The Canaan Dog of the Desert
A relatively new breed, the origins of the Canaan Dog stretch back in antiquity to ancient Palestine. This alert working dog was developed in the 1930’s, by Dr. Rudolphina Menzel, from the Pariah Dog of what is now modern Israel. Utilized for guarding flocks and the camps of the Bedouin people, the Pariah Dog bears an unmistakable resemblance to the Canaan Dog of today. When the Romans caused the dispersion of the Israelites during the time of Christ; this native dog avoided extinction by retreating to the Negev Desert. When conflicts in the region arose, Dr. Menzel was charged with creating a canine that was capable of protecting Israeli settlements and performing as a dog of war. The dogs that were produced from the stock she captured in the desert proved to be intelligent and biddable. They served during the War of Independence as sentries, mine detection dogs and messenger carriers.
Physically, the Canaan Dog is a moderately sized canine. Weights range from 35 to 55 pounds depending on gender, and shoulder heights are typically 19” to 24”. The breed is double-coated with hair being medium in length. Two distinct color patters are present. The first is a predominantly white dog that can have body color patches and a face mask. The second is a solid colored dog that may or may not have white markings. Shades range from black to brown including red or liver hues. Canaan Dogs that are entirely white, gray or brindle are disqualified. The most notable characteristic of this breed is its alert appearance. Being closer to its feral roots than many other breeds, the Canaan Dog tends to remain aware of its surroundings by sight, sound and smell.
While the Canaan Dog is athletic in build and agile, they do not tend to require tremendous amounts of exercise. Early socialization with other canines and people is extremely important due to the influence of their Pariah Dog past. Extremely loyal to their family, the Canaan is considered to have a “soft” temperament, so positive training methods work better with most. The major health concern within the breed is epilepsy. Hip and elbow dysplasia do occur, but the rates are very low compared to other purebreds. Routine grooming such as nail trimming and ear cleaning cover the basics, but because of their double-coat, the Canaan Dog can be a heavy shedder and require regular brushing to keep shedding at a minimum.
A member of the herding group within the American Kennel Club, the Canaan Dog is a loyal companion who does best when treated as a member of the family. Due to their territorial nature, they make great watchdogs and can be aloof with strangers. They are highly intelligent and devoted guardians of their family. Most are vocal and will bark to alert their owners when something gets their interest. Canaan Dogs can be found competing in herding events, conformation, agility and obedience. This gentle, but hardy breed of dog that sprang from the deserts of the Middle East excels most of all at being a family pet.