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Greek Sheepdog

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021
The Greek Sheepdog is a large to giant purebred from Greece bred to guard flocks and livestock from predator animals and thieves, and has been around for hundreds of years. It is also called the Olympus Dog, Greek Shepherd, and Hellenikos Poimenikos and it has a life span of about 10 to 12 years. Its appearance is much like the Great Pyrenees or the Saint Bernard. It is highly protective but not good at getting along with others or with children and so very good socialization is important. It is a rare breed today even in its homeland and not really known outside of it.
The Greek Sheepdog at a Glance
Name Greek Sheepdog
Other names Olympus Dog, Hellenikos Poimenikos, Greek Shepherd
Nicknames GS
Origin Greece
Average size Large to giant
Average weight 70 to 110 pounds
Average height 23 to 29 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Fluffy, long, wavy
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, white, black and white, grayish-brown
Popularity Rare – Not a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Average to above average
Tolerance to heat Good to very good
Tolerance to cold Good
Shedding Average to heavy – expect some hair around the home
Drooling Average to high – will be slobber and drool
Obesity Average – measure its food and make sure it is well exercised
Grooming/brushing High – requires 3 to 4 brushing per week
Barking Average to high – best to not have close neighbors!
Exercise needs High – active owners needed
Trainability Difficult – experienced owners best to handle it
Friendliness Moderate – socialization is essential this is not an especially friendly or social dog
Good first dog No – experience is needed
Good family pet Moderate to good – requires socialization and training, kept more as a working dog
Good with children Moderate – requires socialization and training
Good with other dogs Low to moderate – requires socialization and training and supervision
Good with other pets Low to moderate – requires socialization and training and supervision
Good with strangers Moderate – requires socialization and training and supervision
Good apartment dog No – needs space and land
Handles alone time well No – do not like to be alone for long periods
Health issues Fairly healthy some issues may include bloat, ear infections, joint dysplasia
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $300 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license
Average annual expenses $1030 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $750
Rescue organizations None breed specific, check local rescues and shelters
Biting Statistics None reported

The Greek Sheepdog’s Beginnings

It is thought that centuries ago migrating people moved with their dogs from Turkey to the Foothills in Greece, an area where shepherds kept their sheep. Indeed the Turkish Akbash dog does have several similarities so that makes this theory quite possible. It was likely bred with several other breeds both other non-native dogs and local native ones. It was developed to be ideally suited to guarding farmer’s livestock in that hilly region of Greece from animal predators like wolves trying to eat its flock and from thieves trying to steal them. It was therefore bred to be protective, aloof, independent, calm, hard working, bold, strong, tough and to need little feeding.

There is no real information about its timeline of development as no records were kept. It is known that they were often used in pairs and did spread across the country. There was superstition surrounding the dog. Stories were told that they had magical powers or healing abilities, children were encouraged to care for puppies so that the strength of the dog would feed into the children. Owners of the Greek Sheepdog would also crop or remove completely the right ear of male dogs believing it would protect them from evil spirits and improve its hearing.

New Lease on Life

The Greek Sheepdog today is a very rare and unknown breed outside of Greece, and even in it native country its numbers are declining with an estimated less than 3000 dogs being left. This is in part due to there being less need for them as there are fewer livestock farmers, and also partly due to uncontrolled cross breeding which has led to a number of hybrids and fewer purebreds. Since 1998 the Greek ARCTUROS has been trying to save and revive the breed with the implementation of the Greek Shepherd Dog Breeding Program. It is not recognized by the AKC.

Greek Sheepdog

The Dog You See Today

The Greek Sheepdog is a large to giant dog weighing 70 to 110 pounds and standing 23 to 29 inches tall. It has a large solid body that is very strong and powerful. It has a wide and deep chest with arched ribs, long legs and feet that are surprisingly small. Its tail can vary some have no tail, some have shorter ones and some have long ones that are thicker at the base and abundant with fluffy hair. The coat is long and especially fluffy around the head too. It is thick skinned and had a double coat that is dense and common colors are white, browns, black and grey. Its head is large and broad with a curved skull, strong broad muzzle, strong jaws and lips that are slightly loose. It has brown eyes that are oval shaped with tight eyelids and a fold of skin underneath them. Its ears are floppy, v shaped and large, they should not be cropped.

The Inner Greek Sheepdog


The Greek Sheepdog does not naturally get along well with anyone other than their owner and leader. It is wary and aloof with strangers and some can even be somewhat reserved around people they know. It certainly does not make friends very easily and needs time to get used to new people and proper introductions. It is not a breed for new owners and is really a working dog and companion rather than just the latter only. It is independent thinking which means it can be stubborn but it is hard working, brave, loyal, protective and decisive. It needs owners who are very strong and confident in terms of leadership. In the right hands it is very dutiful and takes it flock protecting role seriously.

It is not an aggressive dog unless it feels its flock is being threatened and then at that point it will become aggressive towards the predators and bark loud and deep and frequently. If the bark is not enough to warn off the threat, it will then pursue and attack. It is used to working in pairs and does not like to be alone for long periods. It is a calm dog until it needs to act and it can be surprisingly quick for a large dog. Its flock guarding instincts would transfer to its home and territory so it would be a good guard dog for you too.

Living with a Greek Sheepdog

What will training look like?

As this dog does not get along well with anyone other than its owner it is essential to socialize it and give at least basic obedience training from a very young age. That way it will likely still be aloof but will not perceive threats where there are none. Socialization means introducing it to different places, people, sounds, animals and situations so it knows how to react appropriately. It is difficult to train because of its strong dominant nature and tendency to be willful and stubborn. It needs experienced owners who are firm, consistent, patient and skilled. It will test your leadership and you need to know how to deal with. Do not be harsh or physical with it though, gentle and positive training techniques are best, you just need to stick to the rules you set.

Greek Sheepdog

How active is the Greek Sheepdog?

The Greek Sheepdog needs a lot of activity and mental stimulation, it is primarily a working dog, it likes and needs to be busy. It will need at least two hours a day of two long and brisk walks and it needs physical play with you. When walking it should be leash trained and kept on it to ensure it does not chase after something. It needs a yard or even land really, it definitely is not an apartment dog. It is able to handle tough terrain and climates and has a lot of stamina and endurance. If it gets bored it gets hard to live with, destructive, loud and even sometimes aggressive. This is not a breed for your regular dog owners.

Caring for the Greek Sheepdog

Grooming needs

Its coat is long so it is best to brush it at least every other day to prevent tangles and to remove debris it picks up when outside. It sheds an average to frequent amount so there will be some hair around the home to clean up too. Regular brushing will not only move its natural oils around the coat it will also help remove some of that loose hair. Only bathe it when it really needs one, bath time is not easy with some large dogs anyway and doing it too much actually damages those natural oils. Only use a dog shampoo to wash it with too. It should not need professional grooming.

Other needs include brushing its teeth for health teeth and gums using a canine toothbrush and toothpaste, at least two to three times a week. The nails should be clipped if they get too long though if it is outside all day and active often they may be naturally worn down sometimes. Only use proper dog nail clippers or scissors and do not cut into the section where the nerves and blood vessels are, this causes bleeding and pain. Last but not least are the ears. They should be checked weekly for infection, checked for burs and debris and also wiped clean once a week. Use a damp cloth or dog ear cleaning solution just do not insert anything down into the ears, this can cause pain and damage.

Feeding Time

The Greek Sheepdog will eat about 4 to 6½ cups of a good to excellent dry dog food a day and that should be split into at least two meals to avoid problems with bloat. The amount varies as it does depend on its age, health, metabolism, size and level of activity. Make sure it has access to water and try to change that for fresh water fairly regularly.

How is the Greek Sheepdog with children and other animals?

The GS does not get along well with others and it is important that if you intend to have it join a family or interact a lot with others that you make sure it is socialized very well. In terms of children some are more friendly if raised with them but supervision is still needed especially when the children are young. Do not leave it alone with strange children that come over, especially if the children engage in rough play. It also does not like strange dogs though it does like to be raised with a second dog that it then works with, it is best though not to have one of the same sex. Other pets are not a good idea, it has a high prey drive and it is likely to go after them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

This dog lives for between 10 to 12 years and there are no real major health issues known to be a problem for it. Some health concerns that can arise that are something all dogs can have problems with include bloat, ear infections and joint dysplasia.

Biting Statistics

In reports of dog attacks against people doing bodily harm in North America over the last 35 years there is no mention of the Greek Sheepdog, but it is such an uncommon breed there this is not surprising. This breed needs good socialization, training and supervision. It is not good with anyone other than its owner and unless that socialization is good it can perceive threats all around it and respond aggressively to them. Make sure you do what is needed to lessen the risks and that you also exercise it well and keep it busy.

Greek Sheepdog Puppy

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Greek Sheepdog puppy will cost about $750 from a respected breeder and more if you want something from a top breeder or want to try showing it. There are very few breeders outside of Greece so you will have some research to do and possibly have to pay for transportation costs if you live anywhere else in the world. Make sure you avoid turning to disreputable breeders at puppy mills, pet stores or backyard breeders. There is the option of adoption that will cost around $50 to $400 but it is unlikely you will find a Greek Sheepdog purebred so perhaps consider that a mixed breed has a lot of affection and companionship to offer.

Initial items needed for your dog will cost about $220 and that should cover a few essentials like a crate, collar and leash, bedding and bowls. For initial health needs like vaccinations, micro chipping, deworming, spaying or neutering, a physical exam and blood tests expect a cost of around $290.

Health basics will cost another $485 a year for check ups visits to a vet, shots updated, tick and flea prevention and pet insurance. $300 should cover the annual cost of a good to excellent quality dry dog food for it and dog treats. Then miscellaneous costs like license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous items are another $245 or so. This gives an annual starting figure cost of $1030.


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The Greek Sheepdog is not your everyday pet dog, it is best as a working breed and it is best with a single owner. It needs very good socialization and training, it is not a family dog, or a gentle giant like the other dogs it resembles. It needs strong leadership, a large amount of stimulation and activity and should always be supervised when around other animals or people. In the right hands it is not an aggressive dog, so be sure you are not over estimating your experience and activity level so you get the dog suited to you.

Featured Image Credit: pixels outloud, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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