Canaan Dog History, Health And Care

Introduction Of Canaan Dog

The Canaan Dog, also known as Canaanic Dog, the Israel Canaan Dog, the Kanaanhond, the Kanaan Hund, the Kelef Kanani, the Kelef K’naani and the Pariah Dog, is the National Breed of Israel and dates back to Biblical times where it was used as a sentry and herd dog for nomadic people. They later were trained to detect land mines during times of war, and after that to perform as valued guide dogs for the blind. Like most herding dogs, the Canaan Dog is easily trainable and adaptable. They also are alert, watchful, protective and very territorial. They can be especially distrustful of strangers but are devoted and docile with their family. They need to be supervised around children and other animals that are not in their family. These dogs are not especially high-energy, but they love to work and require thorough socialization and obedience training to be happy and companionable. They have a strong flight instinct and are fleet-footed. They tend to bark more so than many other breeds and are described as being highly and persistently vocal. Owners of a Canaan Dog need to provide a home environment which is physically and mentally challenging to prevent boredom. The Canaan Dog entered the American Kennel Club’s Miscellaneous class in June 1989, was registered in the Stud Book of the AKC in 1997 and became eligible for full breed registration in August of 1997.

The average male Canaan Dog stands 20 to 24 inches at the withers, while females range from 19 to 23 inches. Dogs typically weigh 45 to 55 pounds; females weigh 35 to 45 pounds. Canaan Dogs have a wedge-shaped head, a pointed muzzle, pricked ears and a bushy curled tail. Their dense double coat typically is white with colored patches ranging from cream to brown to black, but can be solid in other colors as well. They shed seasonally but are fairly easy keepers. The Canaan Dog can survive on less food and water than most breeds and has an unusual ability to dissipate heat.

Canaan Dog Breed Quick Facts

Affection Level4/5
Apartment Friendly2/5
Barking Tendencies4/5
Cat Friendly1/5
Child Friendly2/5
Dog Friendly2/5
Exercise Need4/5
Grooming Needs2/5
Health Issues2/5

Canaan Dog – Appearance & Grooming


Canaan Dogs are medium-sized, sturdy dogs who sport long, bushy tails that curl over their backs. They have wedge-shaped heads with black noses, almond-shaped eyes with dark rims. Their eyes are expressive and often described as inquisitive. The Canaan’s ears are erect, but sit low on the head and taper in shape from base to tip. They have round feet like a cat and their pads are hard. Their double coat was designed to protect them in the extreme hot and cold temperatures of the dessert, where they originated. They may be white with a mask, white with large patches of color or they may be a solid color. Solids range from black to brown, sandy, red, or liver. The solid brown or tan Canaans sometimes have black shadings.

Size and Weight

Male Canaans stand from 20 to 24 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 45 and 55 pounds. Females stand between 19 and 23 and weigh between 35 and 45 pounds. Show dogs should ideally fall in the middle of these ranges and should be squarely proportioned.

Coat and Color

Canaans have an insulating double coat that functions to protect them from extreme desert temperatures. The undercoat is soft and short and the thickness depends upon the climate where the dog lives. Their outer coat is straight, lays flat against the body and is harsh to the touch. They may be white with a mask, white with large patches of color or they may be a solid color. Solids range from black to brown, sandy, red, or liver. The solid brown or tan Canaans sometimes have black shadings.

Grooming Needs

Grooming this breed is a snap. Canaan Dogs shed lightly throughout the year, and weekly brushing can help keep loose hairs to a minimum and will keep the coat healthy. Twice a year the Canaan will shed more heavily and brushing may become more frequent. This breed is notoriously clean and they do not emit a doggie odor, which means baths are only needed a few times per year.

Their ears should be checked on a weekly basis for signs of redness or irritation and teeth should be brushed often to promote healthy guns and eliminate bad breath.

Canaan Dog – History and Health


The Canaan Dog is an ancient breed dating back to 2200 to 2000 B.C. It was the sentry and herd dog of the Israelites, performing similar functions in encampments of nomadic Bedouins. Canaan Dogs were plentiful until the Romans drove the Israelites out of the Holy Land almost 2000 years ago. During that war, the Canaan Dog survived extinction by seeking shelter in the Negev Desert, which was a natural reservoir of wildlife, where they procreated and remained mostly undomesticated for centuries. In 1934, Dr. Rudolph Menzel and his wife, Dr. Rudolphina Menzel, a well-known Israeli canine authority, moved from Europe to what was then Palestine and were asked by a Jewish defense organization (called the Haganah) to develop a sentry or watch dog for isolated Jewish settlements that could also be used as a war service dog. She remembered the tough, feral desert dogs and knew that only the toughest, smartest and most versatile specimens could have survived the harsh conditions in which they lived. She began to round up both adults and puppies for re-domestication. Over time, these highly intelligent and easily trainable animals became messengers, sentries, service dogs for the Red Cross, flock guardians and watch dogs.

During World War II, Dr. Menzel gathered, trained and selectively bred more than 400 Canaan Dogs to serve as mine detectors for the Middle East forces, where they outperformed any mechanical mine detection devices. After the war, Dr. Menzel redirected her energy to working with the blind. In 1949, she founded the only organization in the Middle East devoted to the welfare of the blind, called the Institute for Orientation and Mobility of the Blind. The Canaan Dog breeding program quickly became a focus of this Institute, developed under the kennel name of B’nei Habitatchon. In addition to their military and guide dog work, Canaan Dogs were also used for police work, search-and-rescue, and sentry dogs for private owners. The Palestine Kennel Club ultimately recognized the breed and, by 1948, approximately 150 Canaan Dogs were registered in its studbook. The Israel Kennel Club was founded in 1953 and developed a breed standard in 1973. The Kennel Club of London recognized the breed in 1971.

The breed first came to the United States in 1965, when Ursula Berkowitz of Oxnard, California, imported four Canaan Dogs in hopes of establishing the breed in this country. The Canaan Dog Club of America was formed in 1965, and the breed ultimately was fully recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of its Herding Group in 1997.


The average life span of the Canaan Dog is 12 to 15 years. There are no reported breed-specific health concerns.

Canaan Dog – Temperament & Personality


A gentle breed with energy to spare, the Canaan Dog loves to run, but will happily pack it in at the end of the day for a nice relaxing nap by the fire. Canaans are an incredibly agile breed, able to completely change direction on a dime, even at high speeds. They are light footed and clean – they never smell “like a dog,” and make excellent housemates. Farmers like the Canaan for their ability to herd and families like the Cannan for their companionship. Always alert and vigilant, Canaans make excellent non-aggressive watchdogs.

Activity Requirements

Canaans need a lot of exercised. They were developed in Israel from feral dogs, and used to herd sheep in the hot Middle Eastern Sun. This background gives them lots of stamina and they can be active all day, with energy to spare. They are a medium-sized dog, but should only live in an apartment or condo if a true commitment is made to several hours of outdoor activity every day. If this breed doesn’t get enough exercise and mental stimulation, they become high-strung and destructive.

Canaans need more than long walks or jogs in order to meet their activity requirements. They are highly intelligent and excellent at problem solving. Herding, agility training, tracking and games are important to a Canaan’s mental well being.


The Canaan Dog’s roots in the feral community can make them a challenge to train. They are willful and have a mind of their own, but only respond to gentle, positive reinforcement. They can be timid, even fearful, so harsh treatment is never recommended. Consistency is also important. Canaans must understand boundaries and that people mean what they say, otherwise they will refuse to listen.

Training should be done in short sessions, and repetitive methods avoided. They will get bored with doing the same thing over and over, and will resist this style. Once leadership is established, they generally pick up on commands quickly, and can be taught advanced obedience and agility, as well.

Canaans are versatile animals and have been used as guard dogs, military sentries, wartime messengers, mine sniffers and even seeing eye dogs.

Behavioral Traits

Canaans are true herding dogs and they are always vigilant. They will bark at just about any approaching animal or person. With animals, this breed can be aggressive, so it’s recommended that Canaans live in a one-animal home. With people, they are rarely aggressive. When they bark ad a stranger, they will back away from them. Early and frequent socialization can ease some of the Canaan’s natural fearfulness of strangers.

Though wary of strangers, Canaans bond deeply with their family, which can lead to separation anxiety. This usually manifests itself in the form of chewing, digging or incessant barking. Keeping a Canaan properly exercised and giving them interesting activities to do while they are alone can keep anxiety at bay.

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