A Highly Intelligent, Hardy Dog that Responds to a Dominant Owner with Obedience, Companionship and Lifelong Devotion
The Canaan dog is an ancient dog breed that is characterized by athleticism and agility, a love of working, and high intelligence. A medium-sized dog, standing 19 to 24 inches at the shoulder, it was traditionally a pariah or "wild" dog which originated thousands of years ago in Canaan and other Levantine countries bordering on the eastern Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Egypt. (Today, pariah dogs are specifically recognized by the United Kennel Club as a unique type of dog, grouped by specific early breeds – either those that have been reconstructed through modern breeding techniques, or carried throughout history with little interruption to the breed line.)
The Canaan dog is one of four types of desert pariah dog, according to Dr. Rudolphina Menzel who studied the dogs in the 1930s. Her writings indicate that desert pariah dogs can have one of four types of appearance: that of Border Collie, that of Greyhound, that of the Dingo, or that of Sheepdog. The Canaan dog most resembles the Border Collie's appearance. Although German Shepherds also resemble Canaan dogs, true Canaan dogs are shorter with less angular hindquarters, and hold their tail curled over their back.
The Canaan dog was first a believed to be a pariah or "wild" dog in the land of Canaan, encompassing today's Palestinian territories, the Western part of Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel. The breed dates back to biblical times, with drawings of the dogs found in caves. Remains of Canaan dogs' skeletons have also been found that date back about 10,000 years.
Biblical references talk about "roaming" dogs and dogs that specifically were kept by humans to work for them. The Sinai Desert boasts a rock carving dating from the first to third century A.D., which looks like today's modern Canaan dog. Remains of 700 Bedouin pariah dogs, or Canaan-type dogs, were found carefully buried in posed positions; these dogs were found buried with the legs flexed and the tails curled around the hind legs, in an archaeological dig in Ashkelon. That burial site dates from about the middle of the fifth century BC and was apparently another nod to the importance these dogs had gained even in ancient times. Paintings have been found, in fact, that show Alexander the Great and the King of Sidon hunting with dogs that are very similar in appearance to Canaan dogs.
Modern times: Dr. Rudolphina Menzel
In the 1930s, Dr. Rudolphina Menzel discerned that these "feral" dogs were very intelligent, and that she should use them for the Jewish settlements in the desert. The Haganah asked Dr. Menzel to build a service dog organization, later called Unit Oketz, which is now used as part of the Israel Defense Forces. These canine Special Forces handle and train dogs today for military applications, with individual dogs trained in particular specialties.
In Dr. Menzel's work, she lured these feral dogs to camps and slowly gained their trust, and also captured litters of puppies and trained them, slowly domesticating them. She found them very easy to domesticate, highly trainable, and very intelligent. In fact, the first dog she captured was an adult, one she named Dugma. Although it took her six months to capture him, he would willingly follow her within six weeks of capture.
Dr. Menzel began to actively breed Canaan dogs in 1934, providing both working dogs for military use as well as pets to homes. Today, her selective breeding program is the basis for the modern Canaan dog.
Canaan Dogs in the United States
In 1965, Dr. Menzel sent four dogs to Ursula Berkowitz in Oxnard, California. Berkowitz intended to establish the breed in the United States. The Canaan Dog Club of America was founded the same year, with stud books kept from these first reports thereafter. The Canaan dog has been part of the American Kennel Club as part of its Miscellaneous Class with dogs registered in the AKC stud book beginning in 1997. Conformation competitions began in 1997, as well. Today, the Canaan dog is a member of the AKC’s Herding Group.
The Canaan dog is a medium-sized dog that is square in proportion. Almond-shaped eyes can be varying shades of hazel, with erect, sensitive ears and a well-arched neck. The feet are cat-like. Coat colors can be brown, tan, black, liver, red, white, or a patch of liver and white; black and white; or brown and white. It stands between 19 and 24 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 35 to 55 pounds.
The Canaan dog's coat is a double coat, with a rough, stiff, flat outer coat covering a soft inner coat. The Canaan dog is equally tolerant of both hot or cold weather.
Canaan dogs are excellent pets as long as they're properly socialized. They are gentle, friendly, and very devoted to family once they have been properly trained to respect you as the "alpha dog" or “leader of the pack,” as owner-in-charge. These dogs can become dominant and territorial if you don't do that, though; they are also naturally suspicious of strangers, defining them as superb guard dogs.
However, you must take charge so that their naturally independent nature does not overly assert itself.
This dog can get bored easily, with repercussions best to avoid. While this breed will be very obedient once it knows you're the boss, it may also try to take over and do what it wants if it senses that you are too meek or unassuming. You have to be a true pack leader with this dog who will respond to your rules with both alert and docile behavior. You can be sure that if you have a Canaan dog, you will never be caught by surprise by any intruder! Wary of strangers, this dog will bark when it fears there is a threat and will defend you and your family without hesitation. The Canaan dog is a very protective species.
Canaan dogs are healthy, sturdy, happy dogs that need to be working. They require both physical and mental challenges on a daily basis, meaning that they need long walks and things to do. They excel at agility training or obedience training for show, or will simply love to be active with you outdoors, following your lead.
As long as your pet sees the vet regularly simply for maintenance purposes, you should have no health problems with this dog. The breed does not have any breed-specific problems to speak of, and will live well for about 12 to 15 years with no special care other than routine healthcare.
Canaan dogs thrive in a variety of environments including apartments as long as they're exercised regularly. They like moderate activity indoors and strenuous activity outdoors; their ancestors were herding dogs, and anything that lets them run about with something to "do" will keep them happy. They love to be trained and to have new tasks to master, so keeping them both physically and emotionally challenged will mean your pet will be better behaved as a result.
The Canaan dog is one of the few breeds that doesn't need a lot of grooming. Simply brush once a week, or a little more often when your pet is shedding. This particular dog doesn't exude the typical "doggy odor," and should only rarely if ever need bathing.