Tornjak is the part of dog group we know as livestock guardian dogs. This group
of dogs shares some similar characteristics, still each breed is distinctive. To
understand tornjak, perhaps we should start from his purpose, conditions and way
of life that made tornjak what it is today.
For centuries, tornjak's place had been next to the flock (usually sheep), other
dogs from the pack and shepherds. In the summertime, tornjaks escorted flocks to
the summer pastures, usually away from the settlements. In the wintertime, flocks
were driven closer to settlements, together with tornjaks. His duty is to patrol,
mark and control the area where the flock is situated, to react at potential danger
with warning, and if needed, to fight the intruder. Nutrition of the tornjak living
with the flock is modest, natural and consisting of anything available at the moment.
Milk products are important source of proteins in that conditions. Tornjaks also
hunted small animals, mostly rodents. In time of preparing winter provisions, tornjaks
were probably treated better than usual, with more fresh and tasty meat.
What can we conclude about tornjak based on last few paragraphs:
Tornjak protects the flock from any kind of predators, and is regarded with good
hearing, sight and nose. He is strong, agile and fast when needed. Sensitive body
parts are secured with thicker skin and hair. No change in surrounding goes unnoticed,
and tornjak will stop playing, resting or eating in a second to check what is going
on and to react in the proper manner. On his territory, tornjak often barks, especially
at night when everything is even more suspicious. Objects, persons or animal he presumes
intruders, tornjak faces with enemy attitude and sharpness that can vary from dog
to dog, and depends on a situation.
Tornjak lives outside, in nature, and should be able to endure all weather conditions.
Thick coat and sturdy built helps the dog to face all the caprices of nature. Long
top coat is open, and cleans itself incredibly fast. The place where muddy tornjak
lied few minutes ago is full of dried mud and other dirt, while the dog walked away
as clean as if he had just been brushed or bathed. Thick undercoat serves as an insulation
from both heat and cold, from the severe winds and remains almost dry when the dog
gets out of water.
While guarding a flock on pastures, tornjak moves around a lot. Pastures often cover
large areas, but flocks move slowly, while tornjak wanders all over the area and
marks it with urine or in any other way. Sometimes tornjaks just lie and rest, but
always on the higher ground where they can keep an eye and other senses on flock
Tornjaks are pack dogs. Pack works well if all dogs know and follow the rules, which
should be clear and constant, and, of course, presented in a right way. In any other
case, they will try to get an advantage by bending those rules.
So it is very important, regardless whether the rules were set among the pack or
set by a human, that those rules are precise and that each breaking of rules is penalized
Just like other similar breeds, tornjaks love people they know well, they like to
play and cuddle with them, or just be close to people. They're mostly aloof with
strangers if they are not threatening their flock or territory.
Tornjak in urban or suburban areas:
Somehow, tornjaks manage to transfer their behaviour, drives and instincts, with
minimal modifications to new conditions and objects in urban areas.
Instead of going to pastures with flocks, they demand everyday walks they'll enjoy
even more if more terrain is covered. I'm impressed with their skillfulness when
it comes to find water and different kind of treats in nature or in city, orientation
is space and shine in their eyes when they realize we're going somewhere. Tornjaks
and their harmony with nature are really breathtaking.
During the walks, my tornjaks act like I'm their flock, they keep me on eye while
not necessarily staying close to me. Sometimes I think they're letting me graze in
peace. Even though they know and quickly learn basic obedience, any accidental observers
would never think so, because each interruption of their usual area patrolling they
consider as mistreating from the owner. Really sometimes their logic seems better
than mine (though nobody asks that), when they look at me with those questioning
stares, while standing 10 m in front of me and not moving a muscle even if I called
them to come, I can't but think about the way story goes inside their heads: "Why
coming back to you now when we're already headed in a right direction? Ain't it better
that I wait for you to come here to me?".
When it comes to their love for water, mud and other forms of having fun in nature,
you can be sure tornjak will not pass by anything if the opportunity shows up. They
make excellent swimmers if introduced to that activity in time. Even if you miss
that, still tornjaks will find the water pleasurable enough to refresh in it whenever
My girls regularly take a bath in cow's watering place on our walking path, because
drinking water without dipping all four legs and stomach is not fun at all.
Agricultural work is also very popular with tornjaks, and that doesn't always please
the owner. Each backyard should have at least one hole in the soil, size of at least
one tornjak. Don't worry, you don't have to dig it, tornjak will do that for you.
You also don't have to worry about trimming hedges, because tornjaks enjoy that,
too. Sometimes he gets carried away, but "who works, makes errors", people say. And
tornjaks seem to like this kind of work very much.
Tornjak will successfully get used to living in flat, though it would be better if
he lives in a house with backyard. In a flat, he will mostly sleep through the day.
But the very moment you get the leash, you'll realize what he dreamed about: the
walk! Lack of backyard should be compensated with frequent long walks.
Tornjaks that have backyards available will spend more time outside than in the house,
but will consider the house as beloved and safe den, of course, considering the rules
the owner had previously set.
It has to be noted that tornjaks will watch all over their property, both the house
and backyard. They also happen to be masters in overcoming any obstacles. Though
I had read about it, I simply couldn't understand it until my tornjaks grew up a
bit. They will dig under, jump over, climb over or creep through any fence, unless
they find way simply to open the door. Every now and then we hear about tornjaks
that are lost or wandered away. Causes are numerous: bitches in heat, not enough
walks with owner, patrolling the territory or any other specific situation dog found
itself in. I heard many stories about tornjaks that wandered away: for example, one
tornjak bitch had been taken to the male for mating, then escaped and returned after
few months, not to her owner but to the place where she was whelped. Then about the
tornjak who moved to a new home with his owners, but kept returning back to old home
to visit his territory.
So, tall and sturdy fence is very important. I've realized that after seeing my bitch
jumping over it, because our tomcat had fought with another cat, and she thought
he needed to be protected, like everything else that belongs to us. Once she found
how, she jumped over for many times without any apparent reason, until we rose and
consolidated the fence.
In the time of shedding, which is abundant because of thick undercoat, tornjaks need
to be brushed regularly. Might sound as something rather unpleasant, but I really
like it because it is relaxing both to me and the dogs.
Chains and other forms of bonding are prison for tornjaks. If you ever come to conclusion
that any tornjak should be chained or put behind the fence, think again. Tornjak
is tornjak only while free, in perfect harmony with nature. Chained tornjak is not
a tornjak anymore, just a faded picture and weak shadow of tornjak.
Tornjaks should be socialized with other dogs since puppyhood when they easily make
new friendships. They'll have a special relationship with the dogs they met and played
with before they mature. After maturing, they don't seem to care about other unknown
dogs and it takes much longer before they're accepted in their company like the dogs
they know since they were babies. Tornjaks are large and dominant dogs, and conflict
with other dogs are sometimes inevitable. Still they can make good friends to dogs
of different breeds and watch over them like they would watch over their flock.
I wrote many things in this short introduction. I probably forgot to write as many
things. Most of this doesn't sound ideal and it looks like things can go wrong in
many ways. It is true, but what someone might consider a fault, for me it is a virtue
of tornjak, their essence. Life with them is like a computer game, with each new
level more and more complicated. Tornjak are still ruled by the same instincts and
drives, even after hundreds of years of their existence, and watching them seems
like watching some TV documentary about animals. I enjoy the attempts to experience
the world through their eyes. They set many challenges, life with them is constant
sophistry, and that is the reason why moments spent with them are so fun and enjoyable.
And those eyes that study me like I study them... I'm forever bound to tornjaks.
I did not write much about their love for the owner, their intelligence and ways
of communication with humans, nor about their love for children, smaller animals
and everything else they have the opportunity to live with. I could write lengthy
essays about their need for closeness with humans, playfulness and "Peter Pan syndrome",
since they seem to keep on those innocent and happy puppy faces forever. I could,
but I didn't, there are some things you should find out on your own when you bring
that irresistible puppy home. You'll fall in love with it very soon, together with
the whole family and half of the neighborhood. And those who once fall in love with
tornjak, would never be able to imagine life without them.