Canaan Dog

Breed At A Glance


Intelligent, agile and protective

Life Expectancy
12-15 years

Average Height
19-24 inches

Average Weight
35-55 lbs

Coat Color
Black, brown, and white, or white with patches of black or brown

Coat Length/Texture
Straight, harsh up to 2 inch coat, with soft undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Seasonally heavy

Also known as Kelev K’naani, Kelef K’naani

General Temperament

The Canaan Dog is highly intelligent, at times docile and gentle, and other times active and alert. They are devoted to and quite protective of their human companions, often becoming very attached to one particular family member. When given the proper training, they can be exceptionally obedient.

The Canaan is highly trainable, capable of working independently or with a handler. They excel at activities where they are expected to make independent decisions, such as agility, tracking, and even herding. Canaan Dogs respond best to variable and motivational training; avoid repetitive activities as this breed will get bored and distracted.

Early socialization is important when owning a Canaan, particularly if the dog is expected to interact with children or other dogs. Naturally wary of strangers, they make excellent watch dogs and guard dogs, and are usually aloof with welcomed guests. They are very territorial and should be kept in a fenced yard. Canaans also tend to be aggressive towards dogs of the same sex, and can be very vocal and persistent.

The Canaan Dog is adaptable to various climates, both hot and cold, and can even be happy living outside. They will be okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised, but will thrive in a home with a large yard, and an owner who can provide mental stimulation and a high level of focused exercise.

Breed History

The Canaan Dog is a breed native to Israel, dating as far back as 2,000 BC. The ancient Israelites used these dogs to herd flocks and guard camps up until the Roman invasion in the second century. At that time, the Israelites were scattered and many of the dogs found refuge in the Negrev Desert, most living feral and undomesticated, although some lived with the Bedouin tribes of the area.

Just prior to World War II, the Haganah (a Jewish self-defense organization) asked cynologist Dr. Rudolphina Menzel to develop a breed that could serve as war dogs for Israel’s upcoming War of Independence. Dr. Menzel discovered that most breeds were not capable of adapting to the harsh Israeli climate. The Canaan Dog, on the other hand, had survived for centuries largely on their own in the desert. Additionally, the Canaan was highly intelligent and easily trained. Through her efforts, the Canaan was redomesticated and served as sentry dogs, messengers, Red Cross helpers, and land mine locators. Four specimens were exported to the United States in 1965.

The Canaan Dog entered the American Kennel Club Miscellaneous Class in June of 1989. In the summer of 1997, individuals were were registered in the AKC Stud Book and began competing in conformation.

Body Structure and Composition

The medium-sized Canaan Dog is an agile and graceful dog. The elongated head tapers down into the muzzle and is topped with long, erect ears. The rims of the eyes are pigmented which gives the dog the look of wearing eyeliner. They have a level topline that arches slightly over the loins. The tail is set high and is often carried over the back when the dog is excited. Canaans have a tireless gait that covers a large distance and suggests great endurance and stamina.

Medical Information

The Canaan is one of the healthiest breeds and does not suffer from any known hereditary diseases with any significant frequency. There is a very low incidence of Hip Dysplasia, a degenerative condition that occurs when the head of the bone no longer fits in the cup provided by the socket, resulting in arthritis-like symptoms and lameness. Despite the relative infrequency of this disease, responsible breeders will have their breeding stock certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) prior to producing a litter.

Canaans are a clean breed with virtually no “doggie odor.” A weekly brushing is all that’s necessary to keep the coat in good health, although additional brushing may be necessary during it’s heavy shedding periods.

Anecdotal Information

The Canaan dog is one of the least popular dogs in the United States. In 2007, the American Kennel Club ranked it 153rd out of 157 breeds according to registration statistics.

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