Canaan Dog


A Canaanite breed of dog which may have existed in the eastern Mediterranean seaboard for millennia, the Canaan dog, a typical pariah dog (feral dog) in appearance is known in Israel as (Hebrew: כלב כנעני‎‎, lit. "Canaanite dog", Kelev Kna'ani) and other Levantine countries as (Arabic: Kaleb Kanaani. As with most Spitz types, the Canaan dog is a medium-sized fairly thick coated dog, that possesses a wedge-shaped head, medium length, erect fox-like, low set ears with rounded tips and a curly tail.


Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Large 35-55 lb
12 to 15 Years
Very Easy To Train
Energy Level: 
High Energy
A Couple Times a Week
Protective Ability: 
Good Watchdog
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
Space Requirements: 
House with Yard
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Dogs
May Have Issues With Other Dogs
Not Recommended For Homes With Small Animals
Litter Size: 
4-6 puppies
Kelev K'naani (Hebrew), Kaleb Kanaani (Levantine Arabic), Kaleb Canaan (Levantine Arabic)


45-55lbs, 20-24 inches
35-45lbs, 19-23 inches

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

American Kennel Club: 
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale): 
KC (The Kennel Club): 
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 


The history of the Canaan Dog can be traced back as early as 2200 B.C. at which point it disappears from history just to reappear again in the mid 1930's, this time called the Pariah Dog. The Canaan Dog earned their name from the land of Canaan, which is the birthplace of the breed. Hieroglyphics found on the tombs at Beni-Hassan, dating 2200-2000 B.C., illustrate dogs which show a distinctive resemblance to the Canaan Dog of today. In the Sinai Peninsula, there is a rock carving dating from the first to third century AD. Which appears to depict a dog of similar size and shape of a Canaan dog.


In Ashkelon, Israel a graveyard was discovered which is believed to be Phoenician in origin. It dates back to the middle of the fifth century BC. It contained around 700 dogs, all which were carefully buried in the same position, on their sides with legs flexed and tail tucked around the hind legs. According to the archaeologists, there was a strong visual connection between these dogs and the Canaan dog.


A sarcophagus that is dated from the end of the fourth century B.C. was found in Sidon Lebanon. It depicts Alexander the Great and the King of Sidon hunting a lion with a hunting dog similar in look to the Canaan dog. 


They were abundant in the region until the scattering of the Israelites by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. As the Hebrew population dropped, most of the dogs sought refuge in the Negev Desert, which is a large natural reservoir of Israeli wildlife. By avoiding extinction, they remained mostly undomesticated. Some retained a form of domesticity by living with the Bedouin and earning their keep guarding herds and camps.


In 1934 Professor Rudolphina Menzel, who is a noted expert on dog behavior and training, moved with her husband Dr. Rudolph Menzel from their home in Vienna to an area of Palestine that later became Israel. The Haganah then approached her, which is the predecessor to The Jewish Defense Force to supply dogs to work alongside them. After a few failed trials, Professor Menzel soon realized that the breeds usually associated with this task were less able to cope with the harsh desert environment. She then began to investigate the wild dogs that she saw in the desert.  These were the local dogs that had developed and lived in the country. Some were living with man and some on the fringes of the settlements and in the open areas, for hundreds of years. Most of the dogs she collected were living on the fringes of Bedouin encampments.


She began by luring adult dogs into the camp and also taking litters of puppies, which were remarkably adaptable to domestication.Her first successful adult took 6 months to capture but then within weeks was able to take him into town and on buses as well. She called him Dugma, which means example in Hebrew.She began a breeding program in 1934 and provided working dogs for the military. She also gave a few puppies to be pets and home guard dogs. The Canaan Dog was used extensively during and after World War II for sentry work, messengers, Red Cross helpers, and guard work. One of the first dogs trained to discover mines successfully was a Canaan Dog.


In 1949 Dr. Menzel founded The Institute for Orientation and Mobility of the Blind. In 1953 she started to train Canaan dogs as guide dogs for the blind. Even though she was able to train several dogs, she found Canaan Dogs are too stubborn, independent, hardheaded and small for general guide dog use, although children used some of her dogs successfully.Her breeding program was concentrated with the Institute, where a foundation of kennel-raised Canaan dogs was established, carrying the name B'nei Habitachon. She later supplied breeding stock to Shaar Hagai Kennels, who continued the breeding of the Canaan dog. After her death in 1973, Shaar Hagai Kennels continued the breeding program according to her instructions. In addition, a controlled collection of dogs of the original type to increase the gene pool was continued, primarily from the Bedouin of the Negev.


The Israel Kennel Club dog first recognized the Canaan in 1953 and by the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) in 1966. Dr. Menzel wrote the first accepted standard. The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom officially accepted the breed in December 1970.


Ursula Berkowitz of Oxnard, California had been regularly corresponding with Dr. Menzel for two years.  The Doctor knew that she needed to increase the publicity of the Canaan Dog beyond the borders of Israel.  She hoped that by introducing the breed to the U.S. the popularity for the Canaan would increase. So on September 7, 1965, Dr. Menzel sent four dogs to Ursula, the first Canaan dogs in the United States. The Canaan Dog Club of America (CDCA) was formed the same year, and studbook records were kept from these first reports.


In June 1989, the Canaan dog was accepted into the American Kennel Club (AKC) Miscellaneous Class. Dogs were registered in the AKC Stud Book as of June 1, 1997 began competing on August 12, 1997.


Collection of wild Canaan dogs has all but ceased today because of the difficulty of finding dogs of the original breed. Most of the Canaans that lived in the open were destroyed in the fight against rabies, or became mixed with other breeds. Even the majority of Canaan dogs today are mixed with other imported breeds. It is feasible that there are still original Canaans among tribes that still live the traditional nomadic life, and maybe also in Egypt.


The Canaan Dog is very rare, and ranks relatively low in popularity sitting in 163rd position out 167 breeds according to the AKC's most popular dogs of 2010 list. This is not to say ,however, that the breed is a complete uknown as it did earn a little fame in America when John F. Kennedy Jr. adopted a nine-week-old Canaan Dog puppy named Friday. Kennedy named the little pup for the one day each week he took the dog with him to work. He and his family grew so fond of the Canaan Dog breed that Kennedy's cousin, Robert Shriver, also adopted one for his own family. A wise man, Kennedy caring about protecting the Canaan breed from exploitation never stated the name of the breed for fear that would popularize it. This lead many uninformed people to think the dog was a mutt.




The Canaan Dog moves with athletic agility and grace. A wedge-shaped head with dark almond shaped eyes, low-set medium to large sized erect ears sets the breed apart. The double coat is straight and harsh with a slight ruff, which is more pronounced on males. The tail is bushy and increases in size then tapers to a pointed tip and is carried high and curled over the back when the dog is alert or excited.


The correct correlation of height to length of body is 1:1, or the same height as length that gives the body it's ideal box shape. Height at the shoulders should be 20 to 24 inches for males and 19 to 23 inches for females with weights of 45 to 55 pounds and 35 to 45 pounds respectively.


Canaan Dogs have two coat patterns. The first choice is solid colored with or without white trim. The other is mostly white with a white mask and with or without additional patches of color and large body patches are desired.  Color may range from black, all shades of brown, sandy to red or liver. Shadings of black on a solid brown or tan dog are often seen. The trim on a solid colored dog may include chest, under chest, feet and lower part of leg and tip of tail. In all patterns little spots on the body or self-ticking may be present.  Complete white color patterns and brindles are not to be purposely bred because the risk of deafness is high.


The mask is a desired and unique feature of the predominately white Canaan Dog. The mask is the same color, or colors, as the body patches. The symmetrical mask must completely cover the eyes and ears or the head as a hood. The only permitted white in the mask or hood is a white blaze of any size or shape or white on the muzzle below the mask.




The Canaan Dog is what many owners call highly intelligent and easily trainable. Not only are they willing to learn new tricks but they also pick them up with ease.


As with any highly intelligent dog, Canaan Dogs tend to become bored if they feel like the training is not challenging enough to them. If they feel something is wasting their time, then they will resist the training and find something more interesting. In these circumstances, they are difficult dogs to train. They involve constant motivation and commands in order to keep them on task and interested.


They are natural herders as well, so any sort of activity that allows them herd will also help to train them mentally as well as physically. The retrieving instinct is rather lacking in this breed, so jumping into a cold lake to retrieve a bird is probably not going to happen. The herding instinct is not as powerful as that of some other breeds, like the Border Collie for example.


Repetitive training is not for these dogs. They will become bored as they have already learned the task and want to move onto something else new and exciting. However, learning never stops with the Canaan Dog.


If not mentally and physically entertained, they will entertain themselves, usually at the cost of your mind and wallet. Escaping the backyard becomes a fun and challenging exercise, as it becomes a war between the brains of the owner and dog. So monthly check the backyard to ensure this does not start.


The Canaan Dog, like most breeds will need to learn socialization skills at a young age in order to decide who are friends and who are foes. They are aggressive and will bark if they feel the need to protect the pack. When meeting new people or dogs, they will keep their distance, circling and hanging back while watching what is going on. Some people believe this means the Canaan Dog is shy, but it's their way of responding to new or potentially hazardous situations.


The problem with training the Canaan Dog is that you will need to be paying attention to everything they do during the training session. These are dogs that are manipulative and scheming and will try to avoid doing things they don’t want to do. With unfailing training that involves some sort of reward, like food or playtime, you will be able to manage their behavior.


Positive reinforcement is the only way to train this dog. Negative reinforcement will mean the dog loses interest quickly and find better things to do. They use their paws as much as they can. They have been known to try to open doors by using their paws. Keep this mind when planning tricks to be taught. Using the dog’s natural talents makes training easier for everyone.


The Canaan Dog likes to complete tasks that require it to use its intelligence. The Canaan Dog is able to handle tasks on its own and it thrives on being self-sufficient in this way. This makes it a perfect breed for those that might not have a lot of time to give a dog a lot of attention. This does not mean that the Canaan Dog can be left alone all day, but they do not require a lot of interaction in order to be satisfied.


The Canaan Dog is also quite cautious around strangers. This trait allows them to be high quality guard dogs. They will bark whenever they see someone they don't recognize. This is an ideal dog for a family that wants a little extra protection or for a single that wants a faithful protector. However, if you have a lot of traffic in front of your house, your Canaan Dog will be barking a lot. Judge whether this will be a problem in your neighborhood.


They get along well with children, considering them part of their pack and treating them gently. Make sure to socialize with kids early, and teach the kids to respect him in return.  They also do well with other pets in the household that they are raised with, cats included. Canaan Dogs can be dog aggressive. Some cannot live with any dog of the same sex, and some expand the aggression to any dog that they meet. Early socialization and training can help reduce this problem later in life. 


Because of his self-sufficient and brave spirit, the Canaan Dog can rarely be off leash. A superb sense of smell and excellent eyesight mean this dog will not think twice about chasing a scent or creature down. This dog lived in the harsh desert, and can run for hours without stopping. This makes finding a lost Canaan difficult. Eliminating the chance of escape is the best defense.


The Canaan dog will not give its love, devotion and respect to the owner, as some dogs will. The owner has to earn the respect before the Canaan will respond so.


Like all dog breeds, the Canaan Dog needs to live in the house. This is not an outdoor dog. He needs human companionship just like other dog breeds.


The Canaan Dog loves to dig and can make quite large holes in a short period of time if left alone. Supply a digging area or redirect the digging tendency to other productive activities.


The Canaan Dog does not require extensive exercise, nor is he a lazy breed. He is usually satisfied with a walk and some vigorous playtime in the backyard.


The Canaan Dog requires extensive socialization. Exposure to many different people, sights, places, sounds, and experiences throughout his lifetime is required. A dog that has been exposed to a diversity of people and situations while young will be less stressed and less likely to overreact when confronted with something new.


Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great place to start. Inviting visitors over regularly, on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors, taking him to busy parks, and any other places will help his social skills shine. This is also a good time to start training tricks, because the basic skills should be learned by now.


Some Canaan Dogs go through a fear phase which starts at 9 to 12 months of age, which can last as long as a year. They may be more anxious around strangers and bark at apparently harmless objects. During this phase, be calm and confident and teach him that he has nothing to fear. Trying to calm him will only make him to believe that something really is out there. Experts agree this evolved because in the wild, Canaan Dogs would be grown up and start to strike out on their own. Having a fear phase would ensure the dog doesn’t try to bother a poisonous snake until he learns it’s a poisonous snake.


Canaans are a primeval breed and are more concerned with pack order than some breeds. They will attempt to wrestle pack leadership from a passive and easy owner, so maintain your alpha status.


They are extraordinarily devoted and amenable to training but consider themselves the equal of those with whom they live. This breed grows slowly both physically and mentally, so reaching the prime age doesn’t happen until as late as four years of age.


Grooming Requirements: 


The Canaan Dog is one of the easiest dog breeds to groom, as the coat is effortless to maintain. A weekly brushing with a coarse brush will help to keep stray hairs from ending up on the couch. Brushing out the hair also helps keep the dog’s appearance nice and healthy and is less irritating for the dog.


The Canaan Dog has a short double coat that sheds heavily twice a year, so you will have times when the shedding is more pronounced. It’s perfectly fine to increase the amount of brushing during this time.


The Canaan Dog does not require regular bathing as they lack the distinct dog smell. Though bathing after a long day digging is wise.


Trimming the nails as often as needed, brushing his teeth, and keeping his ears clean to prevent infections are all needed to keep this breed healthy.


Health Issues: 


The Canaan Dog has developed a body type and immune system geared to adaptability and survival. This is reflect by the breeds 12-15 year life expectancy. This is a breed that lived in the harsh desert conditions of Israel. They have advanced senses of hearing, sight and smell that serve as any early warning system to alert them of approaching people or predators. This dog does rarely suffer from diseases known to be caused by inbreeding.


A good breeder who will show you health certificates for both the puppy's parents is the most important part of buying a puppy. Health certificates confirm that a dog has been tested and cleared of a particular condition. Expect to see health certificates from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OCA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease. Also check for health certificates from Auburn University for thrombopathia and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) that certify the health of the eyes.


According to the Orthopedic Foundation of America, the hip dysplasia rate for this breed, based on a total of 330 hip X-rays, is only 2% while elbow dysplasia is only 3% in Canaan Dogs.


The most common form of cancer in this breed is Lymphosarcoma. Lymphosarcoma is a malignant cancer that involves the lymphoid system. In a healthy dog, the lymphoid system is a vital part of the body's immune system defense against infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria.


Other problems that have been reported to affect the breed include:



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