Canaan Dog

This breed may be a living portrait of early domesticated dogs.

Canaan Dog Breed Photo

The Canaan Dog is a pariah dog that has survived in the desert region of Israel for thousands of years. Believed to be the dog breed that the Hebrews used in biblical times to herd and guard their flocks and encampments, some are still used by Bedouins and Druse for this purpose today. In Europe and North America they are companion dogs and compete in dog sports such as conformation, agility, and obedience.

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Breed Characteristics

    • Sometimes

      Adapt Well To Apartment Living

      Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
    • Sometimes

      Good For Novice Owners

      Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
    • High

      Sensitivity Level

      Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
    • Not particularly well

      Tolerates Being Alone

      Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
    • Not so well

      Tolerates Cold Weather

      Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
    • Very well

      Tolerates Hot Weather

      Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
    • Very

      Easy To Train

      Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
    • High

      Intelligence

      Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
    • Medium

      Potential For Mouthiness

      Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
    • Moderate

      Prey Drive

      Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
    • Moderate

      Tendency To Bark Or Howl

      Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
    • Low

      Wanderlust Potential

      Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
    • Moderate

      Amount Of Shedding

      If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
    • Very low

      Drooling Potential

      Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
    • Somewhat

      Easy To Groom

      Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
    • Very good

      General Health

      Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
    • Low

      Potential For Weight Gain

      Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
    • Medium

      Size

      Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
    • Very

      Affectionate With Family

      Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
    • Sometimes

      Dog Friendly

      Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
    • Not usually

      Friendly Toward Strangers

      Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
    • Not usually

      Kid Friendly

      Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
    • High

      Energy Level

      High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
    • High

      Exercise Needs

      Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
    • Moderate

      Intensity

      A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
    • Moderate

      Potential For Playfulness

      Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

Vital Stats

  • Dog Breed Group: Herding Dogs
  • Height: Generally 1 foot, 7 inches to 2 feet tall at the shoulder
  • Weight: Generally 35 to 55 pounds
  • Life Span: 12 to 15 years

Dogs were an elemental part of ancient Middle Eastern communities, where they were used to herd and guard the flocks of sheep that were a man's wealth. Known as Kelef Kanani, Hebrew words meaning Canaan Dog, those primitive dogs survived for thousands of years, into the modern era, and still retain the traits that allowed them to live in harsh desert conditions. Today's Canaan Dog has the same smooth coat, prick ears, and bushy tail as his ancestors, and no doubt the same alert, watchful, inquisitive nature that made him a well-regarded herding dog. This agile dog can change directions quickly and moves at a brisk trot, covering ground more rapidly than you can imagine.

Besides his pleasing form and graceful movement, the Canaan Dog is blessed with an endearing and responsive personality. Although his heritage of desert survival gives him a certain degree of independence, a Canaan Dog who's been properly socialized loves his family and is adaptable to many living situations. Life in an apartment with several short daily walks is as agreeable to him as living in a suburban home with a yard and three noisy kids. While this breed is active, its energy level isn't excessive. And the Canaan Dog's territorial nature makes him unlikely to stray far from home, although, like any dog, he should be protected from traffic and other dangers by a fenced yard.

This is a versatile breed. While the Canaan Dog doesn't excel in any one area, he is smart and quick to learn, ready and willing to engage in almost any doggy activity, from tracking to herding, obedience to agility. He draws the line only at jumping into a cold lake to retrieve a bird. Today's Canaan retains primitive herding skills and some have been herding-tested with excellent results. The Canaan's herding instinct is not as powerful as that of some other breeds, notably the Border Collie, nor does he have the single-mindedness of certain sporting breeds. Few Canaans will retrieve a ball a hundred times in a row. In behavior, as in appearance, the Canaan is a moderate.

Nonetheless, this is a dog who requires firm but loving handling as well as early socialization in puppyhood to counteract tendencies toward aloofness and aggression toward other dogs. Experienced dog owners will find the Canaan easy to train, but first-timers can have their hands full. A confident attitude and the help of a good trainer can ease the way. This intelligent dog responds best to motivational techniques such as food rewards, praise, and play. He's easily bored with repetitive training and requires a challenging and creative learning environment.

It's also important to provide him with strong, firm leadership. A Canaan who decides he's in charge instead of you will make his own decisions about who is allowed onto his property, and this can lead to serious behavior problems.

Canaan Dogs are considered highly reactive, an excellent survival trait. Reacting quickly when confronted with something new and being cautious or suspicious in new situations can save a dog's life and are among the reasons the breed survived to the present day. Canaan breeders have worked to maintain the breed's character, so these traits are still present, making them excellent watchdogs.

The breed is an excellent and vocal watchdog, so be prepared for some barking. Canaans are keenly alert and will notice anything new or any new person on their property. They will bark to alert you to someone's presence but will keep their distance, circling and hanging back while watching what is going on. This causes some people to consider them shy, but it's their method of responding to new or potentially dangerous situations.

Canaan Dogs get along well with children, considering them part of their pack and treating them gently. They also do well with other small pets in the household that they are raised with, including cats.

The Canaan Dog has been used for centuries to herd and guard flocks and encampments, and more recently they've been used as mine detectors, trackers, and alert dogs. They compete in herding, agility, conformation, and obedience.

While he's loyal and affectionate, the Canaan isn't a glutton for attention. He's capable of occupying himself as needed. This doesn't mean, of course, that he should be stuck out in the backyard all the time with no human interaction. Like any dog, Canaans are social animals who enjoy being with their people. They make wonderful companions and protectors of their family and property. If you understand and appreciate the unique qualities of this breed and are willing and able to live with a primitive breed who retains the instincts and behaviors that have kept him around for thousands of years, the Canaan Dog may be the ideal companion for you.