Canaan Dog

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 so eloquently puts it. Canaan Dogs are moderate in every way with no extremes: the 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.

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.

Breed Overview

  • Group: Herding (AKC)
  • Size:
    • Weight: 35 to 55 pounds
    • Height: 19 to 24 inches at the shoulder
  • Coat: Medium-length double coat (comprised of a straight, flat outercoat and soft, short undercoat)
  • Color: Predominantly white with a mask (with or without additional patches of color) or solid colored (black through all shades of brown, from sandy to red or liver), with or without white trim
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Canaan Dog

Affection LevelHigh
FriendlinessMedium
Kid-FriendlyMedium
Pet-FriendlyLow
Exercise NeedsMedium
PlayfulnessMedium
Energy LevelMedium
TrainabilityMedium
IntelligenceHigh
Tendency to BarkMedium
Amount of SheddingHigh

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, in the 1930s. The creation of the Canaan Dog breed was undertaken by a scientist who was an expert in pariah dogs—Dr. Rudolphina Menzel. 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. The breeder 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 your 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. Canaan Dogs have 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.

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.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Canaan Dogs are rare in North America. It can be more difficult to find a Canaan Dog puppy than a puppy of a more common breed. 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 here.

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

Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed articles to help you find the perfect dog for you and your family.