Can I use Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) to protect my British Soay?
Yes, the Kangal guardian dog is very suitable for Soay protection. Yes, based on my personal experience LGDs are a good option to protect your Soay investment. It seems that many of us live
in close proximity to predators, large or small. As a true-life story, a good portion of my British Soay flock came from a ranch in Idaho. The owner decided to part with her flock for health reasons as well as the fact that mountain lions had carried off over a half dozen of her registered ewes. Living in northern Nevada, I am surrounded by mountain lions. They live in the national forest next door. Often times
professional lion hunters will track lions right through the middle of my ranch property. Thanks to my Kangal guardian dogs, I have never lost a single animal to these large predators.
My search for the right guardian dog: My search for the right guardian dog started with a discounted Anatolian. She was discounted because she was too playful with young lambs and had injured or killed some in her attempt to play. Between some training and a little maturity this problem was quickly trained away. As I researched the breed history of the Anatolian in Turkey, I accidentally came across another Turkish breed, the Kangal. Both are similar in appearance, but the Anatolian is rather common, while the Kangal is rare. For the British Soay breeders, we have a common fondness for rare breeds.
The Kangal breed is so rare that you won’t find it in many of the reference books or on-line searches. One exception is the Livestock Protection Dogs, by Orysia Dawydiak and David Sims. On page 21, “To this day it is nearly impossible to convince rural Turkish owners to part with their finest dogs, and exporting out of the country can be very difficult”. To date, there are conflicting stories about a rule/policy in Turkey, which now prohibits the exportation of any Kangal dogs. In any case, there are only a few (registered) Kangal breeders in the U.S. In general the price tag for many of these registered breeding are comparatively high.
How did I get my Kangal breeding pair? After communicating with a number of registered Kangal breeders from Michigan to Texas, I found one lady who was reasonable to work with. We worked together to get the breeding female (Echo is pictured on my web site). I made a reservation for a second pup, a breeding male from a different set of parents. Before this second dog was born this Michigan lady became ill and died. My breeding male pup came from Shadow Wings Farm in Georgia. That young guy will not be transported to my ranch until mid June. As other Kangal shoppers have found out, there are a few breeders who are very difficult to work with. One in particular was so rude and cranky that I gave up and went elsewhere. Other Kangal owners have shared identical stories on this “sour apple”.
Given the relatively small Kangal numbers, the breeding quality animals tend to be expensive. I decided to suck it up and get my first breeding pair and build my enterprise from scratch.
I picked the Kangal breed for the following 5 reasons:
1.) I like the fact that the Kangal breed has been protecting sheep for many generations in Turkey. The fact that protection is in their DNA, you don’t have to waste time teaching something that is inborn.
2.) Second is the reality that this is yet another important rare breed that needs attention and care.
3.) Third, I like the disposition and sociability of this breed
4.) Fourth, I like the short hair feature that makes grooming natural and easy. The short hair still develops a fine under layer of cold weather protection that makes them suitable for any of the cold weather
5.) Fifth, I like the track record of my first Kangal. The few wild animals that ventured into my sheep corrals never made it to the other end alive. Despite this tenacity, they remain very social and friendly when it comes to human contact.
As noted earlier, I have found the Kangal breed to be very suitable to my sheep protection needs. Further, I have found the breed characteristics to be both adorable and dependable.
Some issues that need to be mentioned:The only issue that needs some attention is the characteristic that I shared with my first (and only) Anatolian, the natural inclination to be frisky and playful during the puppy stage.
As I have studied the practices in Central Turkey, those old pros have long since learned to leave the younger Kangals at home while the flocks and mature dog head for the summer grazing in the hills. The younger dogs are expected to stay behind until they reach a maturation level that rids them of the urge to chase and catch the vulnerable lambs. By the time the dogs reach two years of age, most of the spunk and mischievous behavior has passed with puppy-hood.
How will the new Kangals be raised with my sheep?
During the first half year, while the dog is growing fast, the focus is on family and friend socialization. This includes some basic command training to include not jumping up on humans. This is sign of poor discipline and a matter of simple practicality given the size and weight of the mature dog. You do not want to wait too long to get the dog in with the sheep. That is what they are for and the sooner that
relationship is developed the better. During periods, when you can be in the corral to supervise and train, it is important to have an adjoining holding pen or corral so they are close together for this bonding period. In this manner the benefit of the guardian deterrent is still present even when they are not in the same corral over night. From what I can tell, the mountain lions near by can’t tell the difference of who is in what corral and they are not willing to get too close for comfort. There is actually a transition period where they are grown to full size and still inclined to be frisky. At this point, I have the dogs in the same corrals as the sheep. At this stage, I was coached to simply use a medium/heavy chain attached to their collars. At first, I thought this step was a tiny bit cruel until I realized that a 10 lb or 20 lb. length of chain was a minor obstacle to a $110 lb animal. As you can see for yourself, what the training chain does is slow them down enough that they are less capable of chasing and catching a lamb. As a matter of training regime, I will remove the chain when they don’t chase and reattach the chain when I find them frisky. When I go in for the evening, I reattach the chain to be safe.
What is next for my Kangal enterprise?
It was my intention to come up with a breeding program for this Kangal rare breed. I wanted to make this dog breed available to sheep operations in the western half of the country. I am trying to come up with more affordable options here. It has taken me nearly two years to find the right combination of a female and male breeding pair. The male half was not born until 11 April 2011. As soon as he is sexually mature, my first litter will be available for sale. This progress will be provided on my ranch web site.