The Canaan Dog Breed: Dogs with Gusto and Gumption!

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one of the oldest dog breeds, a happy canaan dog pup standing in parkThe Canaan Dog from Israel has gone from Pariah to Companion, and the reasons are plain to see. This herding dog, known in Hebrew as Kelef Kanani, was an integral part of Ancient Middle Eastern life and the breed fits just as well in today’s societies.

The History of this Biblical Dog Breed

The Ancient Semitic tribes of Biblical times are known to have been pastoral people with their herds and flocks central to daily existence. Livestock catered to their dietary needs, as providers of leather and wool, and was integral to ritual sacrifices that were solemn custom for centuries.

Christian, Hebrew, and Muslim scriptures also make frequent mention of shepherds and sheep. Enduring images, inscriptions, and artifacts from years gone by suggest that these keepers of the herds have been around for over 4000 years.

That would make then even older than the ancient Latin American breed of Mexican Hairless dog or Xoloitzcuintli, which can be traced as far back as 3000 years, to before the time of the Aztec Empire.

Things got uncomfortable for the hard-working Israeli dogs around about the year 70 when the Romans took their longstanding occupation of Judea one step further and dispersed the Israelites across the Middle East and Mediterranean basin after destroying Jerusalem. The dogs found themselves ownerless, without flocks to tend, and became self-sufficient feral refugees in the Negev Desert until the 1900s.

When at last the State of Israel was again reinstated, Dr. Rudolphina Menzel proposed these feral dogs of the desert to fill the need for K-9 recruits for the Israeli army, and sentry dogs to patrol isolated Jewish settlements. The Austrian cynologist. Menzel lived in Palestine and saw the Canaan dog as being the fittest option to survive the harsh life, and so their re-domestication began.

These smart and highly trainable desert dogs flourished as service dogs, sentries, messengers, and landmine detectors. Menzel went onto breed and train Canaans as guide dogs for the blind once peacetime resumed after the Second World War.

canaan dog puppy sniffing ground

Where is Canaan?

In Biblical times, Canaan was known as the land of milk and honey and encompassed Ancient Palestine and Phoenicia. Contemporary maps now include Israel, Lebanon, and parts of bordering countries into the area that was once Canaan.

Their Appearance!

The Kelef Kanani is a medium-sized dog with a bushy tail and a straight and harsh coat. They can be any one of a variety of colors and patterns. They have an angular head boasting erect and expressive ears and dark-rimmed almond-shaped eyes with an inquisitive expression.

Muzzles taper to define the wedge shape of the head. The nose is darkly pigmented or may present in varying shades of liver, to remain in harmony with the color of the coat. Lips are tight, with good pigmentation.

Dogs are distinctly masculine without coarseness while bitches will always have a feminine appearance, but not be over-refined.

Average Size and Weight!

The male Canaan stands between 20 and 24 inches at the shoulder and weighs from 45 to 55 pounds. Females are smaller at between 19 and 23 inches, weighing from 35 to 45 pounds.

Canaan Dog Coats and Colors Explained!

These desert dogs can be of a solid color, white with a mask, or white with large patches of color. Solid colors could be anywhere from black to brown, sandy, red, or liver, and tan. They can also have solid browns or tans which usually show with black shadings.

Solid colored Canaans might have trim on the chest, undercarriage, tip of the tail, feet and lower part of the leg. The mask presents in the same color or colors as the body patches is always symmetrical and must cover the eyes and ears completely, or cover the whole head, much like a hood.

What are Their Grooming Requirements?

Much like the Philippine Askal dog, Canaan Dogs are adapted to extreme desert temperatures and are insulated by a double coat which is not prone to much shedding. Brushing with a stiff bristle brush once a week will suffice, although upping this regime twice a year when the undercoat sheds, is advisable.

For those dogs who do not naturally wear their nails down, a monthly trim might be necessary. They are clean dogs and do not have a strong odor, and as such do not need bathing very often. Daily brushing of the teeth is best to prevent bad breath and gum disease, but weekly will also do.

white and black canaan dog breed protecting her goat

Temperament and Personality: What to Expect!

For a once feral, undomesticated animal, this desert dog is docile and devoted to its family. It is careful of strangers, vigilant, unusually territorial and vocal, persistent and easy to train. These dogs benefit from socializing during puppyhood, which should alleviate being misunderstood as shy adults because of their tendency to observe strange activity from a distance.

Socialization the pup should be accompanied by teaching young family members how to properly treat animals. This will ensure that both the dog and the children will enjoy a happy relationship. Canaans are fairly comparable with German Shepherd dogs in many aspects including being gentle with children and as devoted and protective family pets.

They need a dominant owner to prevent them from taking initiative as the alpha dog like they would as members of a pack in the wild. Although alert and mistrustful and at times aggressive toward strangers, these are not fighting dogs.

Expect an especially devoted animal, tractable towards a dominant owner, territorial by nature, a dog bound to home with no tendency to stray. They do however have a strong instinct to chase small prey, which means that they are not the ideal pets to share a home with cats, rabbits or hamsters.

Concerns of living with dogs of the same sex are very real. It is advisable that dogs be neutered or spayed where Canaans are concerned.

Although Canaans are very independent, they are excellent companion dogs. They do not like to be left alone for long periods. They are surprisingly good apartments dogs, and should always be on a leash when in public, or securely fenced in when kept in a yard at home.

What is Their Lifespan?

These energetic herd dogs live to the ripe old age of between 12 and 15 years.

6 Potential Health Issues of These Types of Dog Kids!

Canaans are hardy. They do not have breed specific health concerns and are generally a very healthy breed. Quality breeders will provide a health clearance for:

  1. Hip dysplasia 
  2. Elbow dysplasia
  3. Hypothyroidism 
  4. Von Willebrand’s disease
  5. Thrombopathia
  6. Certification from Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) for healthy eyes

Canaan Puppies for Sale!

Purebred pups can be sourced through the Canaan Dog Club and Kennel club. There are not a lot of Canaan breeders in the US. Expect for the price not to be so nice when you pay for your pup. The prices of a Canaan vary according to gender, location and breeder reputability.

Be Sure to Get Your Puppy from a Reputable Breeder!

The Canaan Dog Club of America would be a good place to start the search for a reputable breeder. You can recognize a breeder of repute by their tendency to explain the requirements of the breed. They also always endeavor to match owner and dog as best as possible.

a jewish dog, a fierce canaan dogs bark

Adopt! Don’t Shop! Ask a Local Animal Shelter About Canaan Rescues!

Their perceived aggression towards other dogs and people outside of the family circle might lead to these dogs being abandoned or handed over to rescue facilities for rehoming.

Why not give such a dog a forever home? Canaan dogs make excellent family dogs and will make happy and content adopted animals.

The Canaan Dog Club of America, Inc and Canaan Dog Rescue Network can help you find a rescue Canaan!

Common Questions on the Canaan Dog

Where are Canaan dogs from? 

We have a 13-year-old male neutered Cocker Spaniel and are thinking of adopting a young Canaan dog. Will the two dogs accept one another? 

Is the Canaan dog an option if I live in a fourth-floor apartment in a city?

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