I’ve been thinking about writing an article on this topic for a long time because when you google “Sarplaninac temperament”, you mostly get copy-paste answers.
It’s usually two to three paragraphs of text, and then it’s on to the next chapter.
Writers and journalists on major dog websites often view this search term through numbers and analytics.
Their goal is to provide a clear and concise answer that will secure them the top spot on Google.
Whether they’ve ever seen a real Sarplaninac in person is another story (with a few exceptions).
The question arises: Where are the Sarplaninac dog breeders?
They are most active in Facebook groups, and no one is interested in opening the ‘Pandora’s box.’ Why?
After you’ve read this article to the end, you’ll understand what a Sarplaninac of stable character means, and it begs the question of how many owners and breeders actually have such dogs in their yards.
On the other hand, there are serious breed connoisseurs who work silently and have well-characterized stable dogs.
However, their opinions often don’t carry weight in the big discussions because they don’t have “a lot of copper” in their showcases (trophies, CAC, BOB titles).
So, in the following sections, we’ll also discuss dog shows and how a Sarplaninac should behave in the ring.
Character vs Temperament
The difference between a dog’s character and temperament can be summarized as follows …
Character (dog’s personality):
- Character refers to the dog’s individual behavior traits, such as being friendly, aggressive, shy, or outgoing.
- It is often shaped by genetics, early socialization, and upbringing.
- Character traits are relatively stable and define how a dog behaves in various situations.
- It reflects the dog’s unique personality and how they interact with people and other animals.
- Temperament is the biological and instinctive part of a dog’s personality.
- It encompasses core traits like reactivity, fearfulness, activity level, sociability, and responsiveness to training.
- Temperament tends to show itself first in a dog’s behavior.
- It provides insights into a dog’s innate tendencies and how they respond to external stimuli.
Character is more about the dog’s learned and individual behavior traits, while temperament relates to their inherent, biological traits.
I find the explanation provided by Dr. Samuel Gosling, a renowned personality and social psychologist at the University of Texas, Austin, particularly appealing.
He elucidates, “Temperament represents an individual’s fundamental, biologically inherited predispositions, while personality emerges as the outcome of the interplay between temperament and one’s environment.”
Gosling adds, “Since adult animals are a combination of biologically-inherited tendencies, as well as individual experiences, it seems to me misleading to call that temperament. In humans, we would call that personality, so why not in other animals? 
The Sarplaninac is a dominant and lazy dog, protective when it comes to the family and the property it guards, incorruptible, and devoted to its master!
We’re talking about a working dog with a calm and composed demeanor toward those close to its heart but transforms into a fierce guardian when it spots a stranger or predator on its territory (detailed below).
It doesn’t bark without reason or attack those weaker than itself!
It thinks for itself and independently decides whether it’s time to strike or not.
The fact that this is an exceptionally intelligent guardian is confirmed by numerous owners who forget where they left the keys to their front door when their beloved pet is in the yard (or in the house), as well as by shepherds in the mountains whose presence and supervision are sometimes redundant when their Sarplaninac dogs are with their flock.
Walking Through The City and An Unknown Person!
In the presence of its owner, a Sarplaninac must remain calm and composed when walking through the city.
This has less to do with the dog’s breed and more to do with socialization.
They shouldn’t pay attention to other dogs or exhibit signs of aggression, even when confronted with unfriendly ones. Why? Because they are well aware of their strength and size, and they must always rise above the situation.
A reaction will only follow when the red line is crossed, meaning their owner’s life is in danger!
What to do when an unfamiliar person (a friend) approaches the owner? My advice is to engage in a conversation from a distance of 1-1.5 meters without sudden movements, and this should prevent any issues.
Allowing an unfamiliar person to pet the Sarplaninac in the owner’s presence? My answer is NO!
Instead, offer the option of taking a photo with the dog.
On the flip side, there’s a video where Tyson plays with our friends’ kids just before a dog show, even though Tyson and the kids had never met before.
What’s the secret?
The key lies in the serious training Tyson has undergone from my father!
An Unknown Person Crosses The Red Line?
As I mentioned, when an unfamiliar person makes sudden moves or if they’re a “dog expert” with high self-assurance and an impressive CV boasting the ability to approach any dog, it often results in an attack.
What happened to us at the dog show in Jagodina? We left Krom in the (car) trailer with our friend nearby.
At that moment, a man approached and expressed his desire to get close to our dog.
Despite several warnings against it, he proceeded, under the pretext of “dogs liking me,” and approached Krom, who bit him.
Shortly after, he was rushed to the emergency room …
Now, it’s crucial to explain what an attack from a self-assured and stable Sarplaninac looks like.
Firstly, there is no warning or barking for no reason! The dog immediately goes into action (after asking for health).
To see how this looks, take a look at the video below …
A Lone Sarplaninac and an Unacquainted Visitor – What Happens Next?
When an unfamiliar person enters the domain guarded by a Sarplaninac, particularly when the dog has the freedom to move as it pleases, the situation can yield highly unpredictable outcomes.
In such a scenario, it’s best to remain calm and, figuratively speaking, “frozen in place.”
Sudden movements are strongly discouraged.
The optimal course of action is to back away slowly and inconspicuously, although there’s a high likelihood the dog will circle around the person.
It’s risky to shout loudly for help or attempt to reach for an object for self-defense.
The Sarplaninac will meticulously analyze every move until the owner appears.
If the owner is at home, they will quickly come out to assess the situation. But if they are not home …
You can find some tips here.
Sarplaninac vs Dominant Dogs
When it comes to a face-off between a true Sarplaninac and dominant dogs, a few key guidelines should be observed:
- Ignore Potential Adversaries – Sarplaninacs should not pay attention to potential opponents and maintain their composure.
- No Display of Teeth – Growling and showing teeth should be off the table.
- Avoid Backing Off – They should not retreat or hide behind their owner.
- Tail Position – The tail should not cower between the legs but should be held high above the back.
- Silent Confidence – While dominant dogs may bark, the Sarplaninac remains vigilant, not barking but rather monitoring the situation.
- Immediate Action – It attacks immediately from its position!
We conducted a test where we showcased undesirable behaviors in Sarplaninacs and how, upon the breeder’s command, they must cease these behaviors.
However, the best video that truly captures the beauty of the Sarplaninac’s character in the presence of other dogs was created by a breeder named Mladen Santic.
He took his dog to unfamiliar terrain, presumably at his friend’s place, who owns another breed – the Central Asian Shepherd Dog.
The Sarplaninac rose to the occasion, displaying the ideal and most desirable reaction!
That’s why I recommend that you carefully watch the following video…
Assessing Sarplaninac Character – Past and Present Perspectives
Like any dedicated breeder, my father traveled to the Shar Planina Mountain in the 90s to see the local Sarplaninac dogs and assess “the differences” between the source and urban Sarplaninacs.
He encountered a warm welcome from serious breeders in Kosovo and Metohija.
He came across numerous exceptional dogs, but one experience left a lasting impression.
If you attempted to approach one of their dogs in the presence of a breeder to pet or play with it, you’d promptly hear the following: “Please, take the dog with you. I don’t want such a dog in my yard anymore!”
Perhaps this criterion might seem harsh, but consider that these breeders have vast properties and flocks of sheep in the mountains.
They aren’t overly concerned with whether the dog aligns with the FCI breed standard or not.
Today, it’s possible to witness an atmosphere in the show ring where a canine judge examines a Sarplaninac’s teeth by touching the dog’s jaw, creating an environment as if they’ve known each other for years.
The unknown person in the show ring and beyond may indeed be two different individuals?
Sarplaninac and Dog Show – The Right Behavior!
When entering the show ring, the Sarplaninac walks alongside the owner/breeder on the left side, heading towards the kennel club judge.
At the outset, standard questions are posed, such as the dog’s age and gender.
Following this, the judge will want to check the dog’s teeth, and the owner is obliged to facilitate this examination without signs of aggression or interference with the dog’s jaws by the judge.
The next step involves checking the testicles, and subsequently, the judge is entitled to approach the dog and assess coat length, and body condition.
What to do at this moment?
In my view, the best and safest approach is to grasp the upper part of the collar with the left hand (while holding the leash in the right hand) and prevent the dog from turning its head left or right, allowing it to gaze straight ahead for the next 10 seconds or as required.
This method is suitable for Sarplaninacs with excellent temperaments, as they don’t allow strangers easy access.
Alternatively, a dog muzzle can be employed.
However, there are young dogs as well as those who are in the show ring for the first time!
There’s a significant chance that their tail will be between their hind legs, indicating a degree of insecurity or distrust.
Caution is necessary in such cases, and hasty conclusions should be avoided!
In such situations, the judge should perform a test by instructing the owner to take a few steps back, then making a sudden hand gesture from a safe distance towards the Sarplaninac.
At this moment, the dog must remain composed or move towards the judge with the intent to protect (a desirable reaction).
If the dog retreats towards the owner, the judge has the right to disqualify it, irrespective of anyone’s opinion.
In my modest opinion, it’s unfair for the criteria to be the same for young and mature dogs when such a test is involved.
Once the judge receives the desired answers to the questions and the dog receives a positive grade (5), the Sarplaninac should not bark in the show ring.
We return to the beginning – the Sarplaninac must be above the situation, aware of its strength and size.
Of course, with the owner’s or breeder’s permission, anything is possible to impress the audience.
However, it can wait until the ranking in the ring is completed and titles are awarded.
You can see how this works in practice in the video below – Slavko Martinovic and his dog Barut, the breeder who left an indelible mark when it comes to this breed!
There are situations where a Sarplaninac’s temperament takes a backseat, and that’s when the dog is utilized for therapeutic purposes to promote healing.
I’m well aware that certain doctors (here in Serbia) explicitly advise parents to acquire a Sarplaninac that will spend ample time with their child facing specific health challenges.
In these instances, it becomes the breeder’s responsibility to provide a dog that won’t react impulsively in the presence of strangers, one that easily accepts the presence of other children and hospital staff without displaying any signs of aggression.
It’s a noble mission that doesn’t require extensive public recognition or discussion.
The Sarplaninac’s remarkable ability to offer comfort and support, especially in the company of children dealing with health issues, exemplifies the breed’s gentle and compassionate nature, even beyond its renowned protective instincts.
I hope that after reading this article, you have a clearer understanding of what an ideal Sarplaninac temperament entails.
I’ve strived for maximum objectivity, utilizing the best video footage and images to achieve the primary goal.
The next time you come across the term “purebred” remember this text because a dog’s character comes first before anything else.
I may have the most beautiful dog in the world, but if you come to my home and start playing with him within 1-2 minutes (without my permission), then he is not a Sarplaninac but a pet.
Nevertheless, regardless of all, I will continue to love him, and to me, he will always be the most beautiful dog in the world!
Thank you for your attention and the time you’ve dedicated.
Last update on 2023-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API