Basic Principles of Kangal Dog Training
by Dogan Kartay, International Symposium of Kangal dogs
My thesis, which was approved by the science committee, my views and observations that I have been doing for the last 50 years may seem quite radical. Some of my colleagues claim that Kangals are hard to train and I counterclaim this stating that if pupil cannot learn, that may be most likely the trainer’s inadequacy. If the training plan does not consider the dog’s ability, talents, way of life, temperament, behavior and characteristic features, it is destined to fail. My views, by no means, meant to interfere or guide the professional dog trainers but instead are intended to serve as a reminder to those who are Kangal owners and/or trainers. The owner or the trainer should be aware of the fact that Kangals have different characteristics than most of the other breeds; by becoming aware of this fact, the limitations of the training sessions can be broadened and improved tremendously. (Both basic and advance training details are not included in this article.)
Kangal’s close relative the gray wolf’s evolution and its adaptation to plains have a considerable affect on this breed. This fact has always been kept in mind in the Kangal area and people of this region preserved this breed accordingly to date. Before mentioning of the Kangal and the Turkish Shepard dog training tips, the difference of these breeds to others should be determined. Prior to training a Kangal or a Turkish Shepard dog, some certain points should be taken in to consideration such as the gender differences, instinctive behavior towards humans, intense emotions and devotions to their owners and their excessive fondness for their ~ freedom. Although freedom and dependency are contradictory for people, this happens to be Kangals outstanding peculiarity. Kangals dependency is harmonious with his freedom.
Rewarding with food, harsh treatment and strict commands are essential parts of the training sessions and are used most of the time, for most of the breeds. But not for Kangals! For a Kangal food is not a reward! They do not like to be treated harshly, if so, they react in a similar manner. A friendly pat, a little praise or showing true emotions are the real meanings of reward for a Kangal. Most dogs trained by professionals, but a Kangal, by his nature, does not like to obey someone else other than his master or caretaker. Climate is an important issue for our devoted friends. If a Kangal brought from Sivas region or from some other plains to a hot or humid location, for sure summers will make him inactive and reluctant, Having inherited a culture from Asian and Anatolian plains, Kangals have been protecting flocks for thousands of years, thus Kangals are most effective during the night. A Kangals performance is not at its highest point during daytime. For those who are not familiar with Kangals this fact can create some undesirable outcomes during the daytime training sessions.
Based on these facts, one can question whether or not Kangals are hard to train? Absolutely NOT! They can be trained easily in many different fields only if the trainer is knowledgeable about his Kangal’s individual temperament, behavioral features and most importantly the breed’s general characteristics.
Main Training fields:
- Herd Shepard
- Field Protection
- Individual Protection
- Military and Police Duties
1. Herd Shepard: Kangals, naturally, are fully harmonious with sheep’ s, goats and herds. Kangals protect the herd throughout the whole day and especially during the night. They escort the herd while they are on the move; at night they stand guard around herd barn. The female Kangals generally stay in the barn while the males are outside guarding it. The Shepard dogs are usually fed by the end of the duty, which is in the morning. By doing this a Kangal can always be vigilant while the herd graze at night. Kangal is a natural born Shepard. His instincts always lead him and they do not need extra training for guarding the herd. Three months after birth, Kangal puppies are sent to protect the herd with their parents. By the time they are one year old, they learn most of the things that a Sheppard dog is supposed to know. After this point, they are ready for their own duties. By the time they become the age of two, their physical developments are complete and they are ready to deter or fight against wild animals like wolfs and bears. At this stage, they are the ultimate protectors of the herd.
2. Field Protection: Protection is Kangals main duty. They protect everything that they think it belongs to his master or his territory. By nature they protect their masters and his belongings or family, therefore Kangals are very good Sheppard’s. His strong muscles are powerful enough to fight against wolves or even bears. His large body, powerful jaws, big teeth, loud and raucous bark are enough to deter wild animals and those people with bad intentions.
While raising a Kangal puppy, he should not be in contact with many people if he is going to be a guard dog. He should only be fed and patted by his owner or his caretaker. Strangers should not offer food and pat the puppy, other wise he may most likely become unctuous. In this case, he may not be the right kind of a guard dog. During his off-duty hours, Kangals should be kept in at least a 100m2-fenced area and not be chained. Even if Kangals property is trespassed by an intruder, a Kangal will not aim to kill the intruder. If a club or some sort of a firearm injures the Kangal, he will harm the intruder but in the end he will capture the person(s) until his master or caretaker arrives. Mean while he may pee on the intruder to denigrate. During nights, Kangals are excellent protectors and in some cases they may be even more affective than a lethal weapon.
An alert Kangal’s appearance with his large body, powerful jaws, big teeth, loud and raucous bark is enough to deter any intruder. Kangals are not likely to be deceived by food easily and this makes them unique protectors. If a Kangal is protecting a place of employment, he will recognize the employees and vehicles within a short period of time and will not threaten by barking or attacking them, but instead will watch them carefully until they leave his territory.
A Kangal on a night duty should be fed in the morning just like a Shepard Kangal. This is an Anatolian plain tradition. Scientist agree to divide the guard Kangals portions, and feed the dog 1/3 of its portions 3 hours before the duty and 2/3 of the remaining portion one hour after the end of the duty.
3. Individual Protection: Kangal is a natural born protector for his master. A Kangal protects his master with everything he has and does not mind sacrificing his own life during the process. Kangals are the only breed that would die for their masters without any training. If someone talks to the Kangal’s owner in a threatening tone of voice, then the dog listens and watches very carefully. If the owner physically gets attacked then the Kangal intervenes without a command. Additional specific training sessions are necessary if it is desired that the Kangal should attack or be stopped with specific commands.
A Kangal needs extra training if he is expected to protect someone other than his master or his family. On the contrary, the content of this special training is having many differences than regular guarding principles that are thought to many other breeds. Professional trainers, unless they are the owner of the dog, usually do not have influences since food is not a reward for Kangals. For a Kangal true rewards only come from his master or his caretaker, therefore, the trainer should educate the owner and cooperate.
4. Military and Police Duties: So far, this has been the most challenging and difficult off all. Usually soldiers serve 1.5 years and police personals change their service location frequently in Turkey. Kangals only obey their masters; if the owner changes frequently this confuse the dog’s behavior. This is the reason most military trainings do not result in the desired outcomes.
One should question whether or not Kangals could be good military and police dogs? Can they be easily trained for such missions? The answer is yes and great results can be maintained. Such soldier or police trainer must be a Kangal lover and must be the owner of the dogs that he is training. Puppies must be chosen from distinguished parents when they are three months old. These puppies should be physically healthy, smart and have a well appetite. If the trainer (and the owner) raised puppies to train most of problems would have already been solved. This means that they will be partners for the next 8 to 10 years together. A house with a sensible back yard must be given the trainer where he can keep his Kangal without chaining him down. During nights the dog should wander around feely. Under such circumstances, the soldier or the police trainer (and the owner) is ready to train his partner. Kangal will easily learn the basic trainings. The training sessions must take place at night or early in the morning. (Remember, chaining a Kangal down is not good for his mental health.)
Most Kangal trainings fail due to an outsider trainer’s inability or lack of communication with the dog, or unproductiveness of the daytime training sessions. By his nature, Kangal is a creature of the night and his performance peaks at nighttimes. It is quite normal to get bad results if the training sessions take place during the daytime. People who fail to train Kangals do blame this breed and give them low IQ marks. This is not only false and misleading information but also a total injustice to this breed. If the training fails, this most probably means that the trainer is not skilled enough.
5. Companion: Despite his large body, a Kangal can easily be trained and raised as a companion dog for a house with a back yard. They are fit to be life long companions to families, elderly and single individuals. If kept in the house, Kangals can learn how to use an Alaturka toilet. Part of the house can be given the dog with an easy exit to the back yard but the entrance into the house should be based on a command. This command will come handy during the shading season. Basic and advance trainings must be provided by the owner alone or with a trainer assistant together. Once Kangal takes these trainings, he will be even more bonded emotionally to his master. Female Kangals are considered to be more devoted, committed and easily trained.
Let’s not forget that for almost every European and American originated breed have been scientifically researched and their temperaments and characteristics have been determined. These dogs have been trained by taking their breed’s specific features in to consideration. Education and social heritage facilitate the learning process for us Humans. Scientists agree on the same validity for dogs as well. Puppies start their lives by imitating their parents. Just like humans, if the puppy has well-trained parents, he will have a better chance to get a more advanced training.
The essential facts about training Kangals should always be kept in mind; A Kangal is a creature of the night. His performance during the daytime is low but peaks at night. Kangals love cold weather and their movement abilities are in the minimum level during hot daytimes. They become more active towards the evening and they are the most active at nighttimes. If training sessions take place during the warm midday times, it is quite normal for a Kangal to behave unwillingly. This unwillingness has nothing to do with his IQ.
My views about “Kangal Training” are quite radical. I would like to use this opportunity to correct a few common mistakes.
A short summary: Kangals can be trained for varieties of specific duties as long as the breed’s general and individuals characteristics are taken into consideration. Some of them are:
- When choosing puppies, make sure to choose the ones who are not spoiled, frightened or chained/locked in a small place.
- Kangal is an animal of plains and must be trained in plains or similar locations.
- Kangal is a creature of the night and must be trained at night.
- Kangal must be trained by his master, live with his master and work with his master.