You may have never heard of the Sarplaninac before now, or perhaps you do know a bit about this incredible canine and are itching to find out more.
Either way, this is the article for you.
An ancient dog with a stunning appearance, the Sarplaninac has earned his spot as one of the most intelligent and capable herding dogs in existence. So why is it that this amazing purebred continues to soar just below the radar of most canine enthusiasts?
Let’s find out!
The Sarplaninac Dog – A Brief Breed Overview
The Sarplaninac is a dog originally bred for herding and guarding.
Also Known As: The Yugoslavian Shepherd, The Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog Sarplaninac, and the Illyrian Shepherd Dog
Height: 22.5 to 24 Inches
Weight: 77 to 99 Pounds
Temperament: Intelligent, Focused, Work Oriented, Dependable, Protective,
Best Suited For: Experienced Dog Owners
Life Span: 11 to 13 Years
Health Issues: Bloat,, Hip Dysplasia, Arthritis
The Sarplaninac is a bred herding and guard dog hailing from the mountainous regions of Yugoslavia. This is an ancient breed known during Roman times as Lilyria. Throughout history, the Sarplaninac has undergone several name changes and has been known as the Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog, the Sharplanina, and most recently the Sarplaninac.
Bred specifically as a guardian of livestock, the Sarplaninac is smaller than many other shepherd dogs of his type. Other breeds similar to him include the Caucasian Shepherd and the Great Pyrenese.
Though smaller than some of these other guardian breeds, the Sarplaninac does have one thing in his favor – his large teeth.
This dog is a formidable foe to any predator and he has an abundance of courage and strength.
While he does make a devoted companion to the right family, this is a born and bred working dog with guarding instincts, and this means that the Sarplaninac can be prone to aggressive tendencies if not properly raised, trained, and socialized at an early age.
The Sarplaninac does get on well with family and other animals he is raised with, however, and is best suited for homes with lots of space where he can roam freely.
Are you interested in investing in a Sarplaninac? You may have trouble coming across one here in the United States.
It was once illegal to transfer Sarplaninac dogs outside of Yugoslavia, and it wasn’t until the 1970s when Sarplaninacs were finally exported into the United States. These dogs actually had to be physically carried down from the Yugoslavia mountains on mules, according to ukdogs.com.
The first Sarplaninacs brought to America and Canada were specifically sought after by ranchers, who used these dogs primarily for flock guardianship and predator control.
Since the ’70s, the number of Sarplaninac dogs has grown throughout the United States. However, due to this breed’s unique temperament and needs, it is not a well-known dog amongst most common dog lovers and families.
With that noted, let’s take a moment to talk about the Sarplaninac’s temperament.
Sarplaninac Temperament – What You Should Know
The Sarplaninac is a devoted dog who is highly intelligent.
Sarplaninac dogs are known for being mild-mannered, devoted, and affectionate with family. They can do well with children they are raised with and are friendly with other pets in the home they know.
On the flip side, these dogs are highly focused and work-oriented. They are not so much playful and jubilant as they are geared towards having a job to do. They are happiest when they can be protecting something, whether this is a flock of sheep or their food bowl.
Without proper socialization and training, this could lead to disaster. For this reason, we do not recommend Sarplaninac dogs to novice dog owners or families with busy schedules, small children, or those who are not accustomed to raising dogs with strong working and guarding instincts.
Though with that noted, the Sarplanic is not inherently aggressive. This is a clever dog who is watchful and thoughtful. He can be wary of strangers but only acts if he feels he has been faced with an obvious threat.
These traits make the Sarplaninac a fabulous guard dog. His calm, even-temper is ideal for more laid-back owners, and his devotion and loyalty can truly make him man’s very best friend.
However, the Sarplaninac can also be stubborn – an attribute to many well-focused and work-oriented herding breeds.
If he is not kept active and given a job to do, the Sarplaninac can be prone to destructive behaviors and even anxiety, stress, and depression. This can lead to serious behavioral issues down the road, so it’s very important that a potential owner understands the unique needs of the Sarplaninac and is able to commit to this type of dog.
Tips On Training And Socializing A Sarplaninac Dog
Though intelligent, Sarplaninac dogs can be stubborn from time to time.
All dogs require routine socialization and training beginning early and puppyhood and throughout their lives. However, some breeds require more extensive socialization and training than others, and such is the case with the Sarplaninac dog.
Socializing A Sarplaninac
Let’s begin by talking about socialization. Socializing a dog is the act of introducing that dog to as many new experiences as possible at an early age. This should include introducing your Sarplaninac to as many new people, places, sights, sounds, smells, activities and animals as you can while he is a puppy.
During this time, it’s important to ensure these first impressions are as positive as possible for your Sarplaninac to help him associate these new things with something good. Doing so will help reduce anxiety and fear-based aggressive tendencies down the road as your Sarplnacinac ages.
If you plan on raising your Sarplaninac around children, it’s important to introduce your dog to youngsters at an early age.
Of course, we also suggest working with children in the home on how to recognize basic canine body language.
If you do have small children, be sure not to leave them unsupervised with your Sarplaninac, or any dog for that matter. Work with age-appropriate children on the respectful ways to behave with the family dog, and remember that dogs do not like hugs, kisses, or being poked, prodded, or played with too roughly.
Although socializing your Sarplaninac is most important during puppyhood, it’s a practice that should continue on throughout your Sarplaninc’s lifetime. This is the same when it comes to training.
Training A Sarplaninac
Like socialization, training your Sarplaninac should begin as early as possible and continue throughout your dog’s lifetime. Remember, this is a highly intelligent dog that is very focused and work-oriented.
Still, Sarplaninac dogs can be stubborn, which can make training a challenge for the owner who is impatient or not prepared.
Like all dogs, the Sarplaninac dog does best with positive reinforcement training utilizing treats and praise. Avoid punishments or aversive training techniques like fear, scolding, or punishment, as this could lead to your Sarplaninc shutting down and may even erode the trust built between you and your dog.
It’s very important to build a strong bond with your Sarplaninac, and by making training sessions short, gamelike and challenging, you can help to keep your Sarplaninac’s attention and get the most out of sessions.
Another way to help capture and hold your Sarplaninac dog’s attention is to invest in quality training treats. The ideal training treats for dogs should be of high value, which means they will be small, chewy, and very smelly.
Zuke’s Natural Training Treats
Some of our favorite high-value training treats for dogs are the Zuke’s Natural Training Treats listed above. These treats are small, chewy, and smelly and come in three recipes including salmon, pork, or lamb.
These treats are ideal for dogs with sensitivities or food allergies, as they are free of additives and other ingredients that can exasperate sensitivities.
We also like that these training treats are ideal for dogs of all ages, so you can begin using them during puppyhood to get the most out of training your dog.
What Are The Exercise Needs of A Sarplaninac?
Bred working dogs, Sarplaninac dogs are happiest when they have a job to do.
Although Sarplaninac dogs are known for their calm, mild dispositions, they do require quite a bit of dedicated exercise each and every day to stay happy and healthy.
In fact, these large herding dogs do best with at least an hour to two hours of exercise a day. They can walk quite far, and remember they were bred to trek the rough terrain of the Yugolslovian mountains once upon a time.
This makes the Sarplaninac an excellent hiking companion and camping buddy. However, we should note that due to his size, exercise needs, and guarding instincts, the Sarplaninac is not the ideal apartment dog.
He does best in homes with lots of space both inside and out where he can move about freely. This is one of the reasons Sarplaninac dogs are such ideal dogs for farmers and ranchers.
Of course, he can also do well in a home with a large, securely fenced backyard and an owner committed to daily walks and exercise routines.
When walking your Sarplaninac dog, be sure you do so using quality walking equipment. Steer clear of aversive walking equipment like choke chains or prong collars and instead use quality no-pull dog harnesses.
ICEFANG Tactical Dog Harness
One of the harnesses we would recommend for large, powerful dogs like the Sarplaninac is the ICEFANG Tactical Dog Harness. This harness is made with military-grade material that will not break down or deteriorate over time. It clips both in the front and in the back to give you optimal control and also reduces pulling without causing pain or discomfort to your dog.
In fact, the front clip harness actually helps to make walking more comfortable and natural feeling for your Sarplaninac, as it reduces the pressure put on his throat and trachea.
Along with physical exercise, the Sarplaninac will also need plenty of mental stimulation. Keep in mind these are working dogs at heart and they are happiest when they are given a job to do.
Like many herding breeds, Sarplaninac dogs will often look for things to do if they don’t have a flock to protect or guard.
You can help reduce boredom in your Sarplaninac (and thus reduce potential destructive behaviors), by providing your dog with plenty to do throughout the day.
Offer your dog jobs to do around the house like routine chores. Some Sarplaninacs can learn to sort the laundry, bring in the paper or groceries, or even load the dishwasher.
We also suggest investing in toys that keep your Sarplaninac busy like KONGS for large breed dogs or puzzle toys that challenge your dog and make him work for treats.
Tips On Sarplaninac Grooming And Overall Care
The Sarplaninac dog’s dense, double coat helps protect him from the elements.
Take one look at the Sarplaninac dog and you can see that this densely, double-coated breed is a heavy shedder. However, his coat is surprisingly easy to manage and care for, especially because it is relatively self cleaning and weather resistant.
A good brush down once or twice a week should help control shedding and loose hair, and occasional bathing once every six weeks or so will ensure your dog looks and feels his best. Be sure to not overbathe your Sarplaninac, and avoid using shampoos or conditioners that are not specifically designed to be used on canine coats.
The ideal shampoo for a Sarplaninac dog is going to be one that is free of dyes, parabens, alcohols, or additives that could strip your Sarplaninac’s coat of the oils his skin produces that keeps his fur healthy.
We should also note that it’s not a good idea to shave your Sarplaninac dog. Even if you live in warmer climates, shaving your dog’s coat could do more harm than good. Infact, like many double coated dog breeds, the Sarplaninac dog’s coat is designed to protect him from the elements including both heat and cold.
Shaving a double coated dog can lead to an increased risk in heatstroke, sunburn and hot spots.
Along with routine brushing and occasional bathing, your Sarplaninac should also have his ears checked and cleaned regularly. He can be prone to ear infections, so make sure his ears are kept clean and free of waxy buildup, moisture or debris.
We also suggest trimming your Sarplaninac dog’s nails down every few weeks using a nail trimmer or pet nail grinder to help reduce the chances of his nails cracking or splitting during play or exercise.
Last, be sure to take good care of your Sarplaninac dog’s teeth. Like all dogs, Sarpalnaincs can be prone to suffering from dental disease, which can lead to a whole slew of other health problems down the road.
Experts suggest brushing your dog’s teeth at least once daily using a dog-safe toothbrush and toothpaste. You also have the option of investing in doggy dental chews as well as canine dental wipes to help ensure his teeth and gums are as healthy as possible.
Whimzees Natural Dental Chews
One product we like that can help keep your Sarplaninac’s mouth healthy is a natural product by the Whimzees Store.
These are all natural dental chews for dogs that can help reduce tartar and plaque buildup and can even help freshen breath. The chews are specifically for large breed dogs and come in different pack size varieties. You can choose different styles as well, including brush shapes, sausage shapes, sticks, alligator, and hedgehog.
Your dog can eat one of these sticks each day to help enhance tooth and gum health. We also like that these treats are free of artificial flavors, preservatives or additives, and they’re safe for dogs with food allergies.
And speaking of food allergies, it’s time now to talk about the health issues and lifespan of the amazing Sarplaninac dog.
Understanding The Sarplaninac Dog’s Lifespan And Health Issues
Though relatively healthy ,the Sarplaninac can be prone to some genetic health issues.
Sarplaninac dogs are an anomaly when it comes to large herding breeds. This is because they are not only relatively long lived in comparison to many other dogs of their same height and weight, but they are also relatively healthy.
With a lifespan of between 11 and 13 years, there are really no defined health issues this dog is predisposed to that have been detected, save for some common health issues known to plague large breed dogs of their size.
These health issues include gastric dilatation torsion (aka Bloat or GDV), hip dysplasia and arthritis.
Of course, just because Sarplaninac dogs are known for being hardy dogs, that doesn’t mean they all will be healthy. It’s very important to get your Sarplaninac from a reputable source to ensure he has been responsibly bred and that you provide your Sarplaninac with proper care throughout his life to prevent particular health issues.
The Importance Of A Quality Diet
Despite being such a hardy breed, the Sarplaninac can be prone to a few health issues that are directly related to diet and digestion. One Of these health issues includes Bloat. Aslo known as Gastric Dilation Torson or GDV, Bloat is a life threatening condition that can come on suddenly and often occurs after a dog has consumed food or water too quickly, consumed food or water immediately after exercise, or consumed something he shouldn’t have.
A quality diet can help reduce chances of Bloat in dogs, and for the Sarplaninac especially we recommend a diet specified for his age, weight and activity level that is made with quality ingredients.
This means the Sarplaninac will do best on dog foods for large breed dogs that are made with real meat protein, fatty acids, carbs, vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and a good source of water.
You might also consider investing in a slow feeder to help reduce chances of Bloat in your Sarplaninac and to encourage healthy eating habits.
Also called puzzle feeders, slow feeders are designed to slow your dog down while he eats, thus reducing the amount of air swallowed during mealtime.
JASGOOD Large Dog Slow Feeder
Many large, deep chested dogs like the Sarplaninac are prone to Bloat, making the above puzzle feeder by the JASGOOD store an important addition to any household with large breed furry family members.
The above dog bowl works by reducing the amount of air swallowed when your dog eats, even if your dog is a naturally fast or ravenous eater.
You can order the bowl in several different colors and patterns, and swap them out to help not only make mealtime safer for your Sarplaninac, but also more challenging and fun.
Keeping Up With Vet Visits
Another important part of keeping your Sarplaninac healthy includes keeping up with routine vet visits. Like people, dogs should be seen at least once a year for wellness exams. For large breed dogs, vets recommend they are seen annually up until they reach the age of seven, and then biannually thereafter.
If you’re concerned about affording routine vet or medical care for your Sarplaninac, you might consider pet health insurance. Pet insurance can help take the edge of of potentially costly medical bills and care to ensure your dog lives his happiest, healthiest life.
Consider Health Screening
When you get your Sarplaninac through a reputable source like a certified breeder, you’ll typically be given certificates of health proving your dog has been screened and cleared of any serious health conditions.
On the other hand, if you adopt your Sarplaninac through a shelter or rescue, you may not have a good idea of what he could be susceptible to. Health screening using a canine DNA kit is a great way to get a jump on your dog’s potential health issues earl, so that you may be able to prevent or prepare for certain problems down the road.
What Is The Sarplaninac Dog’s Ideal Home Type and Owner?
The ideal owner for a Sarplaninac is going to be an experienced dog owner with a good understanding of working breeds.
The ideal home type for a Sarplaninac dog is going to be one with lots of land or at least a large, securely fenced yard where your dog can play freely. Remember, these dogs are bred mountain dogs designed to trek through rough terrain and travel for many miles. They may not be the most high-energy canines, but they still require plenty of room and activity each and every day to ensure they are happy and healthy.
These dogs are not ideal apartment dogs, as we mentioned above, nore are they the best dogs for novice dog owners or more laid back down owners looking for a low maintenance canine.
Instead, Sarplaninac dogs are best suited for experienced dog owners with an understanding of how working dogs think and operate, and an owner who is active, committed and devoted to ensuring their Sarpalnaic has all of his unique needs met every day.
While Sarpalnanic dogs can have some strong guarding instinct, they can still do well with children and other pets they are raised with. Of course, and as we covered above, remember to never leave small children unsupervised with the family dog and work with older children on how to respectfully interact with dogs both inside and outside of the home.
So, is the Sarplaninac your dream dog? Here are a few things you should know about investing in this one of a kind canine.
Investing In A Sarplaninac – To Buy Or Adopt?
Though they are adorable, Sarplaninac dogs are not the best fit for novice dog owners.
Sarplaninac dogs are still considered relatively rare in the United States. Though their numbers are growing, they are not the most popular family companions for the obvious reasons stated above.
These clever, devoted and work-oriented dogs require plenty of time and commitment from a dedicated owner.
Is that owner you?
If so, get ready to spend a good chunk of change if you want to invest in a Sarplaninac puppy through a reputable breeder. In fact, the average Sarplaninac puppy can cost anywhere between $1,800 and $2,000. This price can fluctuate and be even higher depending on your region and the quality of your Sarpalnanic’s parent breeds.
While this is a good price to pay for a dog, it’s super important not to try to cut corners by going through unqualified breeders, uncertified online sellers, or backyard breeders. We also recommend steering clear of anyone selling a Sarplaninac for much more or much less than you know their average worth to be without the proper paperwork proving pedigree and health.
You also have the option of adopting your Sarplaninac. Rescuing a dog is incredibly rewarding, and because the Sarplaninac is so unique, you’ll be happy to learn that there are several rescues and shelters throughout the United States dedicated to these amazing purebreds.
Rescuing a dog is not only a fraction of the cost of purchasing one through a breeder, but you may also be able to find a Sarplaninac that has undergone health screening, had some basic training, and even been spayed, neutered and microchipped.
Alright, now that we’ve talked about the Sarplaninac dog and covered everything you need to know before investing, we want to hear from you.
What do you think about this incredible, unique and somewhat rare purebred dog from Yugolscolvai?
Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.