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Canaan Dog

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The Canaan Dog is a medium to large dog from the Middle East bred to be a herding dog. It is a pariah dog that has lived in the desert areas of Israel for possibly thousands of years. It is thought that it was this dog that was used by the Hebrews in biblical times to guard and herd their sheep. It is a rare dog, there are only two or three thousand around the world. Today they are successful at herding still but also do well in conformation arenas, obedience, agility, tracking and flyball. They also do well as guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, trackers, guard dogs, military dogs and mine detectors.

The Canaan Dog at A Glance
Name Canaan Dog
Other names Kalef K'Naani, Canaanite Dog, Israeli Pariah
Nicknames Canaan
Origin Israel, Lebanon, Jordan
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 35 to 55 pounds
Average height 19 to 24 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Dense, harsh, thick, short
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, tan ,grey, red
Popularity Not popular – ranked 175th by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent – well above average
Tolerance to heat Excellent – able to handle hot climates even extremes
Tolerance to cold Good – can live where it is cold but nothing too cold or extreme
Shedding High – sheds a lot and there is even heavier seasonal shedding too
Drooling Low – not prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Moderate – not especially prone to weight gain
Grooming/brushing Low to moderate – regular brushing will help with the shedding
Barking Occasional to frequent – may need training to control it
Exercise needs Very active – needs daily exercise
Trainability Moderately hard – a lot easier with experience
Friendliness Good but needs socialization
Good first dog Good but best with experienced owner
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Moderate – socialization is essential, best in homes child free or at least with older ones
Good with other dogs Good but needs socialization
Good with other pets Moderate to good – socialization is needed, can have high prey drive
Good with strangers Moderate – socialization is essential as is supervision
Good apartment dog Good – can adapt to apartment but better with access to a yard
Handles alone time well Good – can be left alone for short periods
Health issues Very healthy breed with no hereditary issues – some regular minor concerns such as joint dysplasia, eye problems and OCD
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $215 a year for basic training, license, miscellaneous items and toys
Average annual expenses $820 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $950
Rescue organizations Several including the Canaan Dog Club of America, Inc and the Canaan Dog Rescue Network
Biting Statistics None reported

The Canaan Dog's Beginnings

The Canaan Dog is a type of Pariah dog and comes from the wild dogs Israelites had used for thousands of years to herd and guard their flocks. Tomb drawings of dogs that look like Canaans have been dated as old as 2200BC. An excavation in Israel found the largest ancient dog cemetery known in which there were 700 skeletons all of them being very similar anatomically to the Canaan. For centuries they guarded against thieves and predators, stopped sheep from straying and barked to sound the alarm when needed. However with the Roman invasion, the lands peoples spread far and wide and the dog became wild, found in the hilly southern Israel desert. Some lived a nomadic life with the Bedouin desert dwellers or were used as guard dogs but the Druse.

In the 1930s a Dr Rudolphina Menzel received a request from the Haganah to create an organization of service dogs. Menzel took semi wild desert dogs, successfully tamed them, then trained and bred them. She praised them for how quickly they took to training and how adaptable they were. In 1934 she started a breeding program that gave the military working dogs, they were the best dogs at mine detection the army had ever had. They were used during the second world war and also acted as sentries and messengers. Menzel also provided dogs to be companions or pets too. It was then that she started a more selective breeding program that led to the Canaan Dog as we know it now.

In 1948 the Palestine Kennel Club had 150 registered with them. The Institute for Orientation and Mobility of the Blind was founded by Menzel in 1949, and in 1953 she started training Canaan Dogs to be guide dogs and it was around this time that the Israel Kennel Club officially recognized the breed. While some success was had, in general the breed was found to be too independent, though those put with children had more success. Several kennels were established and she supplied breeding stock to them. Even after her death in 1973, her instructions were followed by the people that continued to manage the breeding program.

New Lease on Life

A dog breeder called Berkowitz from California brought four Canaan Dogs to the US in 1965. The same year the Canaan Dog Club of America was started but the AKC did not fully recognize the breed until 1997. It is being bred in the UK, Finland, Germany, France, Canada the US and of course Israel, but is a very rare breed today. In Europe and North America it is kept as a show dog and as a pet, but in Israel there are still dogs being used by the Bedouins and is its national dog. It is ranked 175th by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This is a medium to large dog weighing 35 to 55 pounds and stands 19 to 24 inches tall. It has a squared body shape with an arched neck, straight legs and dewclaws can be removed. Its tail is bushy, set high, tapers to the tip and can be held over its back when it is alert or excited. Its feet are cat like and its pads are hard. It has a double coat, the under is soft and short and the outer is short to medium in length, harsh, rough and straight, with a little ruff at the neck. There are two common color patterns, solid with or without some white trimming, or mostly white with or without color patches and a mask. Colors can include red, black, tan, liver, sandy and brown.

It has a wedge shaped head and its tapered muzzle is a little longer or the same length as its skull. The nose color depends on its coat color and can be different shades of liver. The eyes are almond shaped and are different shades of hazel. The eye rims vary in color according to the nose. It has erect ears that are set low and they have rounded tips with a wide base.

The Inner Canaan Dog


The Canaan Dog is a very good watchdog, it is alert and will bark to alert you if there is an intruder trying to get in. It does have some protective instincts so can also act in yours and the family's defense. It does bark at other times and that bark can range from being occasional to constant so training to control it is a good idea. It is wary of strangers and socialization is essential to see this does not turn into something more unstable like suspicion. However it is worth noting that it is not often aggressive with people, even if it feels there is an intrusion onto its territory it will not attack, it will bark a lot as it backs up in a defensive manner. It will still be important to introduce people carefully and always supervise.


When raised will in the right home and conditions it is a curious dog, intelligent, independent, very sensitive and very loving and loyal with its family. Generally it is a gentle and devoted companion and while it enjoys getting some attention it does not crave or need it like some other breeds. It can deal with being alone for short periods and does not need constant affection. It is an active dog and will do better with active owners, and it has strong instincts for survival still from its days of being feral. While a new owner could own this breed with some homework, it is best with experienced owners who can be strong leaders.

Living with a Canaan Dog

What will training look like?

Training a Canaan Dog goes easily when you are experienced, patience, consistent and firm. It can be independent and it gets bored very quickly with too much repetition. Keep the sessions interesting, mix things up and keep them short. You can motivate it with encouragement, praise and treats. It is intelligent and can do very well when handled correctly but that means you are clearly the pack leader. Also keep the sessions in places where there is nothing to distract them, if it sees something more interesting going on its attention will move elsewhere. As this is a sensitive breed correcting them in an overly harsh manner will make them more resistant to the training, there needs to be mutual respect, and a clear set of rules that are always lived by.

Because of its half wild background, there is a good need for early and detailed socialization. It will help smooth out their wariness towards strangers and stop their natural caution from developing into something more like paranoia and defensive aggression. Expose it to different places, sounds, people, events, animals and so on so it can grow into the best version of itself that it can be.

How active is the Canaan Dog?

This is a very active breed of dog, it needs regular daily walks, at least twice a day and a minimum of 30 minutes each at a brisk pace. It also needs chances for safe off leash runs, and play time with you doing things like flyball, Frisbee catching and such. It therefore needs to be with active owners who are never going to find it a chore making sure their dog gets the activity it needs. It can also join its owner for things like hikes, jogs, cycling and can handle most kinds of weather. It can live in an apartment but having a good sized yard would be better though be prepared to allow it a section of its own as it loves to dig. As important as the right amount of physical activity is making sure it is stimulated mentally too. Puzzles to complete, certain types of toys and games, training can be a part of that too. If it is under exercised and bored it will become restless, loud, destructive and potentially aggressive and harder to control.

Caring for the Canaan Dog

Grooming needs

The Canaan is quite easy to care for in terms of grooming, it does shed a moderate amount so there will be some hair around the home, and regular vacuuming will be needed, but it is easy to brush using a stiff bristled brush and regular brushing will help keep up with the loose hair. There will be heavier shedding during the seasonal times which will need more time spent taking care of it. It is not a dog that has a strong odor and bathing should just be done when really needed to avoid drying out its skin. For the same reason when it is time to bathe it, only ever use a dog shampoo.


The teeth will need to be brushed two to three times a week to take care of its teeth and gums and keep its breath fresh! Check its ears once a week for ear infection, redness, swelling, discharge and a bad odor for example. Also wipe them clean weekly using a dog ear cleanser and cotton swabs or a damp cloth. Do not insert anything into the ears, this could cause damage and a lot of pain. Its nails too should be trimmed when they get too long if it is not wearing them down naturally from its activity. There are proper dog nail clippers you need to use and a certain place where you should not cut past. Have a vet show you if you are not familiar as cutting too low into where there are blood vessels and nerves will hurt it and cause a lot of bleeding. Have a professional groomer or the vet do it for you if you prefer.

Feeding Time

A Canaan needs about 1½ to 2½ cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, and that should be split into two meals. How much exactly can vary from one dog to another depending on different things like its metabolism, level of activity, age, health and build.

How is the Canaan Dog with children and other animals?

With early socialization and in a suitable home where it has a firm and confident owner the Canaan is good with children. It can be playful, they can both burn off energy together getting up to all sorts like exploring places, and it is also affectionate towards them and protective of them. Just keep in mind if other children come to visit and they start to play rough the Canaan may think its child needs defending. Again that is where extensive socialization is important. Make sure you teach the children how to touch and play with dogs in a kind and safe way.

Around other dogs there can be issues especially with dogs of the same sex as the Canaan Dog has a higher level of dominance than a lot of other dogs. It is important as its owner that you are in control and firm with it and that you supervise when introducing it to a strange dog. It does tend to play rough too so sometimes other owners may feel it is threatening their dog when it may just be barking and playing. Make sure you know your dog's body language but in general dog parks are not the best of places to take your Canaan. It does have a high prey drive so will likely try to chase strange small animals when out or in the yard. With socialization it can learn to adapt to pets in the home but those other pets need to not run away from it, as that will trigger its chase instincts! Best to just supervise them or keep the hamsters where the dog does not go.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

This breed has a life span of about 12 to 15 years. It is not known to have hereditary health issues and is considered a healthy breed. Some issues that could come up include eye problems, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, joint dysplasia, OCD, luxating patella and Von Willebrands.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks causing bodily harm in Canada and the US over the last 35 years, the Canaan Dog is not mentioned in any incidents. However it is a very rare dog so this does not mean it would never be involved just that there is less chance of seeing it happen in North America as numbers are low. It important though to also note that any dog breed has the potential to attack a person, while there are more aggressive breeds, and some that have more powerful jaws so do more harm, there is no completely safe dog that would never do it. They can have bad days, they might have been mistreated, raised poorly, teased, there are a number of reasons why a dog might just snap. That being said there are some things a good owner can do to lessen the chances. Proper socialization and training, enough mental and physical stimulation, enough attention and affection can help.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

As mentioned this is a very rare breed, there were less than 100 new puppies registered compared to over 60,000 Golden Retriever puppies! If this is absolutely the dog for you it is probable you will have to go onto a waiting list for a decent breeder. The price can range but it averages currently at $950 for a pet quality puppy from a good breeder. For something of show quality from a top breeder you can take that into several thousand dollars. It is absolutely worth waiting for a good quality dog from a breeder that knows what they are doing. Avoid getting one from a back yard breeder, a puppy mill, pet stores or the like. For some dogs rescues and shelters are another option, cheaper too, though the dog is more likely to be of adult age. There is less chance though of finding a Canaan at a shelter, though there are some rescues that specialize and may be worth contacting.


There are initial costs other than just buying your new dog. It will need some items at home like a crate, food bowls, carrier, collar and leash for example. These will cost you around $200. There will also need to be a trip to a vet as soon as you have it. It will need a check up physically, shots, deworming, micro chipping, spaying or neutering and blood tests. These will cost about $270.

Then there are the ongoing costs of owning a dog. It will need to be fed, and ideally if feeding it a dry dog food you are using a good or excellent quality one that might cost a little more, but is far better for your dog. This plus dog treats will cost about $145 a year. Medical basic care like check ups, flea and tick prevention, vaccinations and then pet insurance too will cost about $460 a year. Miscellaneous costs covering things like basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items comes to about $215 a year. The average annual cost therefore for a Canaan is $820 but could be more.


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The Canaan Dog is a great dog if you have experience and are prepared to make sure it has excellent training and socialization. It is a rare dog though so it will certainly not be easy to find. It needs a very strong owner who is in charge at all times and supervision and care should be taken around strange dogs, especially those of the same sex. This is not the dog to get if you are not active yourself or if you want a quiet dog. It is very loyal though and very affectionate to its family.

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