The Kangal Dog Breed: A Guard Dog Par Excellence!

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By: Lezanne Winshaw Updated: April 17, 2020

turkish kangal dog pantingThe Kangal dog is the most famous of the Turkish sheepdog breeds. It is a giant of a dog, with a personality to match. Fearless and rugged when guarding flocks against predators out on the pastures. Patient and loyal when protecting its family. This is a superior watchdog, simultaneously intelligent and endearing.

A Brief History of the Turkish Kangal Dog Breed

The Kangal dog is considered by many to be the Turkish national dog. The Turkish people claim that this breed is descendant of the early mastiff-type dogs depicted in Assyrian art. The breed gets its name from the Kangal District in the Sivas Province on the Anatolian plateau in central Turkey.

The relative isolation of the region from where the Kangal originates means that this breed of dog is free of cross-breeding. The result: a natural breed that is uniform in appearance, temperament, and behavior.

In more recent history, the breed has enjoyed much success in protecting livestock from attacks by cheetah and similar predators in Namibia and South Africa. The Cheetah Conservation Fund has given almost 500 Kangal Shepherd Dogs to farmers in Namibia.

This project has seen a drastic reduction in cheetah killings by the farmers as well as a significant decrease in the loss of livestock from these farms. Cheetahs are non-confrontational animals, so they would rather hunt their natural prey than taking on a Kangal! It’s a win-win situation!

Kangal vs Anatolian Shepherd: What’s the Difference?

It was initially believed that the shepherd dogs of Turkey all fell into one breed category. This is not so. The Akbash dog, Kangal dog, and Anatolian shepherd are all individual breeds officially recognized by the Turkish Kennel Club.

The Akbash dogs have a white head, while the other two breeds are known for their black-masked faces.

The Appearance of These Not Always So Gentle Giants

These are massive, sturdily built, athletic dogs. The Kangal dogs have a mastiff-like appearance, like the English Mastiff and the South African Boerboel (aka South African Mastiff). They have a black masked face. The rest of the body is one color, anything from dun to steel-gray is acceptable. These dogs have a short and dense double coat.

Kangal shepherds have massive heads borne by strong shoulders and slightly arched, muscular and powerful necks. Their strong jaw has either a level or a scissor bite. There is some dewlap (extra skin folds) on the neck. This is to allow the dog a range of movement of the head and neck despite being gripped at the neck by a foe.

The body is powerful and muscular and they have a deep chest with well-sprung ribs. The eyes of these dogs range in color from golden to brown. They are quite round, are set well apart and deep in the skull. Their ears are medium-sized and triangular with rounded tips which lie flat on the skull and are carried pendant.

A quirky characteristic of the Kangal dogs is their tail. They have long, fluffy tails with a kink in the end. When the dog is relaxed, the tail carries low with a slight curl. When alert, the dog’s tail carries high above the back with the end curled over.

kurdish kangal dogs paw in human hand

Average Size and Weight!

These dogs tip the scales at almost 150 pounds! Adult females weigh between 90 and 120 pounds (41 -54 kg). They have a height of 28 – 30 inches (72 – 77 cm), measured at the shoulder.

The adult male dogs are both taller and heavier. They have a shoulder height of between 30 and 32 inches (77 – 86 cm). They weigh in at 110 – 145 pounds (50 – 66 kg).

A Fully Grown Kangal is a Whole Lot of Dog!

The Kangal Shepherd is one of the world’s largest dog breeds – right up there with the Leonberger and the Newfoundland! As cute as they are when they are puppies, you need to bear in mind that one day, that pup is going to be a whole lot of dog!

Deciding to bring a pup like this into your life requires careful consideration. Never mind that you need to have a very spacious yard, is your car big enough?! Do you have the time and patience to do obedience training with your dog?

No-one wants an out of control dog, but this rings especially true when that dog weighs over 100 pounds!

Temperament and Personality of These Fiercely Loyal Dogs

The temperament of these dogs is typical of a livestock guard dog. They are alert, independent, territorial, and protective of the domestic animals or humans with which they have formed a bond.

Despite being ideally suited to a working life protecting stock, Kangals do make for good family pets. Their caring and protective natures are well suited to families with young children and other smaller household animals.

These are incredibly loyal dogs. They will courageously protect family and property.

Protect First! Ask Questions Later!

In most situations, this will be a matter of their bark being worse than their bite. These dogs are not unduly aggressive. They prefer to intimidate predators with their size and stance. However, if provoked, they will attack.

These shepherd dogs are used to living independently and in relative isolation out in the pastures looking after their flocks. This means that they will make decisions on their own and in accordance with their instinct.

If you are looking to have a Kangal as a family dog in a home with regular visitors, it is imperative that you begin socialization at an early age and keep at it throughout puppyhood.

Not for First Time Puppy Parents! They Need a Strong Alpha! 

You will want to have some experience with dogs and with obedience training before committing yourself to a Kangal. A canine with as much personality as a Kangal needs firm and consistent positive reinforcement training.

Harsh words, force, and impatience will leave you holding the short end of the stick very quickly! Being such intelligent and independent dogs, training sessions should be short and interesting. It is advisable to split your training into a few shorter sessions in the day rather than one long one.

Working Kangals are Happy Kangals!

As with all working dogs, Kangals are in their element when they have a job to do. This breed was developed to protect vast flocks of sheep and goats from bears and wolves! That is what they are best at doing.

If you don’t have a sheep flock for your Kangal dog to protect, make sure to keep them busy with other tasks. Regular long walks are not only a good idea, but they are also imperative.

two kangals guarding their flock

These Dogs Need Space!

Definitely not for apartment dwelling! These flock protectors need space and lots of it. If you are thinking about getting a Kangal, make sure that you have a very spacious yard that is well fenced in.

These dogs are used to wandering to the very limits of their territory to make sure that all is safe and predator-free. If there is a gap in the fence, they will wander right through and consider the territory beyond as much theirs as their own backyard.

Having a large property for the Kangal to patrol will go a long way in keeping this dog content.

What is Their Expected Lifespan?

Large breed dogs do not usually have a long lifespan, however, Kangal dogs are one of the exceptions. These dogs can live up to 15 years.

To ensure a long, happy and healthy life, feed your dog a well-balanced, veterinarian-approved diet. Regular check-ups at the vet are a good way to spot any health issues that might lead to pain and discomfort further down the line if not treated promptly.

Keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date and be sure to follow a good de-flea and de-worming programme.

4 Potential Health Problems of Kangal Dogs

This is a particularly healthy breed of dog. There are few diseases or conditions which one needs to worry about when looking to get a Kangal dog.

1. Hip Dysplasia. This condition plagues many large and giant dog breeds. Hip dysplasia refers to the abnormal growth of the cartilage around the hip joints in growing puppies. It can cause pain and stiffness in the joints. This presents as less range of movement and general discomfort when moving. Symptoms are especially notable after an extended period of rest, e.g first thing in the morning.

2. Entropion. This condition is most often congenital (i.e. inherited) but it can be caused by a chronic eye irritation. Entropion is characterized by a deformity of the eyelid in which the outer lid scrolls inwards. This results in eye hairs rubbing on the affected eye causing severe discomfort and inflammation.

3. Lipoma. Lipoma is benign fatty lumps which usually grow from the subcutaneous tissues on the chest and abdomen. These lumps are most often harmless but can grow quite large and therewith cause discomfort.

4. Hotspots. Hotspots start off as a tiny bacterial infection that can spread within a couple of hours and leave large, raw patches. Kangals living in wet and warm climates should be checked daily for any signs of potential hotspots!

Kangal Puppies for Sale!

Are you sure that this is the dog for you and that you have what it takes to raise and care for a Kangal puppy? Great! Have a look online for reputable Kangal Shepherd breeders in your area. A great place to start your search is the Kangal Dog Club of America. Ask your local vet or pet store about Kangal breeders in the area.

kangal puppies for sale picture, cute kangal puppy in snow

What to Look for in a Reputable Breeder

Your new canine companion is going to be a part of your life for a long time. You want to be sure, firstly, that you are getting the right dog for you and your lifestyle. Secondly, you want to be sure that you are taking a healthy and well-adjusted puppy into your home.

A responsible breeder will welcome any questions that you might have about their Kangal shepherd puppies. They should also want to ask you several questions to make sure that you have what it takes to give this dog a long and happy life.

Insist on seeing health certification for your pup’s parents. You will also want to visit the breeder’s premises before deciding to buy a puppy from them. You will want to see that the dogs and puppies are raised in a friendly, homely and hygienic environment.

Also insist on meeting at least one of the parents so that you can get a sign of their temperament and how your puppy is likely to turn out.

Adopt, Don’t Shop! Ask an Animal Shelter About Kangal Shepherd Rescues!

Unfortunately, not all dog owners do the necessary research before committing themselves to a dog. Kangals are a breed of dog bred for a very specific purpose. They are large dogs with an independent personality. This might result in them needing to be re-homed to more suitable homes and pet owners.

Save yourself the trouble of potty training and property destruction by adopting an older dog. Inquire at your local animal shelter for Kangal dogs looking for new homes. You could also contact Kangal Breed Clubs or Rescue Groups to find out about Kangals needing better homes.

Common Questions About the Turkish Kangal Dog

Is a Kangal Dog a Good Family Dog?

How Big is a Kangal?

Are Kangal Dogs Aggressive?

Where do You Find Kangal Dog Puppies?


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