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.
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 and surroundings.
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.
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.
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 possible.
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.
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.
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.