The Canaan Dog is a pariah (free-living) dog found in Israel and its surrounding area. Nobody really knows the exact truth about their origins. Some say that he is an originally domesticated dog turned feral, while others believe they may in fact be a separate species to the wolf and domestic breeds of today. The reality is that there is no evidence to prove, or disprove, either theory. However, it is understood that the Canaan Dog is an ancient breed, or to use a more correct term, land-race. Pre-biblical drawings and carvings have been found depicting dogs very similar to the Canaan Dog we know today and there is a rock carving from the first to third century BC mid Sinai that depicts a dog which is very like a Canaan type dog. In ancient Ashkelon, a graveyard was discovered, which is believed to be Phoenician from the middle of the fifth century BC. It contained 700 dogs, all carefully buried in the same position, on their sides with legs flexed and tail tucked in around the hind legs. According to the archaeologists, there was a strong similarity between these dogs and the “Bedouin pariah dogs”, in other words, the Canaan Dog. A sarcophagus dated from the end of the fourth century BC, was found in Sidon, on which Alexander the Great and the King of Sidon are painted hunting a lion with the help of a hunting dog which is similar in build to the dogs of Ashkelon and similar in appearance to the Canaan Dog.
What are their temperaments like?
The Canaan Dog is quite unique to other breeds, retaining many characteristics which have enabled them to survive in the harsh environment of the desert. As a breed, they tend to be very suspicious of anyone or anything they do not know. Many Canaans, when reaching adolescence, go through an insecure period where 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.
Although Canaans are independent by nature they are also very affectionate and extremely loyal to their family. Being a breed that is highly territorial, Canaans are by nature aggressive to other dogs of the same sex, particularly the males. However, good socialising and training helps and this behaviour is often only seen when they are guarding their own territory.
What were they originally bred for?
For a very long time, the Bedouins and Druse people used, and indeed still use, Pariah Dogs of the Canaan Dog type to guard their flocks and camps. However, they have never bred them, and merely take males from the free-living and semi-free litters when they need one. It wasn’t until 1934 that the Canaan Dog was domestically bred, when Professor Rudolphina Menzel, together with her husband, began a domesticated breeding programme for the purpose of supplying dogs to the Haganah (Jewish Defence Forces). After looking at various breeds of dogs, Menzel soon turned her attention to the local pariah dog in which she found a dog with all the traits that would make them a good service dog — an alert and agile dog, being territorial and with highly developed senses, and capable of surviving the harsh terrain and climate. Menzel began by capturing free-living pariah dogs and litters of puppies, naming the type of pariah Canaan Dog after the land where she found them most abundant.
Do they make good guard dogs?
Canaan Dogs are extremely alert at all times, and their senses are highly 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.
Do they make good family pets?
Canaans can make marvellous family pets, although they are not suited to everyone. They are excellent with children, always showing a great tolerance, being very gentle and protective of them. They are extraordinarily loyal and devoted to their whole family.
Do they get on well with cats and other pets?
Whilst Canaans can tend to be aggressive to other 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.
Do they need much exercise?
Like all dogs, the Canaan will benefit from daily exercise. However, they are very adaptable and while they love to run and play in fields, and will be able to keep up with any sort of exercise you are willing to give them, they are just as happy to curl up on a comfy chair. Just a couple of short walks a day should keep a Canaan in a fit condition.
What about grooming?
Canaans tend to be 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 huge amounts. 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, you can use a “rake”, purchased from any good pet shop. This gently removes the dead undercoat, while not damaging the harsh outer-coat.we use a brush called a slicker, which has fine, flexible, metal teeth that can rake the hair out.
Do they bark a lot?
It is natural for a Canaan Dog to bark at anything that is different or strange or that they are unsure of or when they feel it necessary to defend their territory. So, yes, they can bark quite a lot. However, they usually bark to get your attention, as pack leader, so that you can come and deal with the problem. Because of this they can be taught, through patience and reassurance, to stop barking when told.
Are they easy to train?
Well, yes and no! Being very intelligent dogs they learn things very quickly. However, because they tend to be independent and often “laid-back” in their characters, there will be many times when you ask them to do something, and they will look at you as though to say “why?” They can also quickly become bored and, with their independent nature, may not reliably perform a command after they have learnt it! To keep their interest, training exercises should be kept short and varied, giving them new challenges as often as possible. Canaans 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.
Are they healthy dogs?
The Canaan is generally a 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. Currently, there are no known hereditary problems within the breed. However, the British Canaan Dog Society encourage breeders to perform health tests on breeding stock to try and ensure no problems are likely to occur, either today or in the future. The average lifespan of a Canaan is probably about fourteen years.
How easy is it to get a Canaan Dog?
There are currently just two breeders in the UK, with between 1 to 3 litters born a year. Because of this it is often necessary for people interested in purchasing a Canaan Dog to be placed on a waiting list and have to wait!
Any more questions?
Then just contact us. We are always pleased to offer advice and help whenever we can.