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Temperament Differences CAO and CO

What are the most significant differences between CAO and CO regarding temperament/behaviour?
I'm not saying this from my point of view, because I don't have expirience with neither of those two breeds, but the people who own them usually think that CAO's are a bit more approachable to people. Some of them call CAO a "thinker", saying that they won't rush into action before they go trough all the aspects and solutions that they may have in their mind and that CO, when endangered or threatened, will "explode" in matter of second and rush to "solve" a problem as quicklly as they can. But, I have to say that I saw and some very, very aggressive CAO's, so I guess that this depends on a lot of other conditions. Aleksa
Hello Recercare! Temperamental differences between CAO/CO? I'll respond since I own Afghan cao's, and had CO. I think the best way to see the temperamental differences is by studying the functional traits of both breeds. The co is a "local" protector and will instantaneously respond when anything approaches his territory. The cao, being a livestock protector, has no limits to its territory and will respond weigh beyond his territory to scare away danger. Cao will judge the danger (man or beast) and will avoid and save his energy if he senses no harm from it. The co, being so spontaneously, will react right away without hesitation. In Russia, you'll see co's fenced or tied near property, hearing its deep bark on duty , whereas the cao is near its master , protecting him and his livestock, quietly keeping an eye and sense on danger, and will explode if danger passes threshold. The Last thing I would ever tell you is which breed is more aggressive to man or beast, even on general terms. Regards
Jean, I won't completelly agree with you. You've said that CAO is livestock protector, but don't you think that CO is that too? Yes, I know that in Russia we can see a lot of CO's tied close to the property of their masters or in it, but that is just the role that man give to them knowing how aggressive they are and that doesen't mean that all of their masters are farmers who own big sheep flocks, but rather those people wanted serious protectors and CO's certainlly are among best ones in the world. Same thing is with the CAO's. What do you think, how many CAO's outside of their native countries are sheepguards? I saw quite a number of them who are employed as property protectors and they are doing it very good. I'm a young man and owner of Sarplaninac's, breed very simmilar to CO's, both in looks and temperament. I won't say that I know everything about them, simply because I don't, but I would say that my knowledge about them is pretty good. Sarplaninac's are primarlly livestock protectors, but being a breed that is known as ferrocious beast fighter, very territorial and with great protection instincts, they became popular in almost entire Balkan region, and many folks have them as property protecors. So today, you can see them guarding private homes, factories, army camps, airports, but that doesn't mean that they are not livestock guardians. Respectfully, Aleksa
CAO, CO, Kuvasz, Estrela.......they're livestock guardians. However, they work differently. I know a guy who're using Tibetan Mastiffs as a LGD, and he said the dogs guard the flock on distance. They walk along the fences and patrol the surrounding area. He has had several Pyrs and one Maremma a few years ago, and they stayed always close to the flock, often in the middle of it. He did nothing to influence his dogs to use a spesific guardian method, so this difference was "in" the breed itself. Of course you can train a breed to become the guardian you want, but I guess some breeds are more territorial guardians than others.
I forgot to add, maybe the "exploding" nature of the CO is caused by human influence.....the Russian army perhaps ?

To understand the main differences between the CAO and the CO we have to journey back to an era prior to the Soviet Occupation of Eastern Europe. Since the CAO is often referred to as the "Dog of the Nomands" - let us use that to frame the understanding of it's temperament.

When you have a dog that travels with a caravan that has many people and animals and frequently stops in villages and trading posts, the dog must be tolerant of strangers to some degree. It must also come into contact with other dogs from caravans using the same routes and trading posts. Thus, the dogs territory is never really established and it bonds very closely to its permanent "flock" but not to a place or a region. It can then be said that the CAO is "smarter" or a "thinking" dog. I do not agree with this broad generalization. A dog who is constantly on the move will be less likely to protect a territory they do not own and since they are always meeting other traders, caravans and animals, us humans could say they are smarter because they do not defend against these fleeting acquaintances. The defensive zone of the CAO is thus much closer than that of the "lonely on the mountain" CO. So with the understanding that the "dog of the nomads" is on the move lets look at CO.

The Caucasian Ovcharka is first and foremost a Flock Guard. Usually GSD or other dogs were employed to govern the herd or flock and the CO was employed to guard. As such the CO would be outside the flock sitting/laying lazily on the high ground always vigilant, always on guard while the flock graze on the lush grasses of the valley. These missions were usually very lonely and without the presence of a human to direct the actions of the dog. It was often cold, wet and very uncomfortable.

The CO has to protect the Flock and the herding dogs. This was not an easy task. When a hungry pack of wolves viewed the flock as an easy feast - it was when the CO earned his keep and is the reason these dogs are revered by the ones whose flock they protected. There is no negotiation in this case. No time to wait and see if the wolves or predators were actually going to do something to harm the flock. No gentle reader, when danger presents itself - the CO went immediately into ferocious and offensive action. It's mission was to kill the predator.. not to scare it away to come back another day. To the CO a good wolf (predator) was a dead wolf. So yes, the CO is capable of explosive behavior and it's a part of the breeds hallmark. It is known for going from what appears to be a sound sleep to a full charge in the blink of an eye.

The CO is a territorial animal and is a wild spirit that is charged with raw, latent energy and a selfless drive to protect that is seldom seen or experienced. Owners must be aware of this and act accordingly. If you go back a scant 50 years you will think that the the CO's history is based on their use as stationary guards by the Soviet army and must ignore several thousand years of evolution. That is simply not true. To understand the behavior of both breeds it is necessary to go back past the Soviet Union and look to the source. Look to the Nomads of Central Asian and the Farmers of the Caucasus Mountains - there you will find what is closer to the truth. My thoughts only gentle reader - and please keep in mind that my opinion is based on the assumption that we are talking about pure specimens of each breed.

I have 4 Caucasians and have observed them for over 6 years. I know my dogs and how they will behave. PS. I am blaming any misspelled words on my keyboard and a good bottle of Italian wine.

Hello Aleksa , I totally agree with you. Please note that I have NEVER said that a CO is not a flock guardian, and I do not see where I said that a CO is not a flock guardian. The CO is truly an unsurpassable Flock guardian. I just gave you a mini-summary of the differences. And I just couldn't have said better than Maximus! Regards

Hi Jean, I know that you didn't say that CO isn't a flock guardian , but you also didn't said that he is, so I just had a need to respond that way. O.K, from where can I start now...

If we are going back in time to Pre-Soviet rule on that huge territories, then I think we have to go a little bit further than last 50 or 60 years because, before the October Revolution, those territories were part of Russian Empire rulled by Russian Tzars (Imperators) long before comunists took power. In that time, I cant see how GSD's or some other breeds were the ones that govern the flocks and CO's guarded it, simply becuse only after WWI and especially after WWII, GSD's started to gain popularity in other parts of Europe and not because people imported them like we are doing today, but rather the fact is that biggest number of those dogs stayed on territories that were occupied by Germans after their retreat, and we have to know that German troups were not that close to Caucasus.

Even if some farmer wanted to introduce some GSD's from that left over stock to his flock, guarded by CO's, that would be the close encounter lethal for GSD's for sure. But let's just assume that this could bee succesfull and if we know that mating of dogs in those rural regions is done by small or without any control from our (human) side, wouldn't this lead us to creation of different type of dogs? Methods of sheep guarding can bee different from a breed to a breed, but observing work methods of Sarplaninac's, I've noticed two of them. Stationary (like CO) and Nomadic (like CAO) within the same breed, but divading sheepguarding on two different ways is done by peoples choice, not by dogs, dogs just excepted it. Stationary way is when in spring shepherds move their flocks from villages to their cottages and barns up on the high mountain pastures rich with grass and stay there troughout whole season, untill the first snow starts to fall. Sheeps are grazing on the pastures near to their barns with dogs guarding them.

Part of territory where those dogs are acting aggressivlly toward strangers is very large and sometimes can even reach a circle of several miles. In Nomadic way, when the flocks are in almost constant move in search for better grass, territory of aggressive behavior of the dogs that guard them is much smaller and consist's of the ground where the flock is and just few yards around it. You, as a stranger, could freally pass by that flock and sometimes the dogs won't even look at you, but don't ever think that you could stole a sheep or do something else stupid as that. And now something very interesting. When the dogs who guarded sheep in stationary way are comming back from mountain pastures to their villages, they are reducing their territory of aggressive behaviour to be the same like the territory of aggressivnes of dogs that guarded sheeps in Nomadic way.

So you see, even dogs them selves are changing their level of aggressivnes. Important thing to know is that those changes in dog behaving have nothing to do with their masters or their commands. Aleksa

I forgot to say why am I excluding the theory that some other breeds were used as herding dogs and CO's only as defenders in the past. It is common way that today farmers use smaller breeds for cattle driving and bigg mountain dogs for defending against predators. Here in my country, people are now using breed called Vojvodjanski Pulin for herding and Sarplaninac's or Homolian dogs for protection, but that was never the case in the past. Why did people started to raise sheeps or maybe goats on those huge mountain chains such as Caucasus? Answer is, because those animals are the ones that addapted in best way for those severe mountain conditions. There you can't see much fertile soil, so there were only small chances for development of agriculture, but enough that can provide atleast some wheats for bread and some vegetables. Now, everyone knows or at least they should, that one CO, CAO, Sarplaninac, Great Pyr, Marema etc. is not enough to protect the flock from pack of hungry, bloodthirsty wolfs. So there are at least two, but very often three or more large LGD's that are doing that job within one flock. So, why would shepherds have some more herding dogs when often they couldn't provide enough food for the ones, most precious, that protect the flock? Aleksa
Hi Maximus! According to my experience with CO, it is true that when a wolf visits a flock, the mission of the CO is to kill the predator. To a CO, a good wolf is a dead wolf--Yes! But according to nomadic life, that is not always very desirable to every nomad. Often, wolves outnumber dogs. A CO is very serious on concentrating in catching and killing the predator. But there is a cost to this! 1) By the time the CO destroys a wolf, the other wolf members have already killed quite a few livestock . 2)In those poor areas, dogs are not Vaccinated against rabies, distemper,parvovirus, etc. The Co may kill the wolf, but the nomad may then have to destroy his dog if his dog got seriously bitten, infected, depending on the situation. 3)A smart wolf will not visit the area if he gets away! 4)This "individual killing" can put the "survivability" of the dog in danger. It is more feasible to the nomad if the dog surrounds its livestock constantly and keeps the combined pack of predators away from the area in question. So to the older nomad lifestyle, the cao was the preferred dog. But again, it also depends on the size of the field in question! The Russians have preferred the CO because of its fierce "No mercy" guardian behaviour of the CO. The CO will protect at ALL COST, but to the nomad, it can sometimes be too costly! Again, both are Great Flock protectors! Regards
Hi Jean, Just a quick point.. I think you have misunderstood me. I pointed out that the CO is not nomandic.. the CAO was/is the dog of the nomads. Also, since the CO worked in a pack it would be unusual for them to loose a sheep because they do not all attack the wolves on the same side of the flock.. well, so I have read anyway. Thanks for the feedback.
Hi Maximus , Good point , and I initially understood your point about CO not being nomadic. But I want to mention that not all CO's work in a pack since it can become too costly for a farmer. It is not unusual to see just one CO guarding a large field. But obviously, having 5 is much better than having just one! That's the case for any flock guardian. Regards
Hi, just a quick question. Any great books to read about CO and CAO ? English, German or Danish would be prefered and Spanish or Italian would also be ok. All the best Brian