Canaan Dog

Canaan Dog Picture
Photo: Babrees Desert Orchid Via Caoilta, by Jill Terry

Canaan Dog Books

Canaan Dog: A Complete Handbook

Canaan Dog: A Complete Handbook

The Israel Canaan Dog

The Israel Canaan Dog

Israel Canaan Dog

Israel Canaan Dog


Canaan Dog Breeders, Advisors and Breed Clubs

Canaan Dog Profile

KC Group: Utility Group


The Canaan Dog is Israel's National Dog. A Pariah Dog of Israel, they are still found wild and semi-wild in and around the deserts, although their numbers are dwindling rapidly.

Part of the ancient Spitz family, dogs of Canaan Dog type have been known since pre-Biblical times with ancient drawings depicting dogs very close in type to the present day Canaan Dog. They have often been used as a guard dog, particularly by the Bedouin, but were never domestically bred until 1934. Being a breed designed and selected over the years by Mother Nature, the Canaan Dog today is indeed one of the healthiest of breeds. It is the aim of breeders today, to maintain their natural adaptability, resistance to disease and indeed their unique characteristics.

The breed was first recognised by The Kennel Club in the UK back in 1970, but has only recently got a steady foothold in the country. Still classified as a rare breed by The Kennel Club, there are only probably about 150 dogs in the country.


Height 50-60 cms (20-24 ins). Weight 18-25 kgs (40-55 lbs).

The Canaan is a medium-sized, well balanced, square dog, being sturdy, agile, adaptable and able to survive in the difficult climate and terrain of the deserts. There is a strong distinction between the sexes, with the males looking masculine and bitches feminine. They are a typical spitz, with a well proportioned, wedge shaped head of medium length with medium sized, erect ears. They have a harsh outer-coat of medium length and a dense soft under-coat which moults seasonally. Their tail is thick and bushy, and is carried up and over the back when they're excited. They move with a brisk, energetic, short trot. They come in all different colours, solid colours sand to red-brown, white or black; or spotted white with any of the aforementioned colours. Both patterns can be with or without a face mask. Grey, brindle, black & tan or tricolour (which refers to the true black, brown and white pattern as in a beagle) are undesireable in the show ring. The Canaan Dog is currently classified as a rare breed by The Kennel Club, which means that they are unable to gain the title of Champion in the UK, nor be entered into the Stud Book.


The Canaan Dog is quite unique to other breeds, and is probably not a breed suited to everybody. As a breed, they tend to be wary of strangers, and may go through an insecure period upon reaching adolesence when this wariness is increased, but as they mature and gain confidence this disappears. Because of this wariness of strangers, early socialising is essential. Those Canaans that have had good socialising at a young age, with a lot of exposure to different people and different situations, tend to be far less suspicious and able to cope with strange situations much better than those who receive little or no socialising. Indeed, there are many families who have a Canaan Dog as a pet who barely notice their "wariness" characteristic. Canaan Dogs are extremely alert at all times, and their senses are very well developed, with even their eyesight being very keen. This, together with their strong territorial sense, means that they make excellent watch dogs. We say watch, rather than guard, as they are not an "attack" dog but give warning of anything different by barking to alert you, the "pack leader". When strangers approach the Canaan will bark a warning, but stay out of reach, often circling the intruder. Then of course there is the digging! Canaans just love to dig! It is a very rare Canaan home indeed that does not have a few holes in the garden! These can be just the odd small hole or literally dens, where the Canaan can crawl into and disappear from sight!

Canaans are extraordinarily loyal and devoted to his whole family - he is not a "one man dog". This trait, however, can make it very difficult to rehome them as an adult if necessary, and it can take a year or more for them to adjust to their new home. Because of this, anybody buying a Canaan must be absolutely sure that it really is the breed they want and can keep for the rest of the dog's life. While they enjoy time spent sharing great affection with the family, they are independant and do not constantly follow you around, enjoying some time on their own. They are excellent with children and are very gentle, always showing a great tolerance of them. They will also be very protective of children, often alerting you if a baby is crying or a child needs you. As with all animals, children must be taught to respect dogs. Whilst Canaans can tend to be aggressive to other strange dogs, particularly on or near their territory, they rarely show aggression to defenseless animals, especially if raised with other pets. Indeed the Bedouin keep Canaan Dogs in order to protect their livestock. Many owners of Canaan Dogs in the UK have either cats or other small dogs who live quite happily alongside their Canaan.

Breed Health

The Canaan in general is a naturally healthy dog and does not require any special care. If cared for properly and fed a good, well-balanced diet, they will very rarely need to see a vet. At this time, there are no known hereditary problems within the breed. However, some immune based diseases have been seen, and breeders should test for hip dysplasia and PRA. The average lifespan of a Canaan can be fourteen years.

Breed Care

Canaans are very clean dogs and need little grooming, but, like all dogs, will benefit by a good brush about once a week. Canaans moult seasonally and will shed their thick, woolly undercoat in great handfuls. At this time they should be brushed at least once every day to remove the dead hair. This keeps them comfortable and encourages the new coat to come in quicker. To remove the dead undercoat there is a tool called a rake, specifically made for this purpose. After using the rake we use a brush called a slicker, and then you can finish with a bristle brush.


The Canaan is very adaptable and while they love to run and play in fields, are just as happy to curl up on a comfy chair. Just a couple of short walks a day will keep a Canaan in fit condition.


Canaan Dogs are very intelligent, they have to have been in order to survive as a Pariah dog for so many centuries! They learn very quickly, but can soon become bored and with their independent nature may not reliably perform a command after they have learnt it! To keep his interest, training exercises should be kept short and varied, giving him new challenges as often as possible. They can often appear to be distracted, which is simply due to their natural alertness and being fully aware of their surroundings, constantly watching and listening for any possible threat. Remember that your Canaan is your partner, the easiest way to train is knowing what motivates him. Whilst discipline is important, particularly with a dominant Canaan, cruel, harsh methods of training should never be used. Instead the Canaan will respond much better by reward and praise. Being a naturally clean dog, the Canaan quickly learns the principles of being clean in the house and is usually quickly house-trained.


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Last listing added: 11 May, 2010