Foundation breeders of pure Turkish Kangal Dogs since 1980

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The Kangal Dog: A Unique Disposition

© A. Jones

THE KANGAL DOG: DISPOSITION

The Kangal Dog is a quiet dog, protective but not aggressive without a reason. It is calm and trustworthy, devoted to its family, very good with children, and very trainable. Always on the alert for the intruder or the unexpected, the Kangal Dog often gives the impression of being nonchalant. Its size alone is often enough to deter a challenge, but when challenged, the Kangal Dog is a courageous and determined foe. This young Kangal Dog illustrates the gentle, but protective disposition of the breed. Work with the Kangal Dog in Turkey in a non-agricultural setting has shown that it is well-suited as a guard dog; however, when a patrol dog, a dog that will attack on command, is needed, the German Shepherd and the Doberman are used. Protection, not aggression, is the Kangal Dog's natural instinct.

In the U.S. and in Turkey, the Kangal Dog is often used as a livestock guardian on small farms. The breed's attachment to "its people" make it an ideal farm-family guardian. Only a few Kangal Dogs have been placed on range with livestock due primarily to the expense of securing pure Kangal Dogs from Turkey, the need to preserve breeding dogs, and the death rate among dogs in range situations. Nevertheless, the reports from the owners of those few Kangal Dogs on range have been glowing. One experienced livestock owner has said that the Kangal Dog performed better than any of the other breeds he had owned against large predators -- cougar and bear. His sheep and Kangal Dog guardians in winter were on the high desert in Eastern Washington, where coyotes were a constant problem and cougar an occasional one, and in summer in the Rocky Mountains, where cougar and bear (both black and grizzly) were a constant threat.

The breed gives one the impression of never being out of control. A Kangal Dog is always aware of what it is doing. It is virtually impossible to think of a Kangal Dog as excitable or as a potential "fear-biter." However, they are ready in a moment to protect what is theirs, no matter what the threat.

Kangal Dog owners attest to the intelligence of the breed. In spite of their large size, usually the tone of the voice and a few words alone serve as a reprimand. No doubt it is the breed's intelligence and trainability that has led to the Turkish military and police interest in the breed. A young Kangal Dog, like any other canine family member, should not be spoiled nor should it be allowed to become the "alpha" (dominant) member of the family. Basic training (such as sitting, staying, coming on command) will help the young dog develop respect for its owners and will help instill in the dog the idea that "nothing in life is free." Physical punishment is never recommended with a Kangal Dog; in spite of its large size, a young Kangal Dog that is physically punished can quickly lose all confidence and become completely subordinate. Only patient rehabilitation can undo the damage done by a heavy-handed owner or trainer.

THE KANGAL DOG: A GUARDIAN

The Kangal Dog is one of those breeds called Livestock Guarding Dogs. These breeds could be called "sheep in wolves' clothing," for, while they are canids, by nature predatory creatures, the livestock guardians choose to protect rather than attack animals that are typically considered to be "prey" animals, such as sheep, goats, and cattle. Predator and prey lie down together.

The Kangal Dog is the guardian par excellence. They assume guardianship over all their master's possessions. When they are raised with livestock, they learn that their responsibility is to protect those animals. However, the Kangal Dog combines this ability to bond with other species with a deep devotion to its human master(s). Thus, it was not surprising when a female Kangal Dog, hearing her owner scream at an intruding Rottweiler, leapt a five foot fence and immediately pinned the surprised stray. No fight ensued. The stranger, realizing he was on another, bigger dog's territory was happy to flee once the owner grabbed her guardian by the collar and told her it was "Okay, Okay -- leave it!"

One trait which seems to separate them from other livestock guarding dogs is their devotion to their "humans." In North America, livestock guardians are left on range with herds of sheep, goats, or cattle. While there is usually a shepherd with the herd, in the mountains ranges like those of Colorado or Montant, the dogs are virtually on their own for long periods of time. However, in Turkey, the flocks of sheep are always accompanied by shepherds and their guard dogs. Rarely are dog and sheep out of sight of the herder due to the sparse vegetation and the topography of the land. In the fall, these flocks are brought near to the village to graze after harvest. In winter, dogs and sheep live in the village, in sheds very near their masters and their families. A visitor to the Kangal region in the fall of the year cannot help but be struck by the close relationship of livestock guard dogs and the shepherds (and their families).