The medium sized Canaan dog is thought to have evolved in the face of many difficulties over hundreds or thousands of years; in fact, many believe that the breed was present in biblical times in the land of Canaan, where it was called kalef K’naani, which translates to “dog of Canaan”. Weighing up to 45 pounds (female) and 55 pounds (male), the Canaan dog worked as a sentry, messenger and assistance dog in the past. Alert, vigilant and territorial, the Canaan dog is docile with his family and aloof with those he does not know. Dogs of this breed are very active, quick, smart and responsive and enjoy participating in activities that give them physical and mental challenges. The breed is generally healthy and requires minimal maintenance.
It is claimed that the Canaan dog originated during biblical times in the land of Canaan, where it was known as kalef K’naani. Drawings of dogs with a similar look to the Canaan dog were also said to be found in Beni-Hasan’s tombs, dating back to 2200 BC. During these years, dogs of the breed were used by Israelites to guard the camps and herd flocks. Apparently, these dogs were left to take care of themselves in areas such as the Sebulon coastal plain and Negev desert (a natural reservoir for wildlife in the area) when the Israelites fled their homeland upon the arrival of the Romans nearly 20 centuries ago. It is thought that the breed’s wild, male pups were captured by the Bedouins, who raised them and put them to work as guard dogs or livestock dogs. When, in the 1930’s it was found that the traditional European service dog was unable to handle the harsh climate to work for the Israeli Defense Force, Dr. Rudolphina Menzel looked for and caught feral dogs native to the area and started a program to train and breed them. Through her efforts, the breed was further developed to offer protection to isolated Jewish settlements and to grow the reserve of war dogs for the War of Independence. The breed successfully served in detecting mines as well as working as a sentry and messenger dog. Dogs of the breed also worked as helpers to the Red Cross in their efforts to locate injured soldiers during the second World War. After the war, many of the breed became guide dogs to the blind. In 1965 the first Canaan dog arrived in the U.S., where over time the breed began to attract attention. In 1997 it was accepted to the AKC as a member of the herding group.
With a weight of up to 55 pounds, the Canaan dog is medium in size and square in proportion. Dogs of the breed have straight, front legs with catlike feet that have hard pads and strong nails. The back legs of the breed have well developed, muscular thighs. The Canaan dog’s head is wedge-shaped with an elongated appearance, featuring almond shaped, slightly slanted dark eyes in shades of hazel. The ears of the breed are broad at the base, tapering to a somewhat rounded tip and are anywhere from medium to large in size, angling slightly forward upon the dog becoming excited. The Canaan dog has a tapered muzzle and a nose that is dark in color as well as teeth that join in a scissors bite. The tail is typically bushy and is set relatively high. Coat colors include solid black, tan, brown, sandy, red, liver, white or a patched pattern of liver and white, brown and white, black and white with a mask that matches the color of the patches.
The Canaan dog is thought to be a clean breed for whom grooming is simple. It is recommended that the coat be brushed weekly so that dead hairs can be removed; during seasonal periods of heavy shedding, additional brushing will be helpful. Bathing should occur when necessary. Regular trimming of the nails of the Canaan dog is recommended and the ears should be cleaned as needed. The breed is found to be easily housebroken as a result of its natural denning instinct. Mental and physical activity on a daily basis are important for the Canaan dog as it will become bored if it is just sitting around. Dogs of the breed will enjoy jogging, herding exercises, games and training sessions. The Canaan dog can live outside in warm and cool temperatures, though it enjoys being in the home with its family. While it is ideal for dogs of the breed to have an average-sized fenced in yard to play in, if they get enough exercise outdoors they will do well in an apartment.