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Owning a Kangal Dog

The Kangal Dog as a companion makes for a rewarding relationship, provided the nature of the breed is respected. They will live happily with other domestic animals, including other dogs provided the Kangal is allowed to be top dog, so while dominant breeds are inadvisable most of the easy-going breeds will be good companions and will enjoy being looked after by their Kangal guardian.

Character and behaviour

These dogs are not fawning creatures, constantly looking for instruction and clinging to your heels, but they are inquisitive and like to know where you are, and what you are doing. They are strong-minded, independent and can seem aloof; however they bond naturally to those who care for them.

Their unsuitability for obedience training does not mean that they are stupid; on the contrary, provided you talk to them as companions they soon come to understand you and will go along with reasonable requests. However, don't expect them, for instance, to retrieve more than once (if you throw it away twice you clearly don't want it back), or to stop in mid-flight if they are seeing a strange animal off the premises.

They are no respecters of boundaries and will use as wide a radius as they are allowed, so secure fences are essential. Unfamiliar visitors will be viewed with suspicion and are likely to be warned off unless welcomed by the owner, so the path to your front door needs to be secure. All this makes perfect sense given the mindset of the working Kangal in his traditional environment.

Choosing a puppy

A good-sized puppy will weigh nearly 2 lb (900 g) at birth and by the time it is ready to go to its new home at seven weeks it is likely to have reached 22 lb (10 kg). Its coat colour, a surprisingly dark grey at birth, will have started to clear to almost the adult fawn and will be thick and dense with a distinctive velvety texture. At this stage even the most experienced breeder finds it hard to spot the future show winner, but there are a few points it is worthwhile bearing in mind when making your choice.

A good breeder will allow you to see the puppies' dam; if the sire is not from the same kennel, then ask to see good photographs and find out as much as you can about him from his owner and the owners of other pups he has sired. The more you know about the temperament and conformation of the parents, the better you can predict the likely character and type of their progeny. Watch the puppies together as they play, for clues as to dominant or shy, placid or vivacious individuals, and be alert to any sign of aggression. If this is your first Kangal, choose a placid puppy, and possibly a bitch rather than a dog; in inexperienced hands a big, boisterous, adolescent male can be quite a trial.

Pups of this age are so loose-limbed, and have so much growing to do, that it is hard to predict how they will shape up as adults. Pay attention to the hindquarters and watch for any difficulties in getting up on to four paws. Cow hocks, which may occur in larger pups, are unlikely to straighten later. Feet may turn in slightly at this stage and will probably improve as the limbs grow and muscles develop with exercise, but turned-out feet might not.

Coat colour and texture are important. While a little white on paws and chest is acceptable, there should be no patches of white on the face or body; sometimespuppies are born with a slight white 'smudge' on the nose but this disappears within the first two to three months. A dark strip down the back and black onthe tail are indicators of good pigmentation. A black mask and ears are breed characteristics, but a black muzzle and shaded ears are acceptable. There is a tendency for the mask to fade at around six months but intensify again in the mature dog.

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Training and environment

Some owners experience problems with over-dominant adolescent Kangals. Bullying tactics by the handler do not overcome this behaviour, but instead result in a resentful and potentially aggressive adult dog. It is important to maintain a calm but superior position to your pup from day one: for example, do not allow it to sit on your furniture, keep your eye level above that of the dog’s, always lead the way through doorways. Remember, pack leaders do not respond to attention-seeking behaviour so, hard as it may be, learn to ignore demands for attention so that treats and affection are always given on your terms.

These are large, active dogs that need plenty of living space. Kangal Dogs will guard as far as they can see and hear. They are not suited to city life and will soon become frustrated, noisy, confused and even destructive if closely confined. You cannot rely on a Kangal Dog to ignore an open gate - this is a naturally inquisitive breed - but it is cruel to keep it tethered or chained and dogs can be injured if they become entangled in a running-chain. A large secure garden or yard is ideal, with plenty of walks on the lead.

As soon as vaccinations are complete, make a point of gradually introducing everyday sights and sounds, take your dog to puppy playgroup and for short rides in the car to visit friends, go shopping, or do the school run. It might take some time to get over travel sickness, so be prepared. Make a point of introducing visitors who come to your home rather than separating your dog from them. This kind of socialization pays dividends and will not compromise the dog’s natural guarding instinct.

It is a good idea to start early with examining teeth, ears, tail, paws, so that later visits to the vet do not come as a shock. Above all, keeping a calm, relaxed attitude will help develop the same traits in your dog.

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Feeding and exercise

It is a tribute to the genetic well-being of the working dogs in Turkey that they can thrive on the poor diet they receive. No-one would recommend raising dogs on the same diet in an environment where more nutritious options are easily available.

Whether you opt for a home-made fresh/raw diet or one of the better-quality complete manufactured feeds (avoid the cheap ones), moderation is the key. Growing puppies need plenty of protein, but adult Kangals do not need or benefit from high-protein feed. Slow, steady growth is much safer for good bone and joint development than allowing pups to gain a lot of weight quickly from too much carbohydrate. This can result in strain on the joints and deformation at the growth plates. Dietary supplements are best avoided unless you are a veterinarian - with a dog of this size it is too easy to make mistakes by overestimating what is safe. Don’t listen to folklore: if you are concerned that your dog is not receiving enough of anything, get the opinion of a good veterinarian.

Bones and joints are vulnerable in the growing dog so exercise should be carefully controlled in the first two years especially (no hurdling or galloping up and down stairs!). Regular short walks on the lead are fine, building up to longer distances after the first year, with the occasional romp about off the lead in a secure space.

Unless your dog has been thoroughly socialized with other dogs from puppyhood, off-lead exercise in a public place is inadvisable. Bearing in mind the reluctance of most Kangals to respond to the recall, a free-running dog could get itself into trouble by harming another dog or, simply by its sheer size and weight, frightening a child or elderly person. Bear in mind also that only a Kangal raised with livestock will know how to behave with farm animals; you cannot rely on instinctive behaviour without experience. An untrained dog of any breed is likely to chase sheep if allowed among them off the lead.

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