All about Bella, the star of the show!

All about Bella, the star of the show!

I love animals. We had a hobby farm when I was kid growing up with cows, horses, pigs, chickens, goats, geese, a few cats and a dog. I encountered quite a few wild animals on our property as well, including rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, deer, elk, moose and bears! Then I moved to the city. 

I always had cats living in the city but, it just didn’t seem fair to have a dog. I love big dogs and I believe you need a big yard for a big dog. When we moved back to the family farm in April of 2021, I started thinking about getting a dog again. I told my husband that I wanted a big dog like a Newfoundlander, St Bernard or Great Pyrenees. My husband wasn’t so sure and tried to set a size limit of 70 lbs. Little did he know, we’d end up with a dog almost twice that size. We started looking. 

We searched through pet rescue sites with no success. Then in August my Mom suggested that we contact a rancher she knew up the Slocan Valley. She was always impressed with how well trained his dogs were, perhaps he had a puppy to adopt. Turns out he did! He keeps mostly Kelpies for herding and Kangals for guarding. He just happened to have one 5 month old Kangal puppy that needed a home. 

So, one hot August morning, we drove out to his ranch to meet the puppy. She instantly took to my husband. The breeder explained that this puppy would not make a good working dog for his farm as she hadn’t bonded with the sheep. She bonded with people! This made her a good fit for our glamping retreat. She wouldn’t be very helpful protecting herds of sheep but she would be perfect for guarding our guests from bears. And we had a big bear problem. She came home with us that day. We named her Bella.

Bella is a purebred Kangal Shepherd dog. “The Kangal Shepherd, also called the Turkish Kangal, is a large and powerful breed renowned for its exceptional guarding instincts and unwavering loyalty.” In Turkey, Kangals were bred to protect livestock, such as sheep, from wolves and other predators. They are covered in a thick coat of fawn coloured fur with striking black snouts. They blend in perfectly with sheep. In fact, from a distance, I think they even look like sheep. Their double coat helps insulate them from the cold as well as the heat. Bella is just as happy outside in -20 as she is in +20 degree weather. At 130 lbs full grown, she is strong too. 

When we first got her, she was only 50 lbs but already had giant paws. She was clumsy as hell. She tripped while running, sometimes, knocking us over. She walked around with her big tongue hanging out and was constantly dragging it through mud. It seemed to always be coated in dirt, twigs, leaves and other debris. She would gaze at us with mournful eyes when she wanted something. She napped anywhere she felt like, under the hostas, in the shade by a tent or on a pile of dirt. For her size, she is quite stealth. She would disappear and reappear without making a sound. She chewed on everything when we weren’t watching - boots, garden hoses, our vacuum. But, it was all worth it. She chased a bear off our farm within the first three days she came to live with us!

Here in the Nelson area, we have a lot of problems with bears. They are attracted to garbage, compost and ripe fruit on trees in the late summer. If bears become habituated to obtaining food from these sources, these bears get disposed of - meaning they are killed. Bears are a danger to people. Bear bins or electric fences are one solution to keep bears out but, if you have a big enough property, a Kangal dog might be right for you. I like to think that Bella actually contributes to the conservation of bears in our area. Some (Kangals) have been exported to African countries such as Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania, where they successfully protect local flocks from cheetahs, thus contributing to the conservation of endangered cheetah populations. Cheetahs pose a similar threat to farmers in Africa. These beautiful animals are often killed by farmers. Kangal dogs effectively keep them out while also saving their lives!

Kangal dogs are well known for their loyalty and protective nature towards family, livestock and territory. These dogs were bred to work independently and have a low prey drive yet strong bonding and guarding instinct. Kangal Shepherds value and protect what they consider part of their family. They are gentle giants, even with children, and bond warmly with humans. Bella takes her job of protecting our guests seriously. Most of our guests rest easy knowing that Bella is keeping them safe. For others, her barking it is a sleep disruption and we apologize for that. We never know what other animals or bears are moving through the area so, some nights, Bella is silent and others she barks a lot. If you know this might be a problem for you please try ear plugs or perhaps our accommodations just aren’t right for you. We want everyone to enjoy their stay.

With excellent hearing, Kangal Dogs hear disturbances in the distance and respond by barking. They prefer to intimidate threats but will attack animal intruders that come into their territory. Bella has chased a number of bears and raccoons off our property. At first, they will place themselves between the threat and their stock. If warning barks are ignored, they will confront predators with a loud growl and attack if necessary. We have observed Bella do exactly this. She prefers to chase predators away rather than attack. Bella is quite imposing when in protection mode. 

Kangals can be quite different at home than away. Although Bella likes meeting other dogs off the property, she is quite territorial on her own turf. For that reason, we can’t allow pets. Kangals often take a remote or high viewing spot to watch their stock although they will take regular patrols around their territory. Kangal Dogs tend to be calm and even placid during the day and more active at night, both patrolling and barking. At home, Bella has her favourite spots to perch and keep watch over our property. She is definitely more active at night. 

Kangals make great companions. They will always be on alert and ready to protect. When you walk them, they will always keep an eye on you. Even from a distance, they’ll make sure you’re doing okay. Bella keeps me company in this manner on our walks every day. If I stop or slow down, I’ll see her sit and wait patiently for me. She loves to accompany guests too. 

For such a large dog, Kangals have a long lifespan. They live up to 15 years on average. This is because they have been carefully bred for over 1000 years ensuring there is no inbreeding. Turkish breeders kept careful records of their lineage. Although no dog is immune to health problems, Kangals are relatively disease free compared to many other breeds. Bella is going to be with us for a long time. 

Because Kangals are very independent, they don’t need or want as much affection. In fact, most of the time, they are happy on their own. Bella lays down and shows her belly when she wants affection. Sometimes, she just drops and rolls onto her back when she sees me coming, indicating she wants some attention. Other times she steps away when she wants to be left alone. But, their independence has its drawbacks. Kangals make decisions on their own, they don’t like to take orders and they are very stubborn. For example, Bella is pretty good on a leash when we take her to town but will not tolerate a leash on our property. She simply lays down until you take it off.

They don’t play fetch and can’t be coaxed into doing tricks for that matter. Most dogs are happy to perform tricks for their humans but Kangals don’t. They are working dogs and require more stimulation. They won’t generally stop because you tell them to, they require very stern commands and strong leadership. They just want to make sure everything is okay before listening to you. They roam. They like to make sure there are no threats nearby and you won’t be able to stop them from investigating. This is an even bigger problem with Bella because she has bonded so closely with humans instead of livestock. She will instinctively try to protect any human that is friendly to her. For this reason, if you encounter her off our property, it’s best to yell at her and tell her to go home. “Many dogs do things to please their owners. Kangals do things to protect them. This is very important to understand.”

We do our best to discourage her from wandering outside the perimeter of our property, but sometimes she just can’t resist following someone. We’re putting a digital tracker on her so we can see her whereabouts at all times. We hope to intercept her movement if we see her heading towards the highway or over to our neighbour’s. She is also attracted to roadkill along the highway. Speeding drivers are a big danger. If you know there is roadkill on the highway, please let us know as soon as possible so we can clean it up and eliminate the hazard. 

With almost 300 acres, our property offers Bella lots of space to roam. Unfortunately, a forest service road runs right through our property for about 1 kilometre. The road provides access to crown land and a recreation area above, including the Smallwood Trail network. In the summer, more than 100 vehicles a day travel along this route. Speeding drivers and accompanying dogs continually agitate Bella. We’ve had to put signs up letting people know that Bella is present. Although she does not pose a threat to people, she can be aggressive with your pets. With insecure dogs, and especially dogs accompanied by insecure owners, she is particularly threatening. Bella will sense that something is wrong and do her best to make that dog leave by displaying aggressive behavior. She may also attack your dog if it’s misbehaving. For example, if your dog jumps on me she might get aggressive and make it submit. When visitors travel through our property, they need to know that this is her home. Bella gets along great with most dogs. We have a number of neighbours with dogs that regularly hike up here and Bella loves to accompany them and play with these dogs. Although totally lovable to humans, she is not like most dogs and may decide that your pet is a threat. Please drive slowly and leave your pets at home if you can.

Our guests all adore Bella. She is the main attraction here. Of all the wonderful reviews we receive, almost all of them mention Bella. A large guardian dog like Bella is not for everyone, but she is an integral part of our operations now and we love her. We'll take the pros with the cons. She is a sustainable alternative to fencing and we receive the added benefit of her companionship as well as making our guests feel safe.  She is our best employee and the star of the show! 


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