are relatively new to the country. Therefore, there aren’t a lot of laws regarding them in any capacity because many people aren’t even aware of them.

What are the big Russian dogs called?

Russian prison guard dogs usually refer to the Caucasian Shepherd. They are truly unforgettable, largely because of their sheer size. The dogs are also called Caucasian Ovcharka or Caucasian Shepherds. More informally, I often hear people refer to them as the Russian guard dog, the Russian bear dog, or even a Russian prison dog.

What is a Russian bear dog?

A Russian bear dog or the Caucasian Mountain Dog is a very large dog approximately two and a half times larger than the largest German Shepherd. The dogs are used as guard dogs in a typical Russian prison. They’re also used to protect livestock against bears, kill wolves, and other threats. The dogs have a reputation for being virtually fearless, yet they remain easy to train. They also seem to have an uncanny ability to recognize a true threat whenever one presents itself. When that happens, they tend to address those threats readily without backing down. This makes the Caucasian Shepherd an excellent option in situations that prevent a certain level of danger, yet also require that something or someone is adequately protected. I think that all of these combined make the Caucasian Sheepdog popular as Russian prison dogs, just as it has been the characteristic that has made them popular with farmers for centuries. 

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