Kangal Dogs Work With not For You

What we really mean when we say… “working with the dog” vs. “the dog working for you”…

There likely are none or very few of us who never experience insurrection attempts during the raising and education of our beloved Kangals.

Can we truly all say we are aware that we raise dogs, not puppies?

Despite their incredible physical strength, their 743 PSI bite (compared to the most popular police dog breed, the Belgian Malinois at 195 PSI), 24/7 alert on auto-pilot seemingly even while asleep, our Kangals have an incredible soft, caring, and easily upset make-up.

And no, they don’t take well to erratic chiding. Their memories, like those of elephants and horses, never forget. They do keep score and you don’t want to find yourself on that other side of the score sheet…

Moreover, a Kangal reads every expression of yours, not just your tone of voice, or breathing rate. A self-aware person will do better than one not aware what her mind or body is doing at any time.They will know where your little finger is and seem to read your thoughts. So, better be clear, and don’t ooze any question marks such as, “I wonder what my dog wants now?”

But yes, finding a few behaviors where we allow the dog to have his way may be a door (of tacit bribery) to creating that deep and special bond. – A bond, where a succinct movement of your eyes, a gentle stretch of your spine, a hint of a smile, or a passing frown, will create the mutual understanding that only you and your dog can have.

And, yes, Kangals do want to behold that loving gaze of yours, at least a couple of times a day. Let me try to explain the mind set of making your Kangal your 100% loyal copilot by sharing a story from when I was about six years old.

1956 Patriarchal Switzerland

My grandfather, after having been in charge of security and supplies for a Swiss city of 25,000 inhabitants all through WWII, was beloved by many. He often took me along to his weekly men-table discussions. I would quietly sit and draw while listening to the conversations. One day one of the men asked him, to tell them his secret for getting along so well with his wife.

Now, you got to know that grandpa was born in 1897 and grandma in 1901, and in 1956 Switzerland was a whole decade and-a-half away from granting women the voting right (1972).I do recall grandpa’s answer like it was yesterday:

“Simple,” he said, “we have a democratic marriage.”

Gasps. It wasn’t my grandpa’s answer but the shocked faces of a dozen well-healed businessmen around that table that made me later ask grandpa what “democratic” meant.

A dozen aghast men’s voices threw questions at him like, “you can’t be serious!” “No way!” Grandpa slowly added:

“You see, this is indeed 50-50; and the two of us have agreed to it. Whenever we agree on something, I let my wife make the decision. When we disagree on something, I make the decision.”

The men were still baffled. Letting women call the shots 50% of the time didn’t sit well with the old patriarchal Swiss mind. And, what they totally missed is that indeed it was always grandpa’s way. – Grandpa was the consummate diplomat businessman.

When I later asked him to explain that word “democratic” he said that two people would figure out a way to interact with each other instead of one telling the other what to do and think.

My answer must have baffled him. Because I recall him pulling over the car.

“But Grapi, you are still always making the decisions!”

“Yes, sweetie, but grandma is happy to think that she is making the decisions at least half of the time.”

No, my grandma was not a pushover and she was highly intelligent. Indeed in mid-1950s Switzerland she felt incredibly liberated and blessed by her husband even asking for her opinion.

This very same approach used with horses and my independent thinking dogs has always served me well in their training. You got to be able to read your animals though to know where they stand. And your response must be non-negotiable, calmly secure, and yet self-reassessing all the time.

The Moral of the Story

Next time your dog tries to gnarl at something, don’t growl or yell at him. He will just think that you are teaming up and helping him. Wrong message!

Instead, place yourself like that second horse in the cart beside him, gently drape your arm around him and ask, “What? Show me! Oh? Really? …that’s nothing. I like that there. We are alright…” And treat him like a trembling scared foal before turning your back on him and walking away…

Yes, that’s a whole lot different to how I dealt with my Schutzhund III German Shepherd man-eater.

With the Kangal, trust me, it works when you let him make all the decisions while you agree, yet act as the role model for a different approach when you disagree. It’s called redirecting.

copyright Rivkah Roth DO DNM

With five decades of working with independent minded dogs, Dr. Rivkah Roth is the founder of Equiopathy and a natural health practitioner, lecturer and author with over five decades in the saddle as a correction rider (Swiss National License LMS since 1968) and many hours as a National Grand Prix and FEI C dressage judge. Student successes include professional coaches on five continents (incl. CDN/EC I to III, ISR I to III, Dutch 3rd Level Instructor, USA, AUS), 1986 Dressage World Championships alternate (CDN), 1986 National GP Kuer Champion (CDN), 1992 Barcelona Olympics Longlist 3-Day (CDN), 2002 Young Horse Dressage World Championships – Verden/GER (ISR), World Cup and WEG dressage horse (CDN), many Nat. and Provincial Champions all levels (CDN / ISR / SUI).