INTERESTED IN BUYING A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA?
You must be or you
wouldn't be reading this. You've already heard how marvelous Southrussian
Ovcharkas are. Well, I think you should also hear, before it's too late,
that Southrussian Ovcharkas are not the perfect breed for everyone. As
a breed they have a few features that some people find charming, but that
some people find mildly unpleasant and some people find downright intolerable.
There are different breeds for different needs. There are over 400 pure bred breeds of dogs in the world. Maybe you'd be better off with some other breed…..
DON'T BUY A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO THE BREED MAINLY BY ITS APPEARANCE. The natural look of the Southrussian Ovcharka is that of a large, shaggy dog, usually with some dirt and weeds clinging to his coat. The true beauty of the Southrussian Ovcharka lies in his character, not in his appearance. There are many other breeds whose natural beauty of appearance far exceeds that of the Southrussian Ovcharka.
DON'T BUY A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU ARE UNWILLING TO SHARE YOUR HOUSE
AND YOUR LIFE WITH YOUR DOG.
Southrussian Ovcharkas were bred to share in the work of the farm family and to spend most of their waking hours working with the flock or shepherd. They thrive on companionship and they want to be wherever you are. They are happiest living with you in your house and going with you when you go out. While they usually tolerate being left at home by themselves, they should not be relegated to the backyard or kennel. A puppy exiled from the house is likely to grow up to be unsociable (fearful and/or unprovokedly aggressive), unruly, and unhappy. He may well develop pastimes, such as digging or barking that will displease you and/or your neighbors. An adult so exiled will be miserable too. If you don't strongly prefer to have your dog's companionship as much as possible and sharing many of your activities during the day, you should choose a breed less oriented to human companionship. Likewise if your job or other obligations prevent you from spending much time with your dog. No dog is really happy without companionship. A better choice would be a cat, as they are solitary by nature.
DON'T BUY A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU DON'T INTEND TO EDUCATE (TRAIN)
Basic obedience and household rules training is NOT optional for the Southrussian Ovcharka. As an absolute minimum, you must teach him to reliably respond to commands to come, to lie down, to stay, and to walk at your side, on or off leash and regardless of temptations. You must also teach him to respect your household rules: e.g. is he allowed to get on the furniture? Is he allowed to beg at the table? What you allow or forbid is unimportant; but it is critical that you, not the dog, make these choices and that you enforce your rules consistently. You must commit yourself to attending an 8 to 10 week series of weekly lessons at a local obedience club or professional trainer and to doing one or two short (5 to 10 minutes) homework sessions per day. Ovcharka's hate long sessions, they will be very boring for them. As commands are learned, they must be integrated into your daily life by being used whenever appropriate and enforced consistently. Young Southrussian Ovcharka puppies are relatively difficult to train: they have little will-to-please, they are intelligent but also stubborn, with a relatively short attention span.
But once a Southrussian Ovcharka has learned something, he tends to retain it well. Your cute, sweet little Southrussian puppy will grow up to be a large, powerful dog with highly self-assertive personality and the determination to finish whatever he starts. If he has grown up respecting you and your rules, then all his physical and mental strength will work for you. But if he has grown up without rules and guidance from you, surely he will make his own rules and his physical and mental powers will often act in opposition to your needs and desires. For example: he may tow you down the street as if competing in a sled-dog race; he may grab food off the table; he may forbid your guests entry to his home. Southrussians mature slowly, and as such, will retain their "puppyish" behavior into their teenage years. So if you want a dog that will mature quickly, a Southrussian Ovcharka is not for you. The training has to be done by the owner himself and cannot be delegated to someone else, because the relationship of respect and obedience is personal between the dog and the individual who does the training. This is true of all dogs to greater or lesser degree, but definitely to a very great degree in Southrussian Ovcharkas. While you definitely may want the help of an experienced trainer to teach you how to train your dog, you yourself must actually train your Southrussian Ovcharka.
As each lesson is well learned, then the rest of the household (except young children) must also work with the dog, insisting he obey them as well. If you don't intend to educate your dog, preferably during puppy hood, you would be better off with a breed that is both small and socially submissive, e.g. a Shetland Sheepdog. Such a dog does require training, but a little bit goes further than with a SRO. Ovcharkas are not thrilled with competition, as it is so repetitive. So they are not suited to it. They are not bred to be herding dogs but flock guarding dogs, which is different although some lines have a little herding instinct. They need to see the reason for everything they do.
DON'T BUY A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU LACK LEADERSHIP.
Dogs do not believe in social equality. They live in a social hierarchy led by a pack leader (Alpha). The alpha dog is generally benevolent, affectionate, and non-bullying towards his subordinates; but there is never any doubt in his mind or in theirs that the alpha is the boss and makes the rules. Whatever the breed, if you do not assume the leadership, the dog will do so sooner or later and with more or less unpleasant consequences for the abdicating owner. Like the untrained dog, the pack leader dog makes his own rules and enforces them against other members of the household by means of a dominant physical posture and a hard-eyed stare, followed by a snarl, then a knockdown blow or a bite. Breeds differ in tendencies towards social dominance; and individuals within a breed differ considerably. Ovcharkas as a breed tend to be of a socially dominant personality. You really can not afford to let a Southrussian Ovcharka become your boss. You do not have to have the personality or mannerisms of a Marine boot camp Sergeant, but you do have to have the calm, quiet self-assurance and self-assertion of the successful parent ("Because I'm your mother, that's why.") or successful grade-school teacher. If you think you might have difficulty asserting yourself calmly and confidently to exercise leadership, then choose a breed known for its socially subordinate disposition, such as a Golden Retriever or a Shetland Sheepdog, and be sure to ask the breeder to select one of the more submissive pups in the litter for you. If the whole idea of "being the boss" frightens or repels you, don't get a dog at all.
Leadership and training are inextricably intertwined: leadership personality enables you to train your dog, and being trained by you reinforces your dog's perception of you as the alpha.
DON'T BUY A SOUTHUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU ARE FASTIDIOUS ABOUT THE NEATNESS
OF YOUR HOME.
The SRO's long shaggy coat and his love of playing outside combine to make him a highly efficient transporter of dirt into your home, depositing sand on your floors and rugs and possibly also on your furniture and clothes. The dirt and sand dries and falls off their coat, leaving you with a clean dog, but a sandy floor! Southrussian Ovcharkas shed, so you will find that the grooming process usually results in balls of pulled out hair tumbleweeding their way about your house, unless you deposit same directly from comb into a trash basket. They also loose a lot of coat in the spring and you can expect to have garbage bags full of hair after a grooming. I don't mean to imply that you must be a slob or slattern to live happily with a SRO, but you do have to have the attitude that your dog's company means more to you than does neatness and you do have to be comfortable with a less than immaculate house.
While all dogs, like all children, create a greater or lesser degree of household mess, almost all other breeds of dog (except the Old English Sheepdog) are less troublesome than the Southrussian Ovcharka in this respect.
DON'T BUY A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU DISLIKE DAILY PHYSICAL EXERCISE.
Southrussian Ovcharkas need exercise to maintain the health of heart and lungs and to maintain muscle tone. An adult SRO should have a morning outing of a mile or more, as you walk briskly, jog, or bicycle beside him, and a similar evening outing. For puppies, shorter and slower walks, several times a day are preferred for exercise and housebreaking.
All dogs need daily exercise of greater or lesser length and vigor. If providing this exercise is beyond you, physically or temperamentally, then choose one of the many small and energetic breeds that can exercise itself within your fenced yard.
DON'T BUY A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU BELIEVE THAT DOGS SHOULD RUN "FREE".
Whether you live in a town or the country, no Southrussian Ovcharka can safely be left to run "free" outside your fenced property and without your direct supervision and control. The price of such freedom is inevitably injury or death: from dogfights, from automobiles or from justifiably irate neighbors. Even though Southrussians are home-loving they incline to roam; an unfenced SRO is destined for disaster. Like other breeds developed for livestock protection, most SRO’s have inherited a substantial amount of "protecting instinct". The unfenced city SRO is likely to exercise his inherited protection instinct on passers-by such as joggers, bicyclists, dogs and automobiles. A thoroughly obedience-trained Southrussian Ovcharka can enjoy the limited and supervised freedom of off-leash walks with you in appropriately chosen environments. If your SRO sees a deer or a bird he will "take off".
If you don't want the responsibility of confining and supervising your pet, then no breed of dog is suitable for you.
DON'T BUY A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO BUY, FEED, AND
PROVIDE HEALTHCARE FOR ONE.
Southrussian Ovcharkas are not a cheap breed to buy, as running a careful breeding program with due regard for temperament, trainability, and physical soundness (hips especially) cannot be done cheaply. The time the breeder should put into each puppy's "pre-school" and socialization is also costly. The "bargain" puppy from a "back-yard breeder" who unselectively mates any two SRO’s who happen to be of opposite sex may well prove to be extremely costly in terms of bad temperament, bad health, and lack of essential socialization. Whatever the initial cost of your SRO, the upkeep will not be cheap. Being large dogs, SRO’s eat relatively large meals. Large dogs tend to have larger veterinary bills, as the amount of anesthesia and of most medications is proportional to body weight. Southrussian Ovcharkas are subject to a condition that can be costly to treat: hip dysplasia. (Your best insurance against dysplasia is to buy only from a litter bred from x-rayed parents and [if possible], grandparents). Yes, this generally means paying more. Professional grooming, if you use it, is expensive. An adequate set of grooming tools for use at home adds up to a tidy sum, but once purchased will last many dog-lifetimes. Finally, the modest fee for participation in a series of basic obedience training classes is an essential investment in harmonious living with your dog; such fees are the same for all breeds, though conceivably you will need to travel a bit further from home to find a training class teacher who is competent with the more formidable breeds, such as an Ovcharka. All dogs, of whatever breed and however cheaply acquired, require significant upkeep costs, and all are subject to highly expensive veterinary emergencies.
DON'T BUY A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU WANT THE "LATEST, GREATEST, RARE
The Southrussian Ovcharka is not suited to be a trained "protector", like a police dog. They are too independent minded. For many generations they have been left alone to mind flocks and instinctively protect their charges. The Ovcharka is too big and too powerful and we do not need this in our country. Ovcharkas have natural protectiveness and will use it if needed. Owning that type of dog is a very big responsibility and liability. In contrast to the protection-trained dog, trained to bite on direct command, the "deterrent dog" dissuades the vast majority of aspiring burglars, rapists, and assailants by his presence, his appearance, and his demeanor. Seeing such dog, the potential wrongdoer simply decides to look for a safer victim elsewhere. For this job, all that is needed is a dog that is large and that appears to be well trained and unafraid. The SRO can serve this role admirably, with the added assets of shaggy appearance adding to the impression of formidability and fearsomeness. If the dog has been taught to bark a few times on command, like "Buran, watch him!" rather than "Groza, speak for a cookie", this skill can be useful to augment the deterrent effect.
Other breeds that are more suitable for protection or for deterrence include the Doberman, Rottweiler, German Shepherd and Belgian Sheepdog. Of these the first 3 are recognized by the general public as "police dogs" and are probably far more feared by most potential criminals than is the Southrussian Ovcharka.
DON'T BUY A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU WANT A TOTALLY UNAGGRESSIVE AND
Most SROs have an assertive, independent minded, and confident personality. When confronted with a threat, a proper Southrussian will be somewhat more ready to fight than to flee. Thus he may respond aggressively in situations where many other breeds back down. Many SROs are dog-aggressive. Also most Southrussian Ovcharkas have some inclination to act aggressively to repel intruders on their territory (i.e. your home) and to counter-act assaults upon their pack mates (you and your family). Without training and leadership from you to guide him, the dog cannot judge correctly whom to repel and whom to tolerate. Without training and leadership, sooner or later he may injure an innocent person. With good training and leadership from you, his owner, he can be profoundly valuable as a defender of your home and family. (See also remarks on socialization above.)
If you feel no need of an assertive dog or if you have the slightest doubts of your ability and willingness to supply the essential socialization, training and leadership, then please choose one of the many breeds noted for thoroughly unaggressive temperament, such as a Sheltie or a Golden Retriever.
DON'T BUY A SOUTHRUSSIAN OVCHARKA IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO COMMIT YOURSELF
FOR THE DOG'S ENTIRE LIFETIME.
No dog deserves to be cast out because his owners want to move to a no-pet apartment. Or because he is no longer a cute puppy or didn't grow up to be a beauty contest winner or because his owners through lack of leadership and training have allowed him to become an unruly juvenile delinquent with a repertoire of undesirable behaviors. The prospects of a responsible and affectionate second home for a "used" dog are never very bright, but they are especially dim for a large, aggressive, poorly mannered dog. A Southrussian Ovcharka dumped into a pound or shelter has almost no chance of survival - unless he has the great fortune to be spotted by someone dedicated to LGD (lifestock guarding) breeds. The prospects for adoption for a youngish, well-trained, and well-groomed Southrussian Ovcharka whose owner seeks the assistance of the nearest Ovcharka Club or Rescue group are fairly good; but an older SRO has diminishing prospects. Be sure to contact your breeder, club or rescue group if you have a valid reason for seeking an adoptive home. Be sure to contact your breeder or breed club if you are beginning to have difficulties in training your Southrussian, so these can be resolved. The life span of a Southrussian Ovcharka is from 10 to 13 years. If that seems too long a time for you to give an unequivocal loyalty to your Southrussian, then please do not get one! Indeed, as most dogs have a life expectancy that is as long or longer, please do not get any dog!
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