Canaan Dog, Excellent Watchdog

The Canaan Dog is the national dog breeds of Israel. It may have existed in the Middle East for millennia. The Canaan dog began in ancient times as a pariah dog in in ancient Canaan, where the descendants of the Israelis came from. It belongs to one of the most ancient family of dogs, the spitz. This dog is one of the oldest, dating back to biblical times. The caves of Einan and Hayonim are sites in which the oldest remains of dogs have been found (more than 10,000 years ago). In the Bible there are a number of references to roaming dogs and dogs that worked for man.

Canaan Dog Appearance

The Canaan Dog is a typical pariah dog in appearance. They are a medium-sized dog, with a wedge-shaped head, medium-sized, erect and low set ears with a broad base and rounded tips. Their outer coat is dense, harsh and straight of short to medium-length. The undercoat should be close and profuse according to season. Color ranges from black to cream and all shades of brown and red between, usually with small white markings, or all white with color patches. Spotting of all kinds is permitted, as well as white or black masks.

Dr. Rudolphina Menzel, having studied the desert pariah dogs and the variations in appearances, classified these canines into four types: 1) heavy, sheepdog appearance, 2) dingo-like appearance, 3) Border Collie appearance, 4) Greyhound appearance.

Dr. Menzel concluded that the Canaan Dog is a derivative of the Type III pariah dog—the collie type (referring to the type of farm collie found in the 1930s, which was a medium dog of moderate head type more similar to today's border collie, not the modern rough coated collie).

In writing the first official standard for the Canaan Dog, Dr. Rudolphina Menzel wrote: "Special importance must be placed on the points that differentiate the Canaan-Dog from the German Shepard Dog, whose highly bred form he sometimes resembles: the Canaan-Dog is square, the loin region short, the forequarters highly erect, the hindquarters less angulated, the neck as noble as possible, the tail curled over the back when excited, the trot is short (see also differences in head and color)".

Type varies somewhat between the American lines of Canaan Dogs and those found in Israel and the rest of the world, with many of the American dogs being rectangular in shape.



  • Height: 20–24 inches (50–60 cm)
  • Weight: 40–55 pounds (18–25 kg)


  • Height: 18–20 inches (45–50 cm)
  • Weight: 35–42 pounds

The Canaan shares physical similarities with the Korean Jindo, both in looks and characteristics.

Canaan Dog Temperament

Canaan Dogs have a strong survival instinct. They are quick to react and wary of strangers, and will alert to any disturbances with prompt barking, thus making them excellent watchdogs. Though defensive, they are not aggressive and are very good with children within the family but may be wary of other children or defensive when your child is playing with another child. They are intelligent and learn quickly, but may get bored with repetitive exercises or ignore commands if they find something of more interest.

Canaan Dog Health

In general, the Canaan Dog does not suffer from known hereditary problems. Although the breed is one of the healthiest, Dr. George A. Padgett, DVM, listed diseases that have been seen, at one time or another, in the Canaan Dog in the United States: hypothyroidism, epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cryptorchidism, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, luxating patella, and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).

Canaan dogs in the U.S.

On September 7, 1965, Dr. Menzel sent four dogs to Ursula Berkowitz of Oxnard, California, the first Canaan dogs in the United States. The Canaan Dog Club of America was formed the same year, and stud book records were kept from these first reports.

In June 1989, the Canaan dog entered the American Kennel Club Miscellaneous Class and dogs were registered in the AKC Stud Book as of June 1, 1997. The dogs began competing in conformation on August 12, 1997.

Canaan dogs in Canada

The first Canaan dog came to Canada May 16, 1970. The dogs came from a kennel in Delaware. The Canadian Canaan Club (CCC) was formed in 1972, and the first executive of the Club was elected on March 15, 1973. The club has since been dissolved. The Canaan dog obtained entry into the Miscellaneous Class of the Canadian Kennel Club on December 1, 1975. In January 1993, the dog breeds was accepted in the Working Group, as the Canadian Kennel Club did not have a Herding group at that time.

Canaan Dogs in the UK

A Mrs Powers brought the first Canaan Dog into the UK from Damascus where her husband worked at the University situated on the outskirts of the city. 'Sheba' spent May-October 1965 in quarantine before Mrs Powers could bring her home.

Mrs Connie Higgins met Shebaba when Mrs Powers brought her to a beginners obedience class she was teaching. Sheba was rather aggressive with other dogs, but good with people, especially children, but there was something about her that appealed to Connie. A bit later, due to personal circumstances, Mrs Powers agreed to give Sheba to Mrs Higgins who renamed her 'Shebaba' as she already had a German Shepherd named Sheba. Connie was convinced that 'Shebaba' had to be a breed of dog and began her search for an answer as to what kind of dog she had. The Israeli embassy gave Connie the address of a dog sanctuary in Jerusalem and Connie wrote to them. Then out of the blue, on 21 August 1968, she had a letter from Israel. it was from Prof Menzel herself. Connie's letter to the sanctuary had been forwarded on to her. She sent Connie a long list of questions about Shebaba, eyesight, hearing, measurements, hair, reactions, character, accomplishments, etc., which Connie replied to with every photograph she could lay her hands on.

Connie soon had a letter from Prof. Menzel which said that if Shebaba were in Israel she would be accepted for registration and qualified at least "Very Good". Dr Menzel eventually sent a dog named Tiron to Connie to be bred to Shebaba and then with the help of Dr Menzel, Mrs Higgins finally got Shebaba, Tiron and the puppies recognised by The Kennel Club in December 1970. Saffra Shebaba was the first Canaan Dog to be registered in the UK, and the breed was placed in the Utility Group.

It wasn't until May 1992 that the inaugural meeting of the Canaan Dog Club of the United Kingdom took place. It has only been since 1996 that the breed has really begun to grow in numbers in the UK, though it is still quite numerically small. However, the quality is there and a good foundation is being laid for future generations.

Canaan Dogs in India

They are less in number but are found in Berhampur, India. These dogs are well warned of strangers, fast recognisation and family pet.

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