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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.

History & 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.

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.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The Canaan Dog is a herding and flock guardian dog native to the Middle East. He is aloof with strangers, inquisitive, loyal and loving with his family. His medium-size, square body is without extremes, showing a clear, sharp outline. The Canaan Dog moves with athletic agility and grace in a quick, brisk, ground-covering trot. He has a wedge-shaped head with low-set erect ears, a bushy tail that curls over the back when excited, and a straight, harsh, flat-lying double coat.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Size--Height at the withers is 20 to 24 inches for dogs and 19 to 23 inches for bitches. The ideal Canaan Dog lies in the middle of the stated ranges. Disqualifications--Dogs less than 20 inches or more than 25 inches. Bitches less than 18 inches or more than 23 inches. Proportion--Square when measured from the point of the withers to the base of the tail and from the point of the withers to the ground. Substance--Moderate. Dogs generally weigh 45 to 55 pounds and bitches approximately 35 to 45 pounds. Dogs distinctly masculine without coarseness and bitches feminine without over-refinement.

Elongated, the length exceeding the breadth and depth considerably. Wedge-shaped, when viewed from above. Slightly arched when viewed from the side, tapering to stop. The region of the forehead is of medium width, but appearing broader through ears set low to complete an alert expression, with a slight furrow between the eyes. Expression--Alert, watchful and inquisitive. Dignified. Eyes--Dark, almond-shaped, slightly slanted. Varying shades of hazel with liver-pointed dogs. Eye rims darkly pigmented or of varying shades of liver harmonizing with coat color. Fault--Unpigmented eye rims. Ears--Erect, medium to large, set moderately low, broad at the base, tapering to a very slightly rounded tip. Ears angled very slightly forward when excited. A straight line from the inner corner of the ear to the tip of the nose should just touch the inner corner of the eye and a line drawn from the tip of the ear to the tip of the nose should just touch the outer corner of the eye. Ear motion contributes to expression and clearly defines the mood of the dog. Major Fault--In the adult dog, other than erect ears. Stop--Slightly accentuated. Muzzle--Tapering to complete the wedge shape of the head. Length equal to or slightly longer than the length of the skull from the occiput to stop. Whisker trimming optional. Nose--Darkly pigmented or varying shades of liver, harmonizing with coat color. Lips--Tight with good pigmentation. Bite--Scissors.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck--well arched. Balance to body and head and free from throatiness. Topline--Level with slight arch over the loins. Body--Strong, displaying athletic agility and trimness. Chest--Moderately broad and deep, extending to the elbows, with well-sprung ribs. Loin--Well-tucked up. Short, muscled flanks. Tail--Set moderately high. May be carried curled over the back when excited; limited to one full curl. When extended, the bone must reach to the hocks. Fault: Tail which falls over to either side of the back.

Shoulders moderately angulated. Legs straight. Pasterns flexible with very slight slope when viewed from the side. Dewclaws may be removed. Feet--Catlike, pads hard, pigmentation harmonizing with nose and eye rims. Nails strong, hard, pigmentation harmonizing with either nose and eye rims or coat.

Moderately angulated. In balance with forequarters. Straight when viewed from the rear. Thigh musculature well-developed, moderately broad. Hocks well-let-down. Dewclaws must be removed. Feet and nails as in fore-quarters.

Double coat. Outer coat-straight, harsh, flat-lying, with slight ruff. Ruff more pronounced on males. Length of outer coat ½ to 1½ inch; longer on ruff and back of thighs, shorter on body, legs and head. Undercoat--straight, soft, short, flat-lying, density varying with climate. Tail bushy, increasing in plumage from set to end of bones, then tapering to pointed tip. Faults--Excessively long guard coat that masks the clean outline of the dog. Any trimming that alters the natural appearance of the dog.

There are two color patterns. Pattern 1) Predominantly white with mask and with or without additional patches of color (large body patches are desirable). Pattern 2) Solid colored with or without white trim. Color may range from black through all shades of brown - sandy to red or liver. Shadings of black on a solid brown or tan dog are frequently seen. The trim on a solid colored dog may include chest, undercarriage, feet and lower part of leg and tip of tail. In all color patterns self-ticking may be present. Disqualifications--a) Gray and/or brindle. b) All white.

The mask is a desired and distinguishing feature of the predominantly white Canaan Dog. The mask is the same color(s) as the body patches on the dog. The basically symmetrical mask must completely cover the eyes and ears or can completely cover the head as in a hood. The only allowed white in the mask or hood is a white blaze of any size or shape and/or white on the muzzle below the mask. Faults--On predominantly white dogs--absence of mask, half mask, or grossly asymmetrical mask.

Movement is very important. Good reach and drive. Quick, brisk natural trot, apparently tireless, indicating an animal capable of trotting for hours. Covers ground more quickly than expected. Agile, able to change directions almost instantaneously. Tends to single-track at high speed. Fault--Anything that detracts from efficient movement.

Alert, vigilant, devoted and docile with his family. Reserved and aloof with strangers. Highly territorial, serving as a responsive companion and natural guardian. Very vocal, persistent. Easily trained. Faults--Shyness or dominance toward people.

Dogs less than 20 inches or more than 25 inches.
Bitches less than 18 inches or more than 23 inches.
Gray and/or brindle.
All white.

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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