Canaan Dog: Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Canaan dog, lying down
Tracy Morgan / Getty Images

The Canaan dog is a rare, medium-size herding dog breed from the Middle East with a short coat, square build, upright ears, and bushy tail. This is a primitive breed that was adapted from ancient wild dogs. It can be quite territorial and wary of strangers but is generally devoted to its family. Besides working as a herding dog, the Canaan dog can make an exceptional watchdog and guardian.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Herding

HEIGHT: 19 to 23 inches (female), 20 to 24 inches (male)

WEIGHT: 35 to 45 pounds (female), 45 to 55 pounds (male)

COAT: Short, smooth

COAT COLOR: Black, cream, golden, liver, red, tan, or white with various markings

LIFE SPAN: 12 to 15 years

TEMPERAMENT: Alert, protective, independent 


ORIGIN: Middle East

Characteristics of the Canaan Dog

Canaan dogs generally have an alert and watchful temperament. They can be quite vocal, barking at perceived threats. Their personality also is marked by their high intelligence and ability to excel in training. 

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

History of the Canaan Dog

The ancestors of Canaan dogs came from throughout the Middle East, dating back millennia. In fact, artifacts from as many as 4,000 years ago depict dogs that look quite similar to today’s breed. These dogs likely assisted people in herding livestock and guarding property.

In 70 A.D., the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, and many Israelites fled without their dogs. The Canaan dogs returned to the wild and remained relatively unchanged and undomesticated until the 20th century. Then, people began to domesticate these canines again, often for use as guard dogs as well as companions. 

The re-domesticated Canaan dogs proved to be highly trainable and served in the military and law enforcement. Some also became service dogs. Plus, the breed even became the national dog of Israel. The American Kennel Club first recognized the Canaan dog in 1997, yet it still remains rare around the world. 

Canaan Dog Care

Early and consistent training and socialization are key for a well-adjusted Canaan dog. Daily exercise also is important for this athletic breed. And only basic grooming is necessary.


Canaan dogs need a moderate amount of daily exercise. Aim for at least two 30-minute walks per day. Jogging and hiking also are good activities for this dog. Plus, it’s ideal to allow your dog to run freely off leash in a secure area, playing fetch and other games. Dog sports, such as agility and herding, are excellent to exercise this smart breed’s mind and body and strengthen the bond between dog and handler.


The coat of a Canaan dog generally stays pretty clean. It only requires a bath roughly every couple of months, depending on how dirty your dog gets. Brush at least weekly to remove loose fur. Shedding will typically increase a couple times a year, often in the spring and fall, which will necessitate more frequent brushing.

Check the nails roughly once a month to see whether they need trimming. And aim to brush your dog’s teeth every day. Also, look in its ears at least weekly for wax buildup, irritation, and other abnormalities.  


Canaan dogs are smart and generally respond well to positive training techniques, such as clicker training. Start training as young as possible. 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.

Moreover, Canaan dogs retain many of their wild instincts, one of which is wariness. For this reason, early and regular socialization is of the utmost importance for Canaan dogs, so they don't become overly fearful or shy.

Expose your dog from as young of an age as possible to different people and various locations. This can help Canaan dogs accept guests you invite into your home. Canaan dogs usually can get along with respectful children when raised with them. But they don't always get along with other household pets. They might see smaller pets, including cats, as prey and chase them. And they might become territorial with other dogs.

Common Health Problems

The Canaan dog is overall a healthy breed. But it’s still prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

Canaan Dogs as Pets

The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water available for your dog. And feed a high-quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet. It’s common to feed two measured meals per day. But discuss both the type of food and the quantity with your vet to make sure your dog is getting the nutrients it needs. Plus, monitor treat and other extra food intake closely to prevent overeating.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Canaan Dog

Canaan dogs are rare in North America. But it’s still worth checking local animal shelters and breed-specific rescue organizations to see whether there’s a dog in need of a home. If you’re interested in a reputable breeder puppy, expect to pay around $800 to $1,200, though this can vary widely. 

For further information to help connect you with a Canaan dog, check out:

Canaan Dog Overview

  • Highly intelligent

  • Good guardian and watchdog

  • Can excel in training and dog sports

  • Can be very vocal

  • Might not live peacefully with other pets

  • Needs early and consistent socialization

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before bringing home a Canaan dog, make sure to do plenty of research. Talk to veterinarians, breed owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more. Try to meet some Canaan dogs too if possible.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are Canaan dogs good family dogs?

    Canaan dogs with proper training and socialization can get along with older children who understand how to be respectful around dogs. However, they might not be a good match for households with young children.

  • Are Canaan dogs aggressive?

    Canaan dogs have a strong territorial and protective instinct. But with proper training and socialization, they usually are not aggressive.

  • Are Canaan dogs rare?

    Canaan dogs have existed for thousands of years, but they are still a rare dog breed. The American Kennel Club didn't recognize them until 1997.

The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Canaan Dog. American Kennel Club.

  2. Canaan Dog Puppies and Dogs. Adopt a Pet.