Canaan Dog: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Canaan dog, lying down
Tracy Morgan / Getty Images

The Canaan dog is a primitive breed developed from ancient pariah dogs (wild dogs). If you like the look of wild canines, you will love the Canaan dog’s natural appearance—“designed by nature,” as the Canaan Dog Club of America eloquently puts it. The Canaan dog's square, balanced, medium-sized body moves with athletic grace.

Canaan dogs are naturally clean and take to housetraining quickly, making them wonderful house dogs. Although Canaan dogs are devoted and affectionate with their own families, they are generally reserved with strangers. In addition to being wary with people they don’t know, Canaan dogs are naturally alert, territorial, and vocal. Combined, these traits make the Canaan dog an exceptional watchdog and guardian.

Breed Overview

Group: Herding (AKC)

Height: 20 to 24 inches (males); 19 to 23 inches (females)

Weight: 45 to 55 pounds (males); 35 to 45 pounds (females)

Coat and Color: Medium-length double coat in white, black or brown, with or without patches

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Canaan Dog

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Canaan Dog

The Canaan dog traces its roots back to Israel, where it was developed from pariah dogs that were captured and re-domesticated in the area of Palestine. Pariah dogs had once been domesticated and used by ancient Israelites as guardian and herding dogs, but over time they found their way back to being mostly wild dogs. Pariah dogs existed in pre-Biblical times, which makes the Canaan dog’s roots quite ancient.

However, the breed as we know it today was developed relatively recently, during the 1930s. The creation of the Canaan dog breed was undertaken by Dr. Rudolphina Menzel, a scientist and an expert in pariah dogs. Her Canaan dogs were easily trained and highly skilled as sentry dogs, messengers, Red Cross helpers, and land mine locators, as well as guarding and herding livestock. Today, the Canaan dog is the national dog of Israel.

Canaan Dog Care

Canaan dogs retain many of their wild instincts, one of which is wariness. For this reason, socialization is of the utmost importance for Canaan dog puppies so they don't become overly fearful or shy. Breeders will begin intensive socialization early on, but it’s imperative that new puppy owners continue this throughout the Canaan dog puppy’s adolescence and early adulthood.

Canaan dogs are smart and respond well to positive training techniques like clicker training. They are a sensitive breed and will shut down if you try using harsh training methods with them. It’s much better (and more effective) to make training fun for a Canaan dog by practicing in short sessions and giving lots of praise and rewards. Canaan dogs need a moderate amount of daily exercise. Aim for two 30-minute walks a day, or off-leash running or chasing after a ball. Canaan dogs are naturally athletic, excelling at many different competitive dog sports, such as agility, tracking, nose work, obedience, and herding.

The Canaan dog has a natural coat that doesn’t require any trimming and they sport a double coat, which means the coat is comprised of two types of hair: a medium-length outer coat (straight, harsh, and flat lying) and shorter, softer undercoat. The coat is longer on the tail, neck, and back of the thighs, and shorter on the rest of the body. Canaan dogs do shed a fair amount, but you can combat this with frequent brushing to remove loose hair. Canaan dogs are very clean and require only occasional baths and weekly nail trimming. Check your Canaan dog's ears regularly and clean them with a pet-safe ear cleaner if they look dirty.

Canaan dogs usually get along well with respectful children when raised with them. Canaan dogs may or may not live peacefully with other pets. Some Canaan dogs have issues with other dogs, especially with those of the same sex. The breed also has a high prey drive, so Canaan dogs might chase cats.

Common Health Problems

Many purebred dogs are prone to specific hereditary conditions, but the Canaan dog is extremely healthy with a long lifespan (12 to 15 years) and no known major health concerns. Even so, the national breed club (Canaan Dog Club of America) wants to keep the breed healthy, so recommends that breeders test breeding dogs for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and patellar luxation, as well as autoimmune thyroiditis. The club also recommends that all breeding dogs have an eye examination performed by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist.

Diet and Nutrition

All dogs benefit from staying lean to avoid placing too much stress on the joints, and Canaan dogs are no exception. Feed your Canaan dog scheduled meals using a measuring cup or scale to weigh the food. Free feeding (leaving food out all day) can cause weight gain, which can contribute to common canine health issues like hip dysplasia and diabetes. If you’re not sure how much you should be feeding your Canaan dog or what type of food to feed, talk to your breeder or your veterinarian to get their recommendations.

Pros

  • Highly intelligent and readily trained
  • Good guardian or watchdog
  • A good companion to children they live with

Cons

  • Vocal (alarm barking)
  • May not live peacefully with other pets
  • Loves to dig

Where to Adopt or Buy a Canaan Dog

Canaan dogs are rare in North America. The best way to locate a Canaan dog breeder is to contact the Canaan Dog Club of America, which is the national parent club for the Canaan dog breed. The club maintains a list of Canaan dog breeders. If you are interested in finding a Canaan dog rescue, the Canaan Dog Rescue Network is the best source for locating pure breed Canaan Dogs throughout the U.S. and Canada.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you like the Canaan dog, you might also like these breeds:

There is a wide variety of dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!