The Canaan Dog resembles none of the other herding breeds, arising from a completely different background. Nonetheless, this breed shares similar traits needed in any dog that must herd for hours. Canaans are medium-sized, square-proportioned dogs of moderate substance that combines strength, agility, and endurance. They are not exaggerated in any way. Their movement is athletic and graceful, with a brisk, ground-covering trot. They are able to change directions instantly. They have a double coat, with a short, soft undercoat that varies in density according to climate, and a straight, flat-lying, harsh outer coat, with a slight ruff. This breed can adapt to great extremes in weather ranging from hot days to cold nights.
Canaan Dogs have evolved through hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of years of hardship. It is thought that the breed originated in the biblical land of Canaan and were known as Kelev Kanani (Dog of Canaan). When the Israelites were dispersed from their homeland by the Romans 2000 years ago, most of the Israeli dogs were left to fend for themselves in the Sebulon Coastal Plain and Negev Desert. Bedouins captured male puppies from the wild to raise as guard and livestock dogs.
When the Israeli Defense Force tried to develop service dogs in the 1930s, the traditional European service breeds weren’t able to adapt to the harsh climate. The Canaan Dog’s existence is primarily owed to the efforts of one woman, Dr. Rudolphina Menzel. Her search for a more suitable military dog led her to the native feral dogs. Several dogs were captured, and a breeding and training program was begun. The dogs quickly proved their worth, serving as sentry dogs, messengers, mine detectors, Red Cross helpers, and even locators of wounded soldiers during the Second World War. They were trained as guide dogs for the blind in the 1950s but were too small and independent to be widely successful. Perhaps no other breed of dog has ever risen from feral roots to become such a useful and dedicated companion in so short a time.
The first Canaan Dog came to America in 1965. Not the flashiest of breeds, Canaans’ understated good looks may have made many people overlook them, despite their companionship credentials. Nonetheless, they slowly attracted admirers, and the AKC finally admitted them into the Herding Group in 1997. The breed has remained obscure despite its attractive attributes.
Not only do Canaan Dogs excel as herders, but they have also proven themselves in a variety of tasks involving dependability and obedience. This is an intelligent, devoted, docile dog that is quite tractable and willing and quick to please. They are aloof toward strangers and protective of their family. The Canaan Dog is generally good with other pets and dogs, but may need to be introduced to new dogs carefully. This breed is a natural guardian and some tend to bark a lot.
Few breeds can claim as pure a working heritage as the Canaan Dog. This dog will not be happy just sitting around. The Canaan needs lots of exercise and mental and physical challenges. These needs can be met with herding exercise, a long jog, a strenuous game session along with a challenging training session. The coat needs brushing about once a week to remove dead hairs.