Conformation Shows

The Anatolian Shepherds and Dog Shows

GCHS Karaboudjan's Mystic Moonspell "Shazam" with a "Best of Breed" ribbon.
GCHS Karaboudjan’s Mystic Moonspell “Shazam” with a “Best of Breed” ribbon. Owned and Bred by my mentor Janet Dotson of Karaboudjan Anatolians.

Have you ever wondered why an Anatolian Shepherd dog goes to a dog show? And what does conformation showing have to do with a working breed dog? It’s common to hear the reasons a dog shouldn’t be shown- because he has a job to do, the sheep won’t make it if he leaves, or maybe he doesn’t know what a leash is… but the biggest reason that most working Anatolian breeders give for not showing is that it won’t tell them anything they don’t already know. Same for health testing, usually. Interesting, isn’t it?

While my primary focus here is dogs who bond with my stock and family to protect them, I have gained a healthy respect for the conformation show ring. It doesn’t make sense to pull your only livestock guardian dog away from his charges to attend a dog show- even if you have a working pair. With the pack I have built up, I have enough dogs I can rotate to cover for one or two of the dogs attending a weekend show. I understand that this is not true of every farm! Please know that I’m not advocating putting your livestock or property at risk for the sake of a dog show. However, if you are ever interested in attending a dog show or exhibiting your dog, here are some things worth considering:

Why should you show an Anatolian Shepherd Dog?

There are many reasons to show a dog in a conformation ring! Let’s ignore the selfish reasons and focus on the more productive and constructive drivers behind many breeders I know who show their Anatolians:

  1. Avoid Kennel Blindness
    • We all know our own dogs are beautiful! But it is nice to have that confirmed by someone who doesn’t know you or your dog.
    • That’s where a conformation judge (whose sole purpose is to evaluate a dog based on their breed standard) comes in real handy! For less than $40, you get the feedback of a trained judge.
    • A trusted judge pointing out where your dog is out of balance or lacking type can help inform your future breeding decisions. For example, Severine is shorter in the leg department, so I have paired her with complimentary males and produced more balanced pups. Just because a dog isn’t perfect (none are, after all!) does not mean that you or your dog are bad or that you can’t use them to improve your future generations.
    • Something that many working Anatolian breeders don’t consider is that the conformation ring will check your dog for faults and DQ’s. Having a pointed dog can show your buyers that your dogs are correct to the standard and lacking disqualifications. You do not have to “finish” every dog for them to benefit from showing.
  2. Compare your dogs/pups to other kennels’ dogs.
    • The best way to evaluate the breed type of your pack, whether working or breeding, is to have them evaluated in a larger entry show like a regional or national specialty for your breed.
    • You’ll get to see how your dogs “stack up” to the other dogs in both type and style (yes, they are different!)
    • Bonus: Get to know other Anatolian owners and breeders!
  3. Fun!
    • Many people show their dog as a form of entertainment and socialization.
    • If you have the right attitude, a dog show can be great fun for you and everyone around you.
    • To quote one of the greats “It’s just a dog show, we aren’t curing cancer.” – Laura Reeves
    • Dog shows are a great place to network and learn, but you have to be NICE!
  4. Demonstrate the stability of a working dog outside their home environment.
    • One of my favorite things about the chaotic environment of a dog show is how my “farm dogs” behave. They are off-duty, relaxed, and stable. People notice this and make comments.
    • If you have a dog you have never trained to be calm and content outside of your property, people will notice that, too.
    • Not every Anatolian will enjoy dog shows, and that’s okay! They should still be compliant enough to get through a ring.
  5. Outside breeding stock evaluation and networking
    • You may meet a dog at a show that you would like to use in your breeding program.

A breeder who presents their dogs for evaluation by a conformation judge is showing that they care about external opinions. This is a GOOD trait in a breeder!

Conformation shows are not be-all, end-all for any Anatolian breeders I know. Most of us have livestock that we would rather spend our time with than driving across the countryside to a dog show. But there are good reasons to go sometimes!

This was at my first AKC dog show, Ares was awarded Best of Breed and a NOHS Group 1!

New to Dog Shows?

If you’re new to the breed or conformation events, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Most people at dog shows will be happy to help you learn the ropes. I have experienced it first-hand. The number of kind people outweighs the others, and you’ll learn who is genuine pretty quickly! Contact the Club (Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America) if you need help locating or entering a show with your Anatolian Shepherd. You can also reach out to your local All-Breed Club, which you can look up here:

A “Low Entry Breed”

As of January 2024, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is still a “Low Entry Breed” with the American Kennel Club. This year’s letter:

What does that mean?

The AKC publishes a list of “Low Entry Breeds” for each year. This doesn’t mean a breed is “rare” per se. “Low entry” simply means that a certain breed of dog is not being entered in AKC conformation shows very often, so judges see them less often than a higher-entry breed.

For conformation judges interested in adding a low-entry breed to their repertoire, the requirements and breed count limits are modified due to fewer opportunities for formal judges’ education and hands-on mentorship in a show environment. (See: From the AKC Board of Directors – Judging Approval Process page 4)

Is this a bad development?

No, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog has never been a high-entry breed. They have been on every one of these lists I have seen. This doesn’t mean that the breed is in new trouble or that there are not enough Anatolians. The low entry status will only affect us when it comes to building points/major points in a given day. Communication with local/regional Anatolian people will help you make the most out of your show entries!