Let's talk Canaan Dogs

Few nations can brag claim that they have a national dog but the unique Canaan Dog is just that, for the nation of Israel. This devoted breed has been in existence thousands of years, first as a watchdog for Bedouin shepherds in ancient Canaan, then living wild in the desert. Now, the affable spitz-type breed likes nothing more than staying close to guard the family. Easy to train and willing to participate, the Canaan Dog is a highly intelligent docile friend for life.

Official name: Canaan Dog

Other names: Bedouin Sheepdog

Origins: Near and Middle East

Black and white portrait of a Canaan
 Drooling tendencies

Very low

Warm weather? Very high
 Shedding level Very low
Suited to apartment living?  Low
 Energy Level (high, low, medium)* HighFamily Pet?* 
 Compatibility with other pets Medium
Can stay alone?* Low

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs.
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age.  Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

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Illustration of a Canaan
50 - 60 cm Height
18 - 25 kg Weight
50 - 60 cm Height
18 - 25 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 12 months
 Adult age 1 to 7 years
 Mature age  7 to 10 years
 Senior age  From 10 years

A Canaan stood facing to the side in a forest


Get to know the Canaan Dog

All you need to know about the breed

With a first-rate work ethic, the Canaan Dog has transformed from their beginnings as a faithful watchdog to their present-day role as faithful companion, with many years in the Negev Desert in between. As the national dog of Israel, this breed is commonly found there and in surrounding countries and regions, including modern-day Jordan, Lebanon, and the Sinai Peninsula.

They are known as a ‘pariah dog’, one that comes from a line of non-domesticated medium-sized dogs that live near humans and are used mostly as watchdogs, characterised by a highly alert nature and very quick gate. The Canaan Dog is always on the go, and will step into their role as watchdog with aplomb.

Given their huge smarts and independent behaviour, the Canaan Dog will at times attempt to get their way and dominate an unwitting owner. Make sure that your dog knows who rules the roost. And that it is you. As with many breeds, strong puppy training for the Canaan Dog will be most effective. The longing, inquisitive stare given off by this vivacious breed is sweet, but it’s more to ask what’s next on the agenda than anything else. Where are you doing, who will be there, and can I come along??! 

Because of their beginnings as a wild dog in the desert, the Canaan Dog is incredibly self-sufficient, thus can be very wary of those new to his realm and protective of the family and other animals in it. Despite this, the breed can grow into an affectionate and devoted domestic buddy with a high intelligence and highly responsive nature that enables them to catch on quickly, each and every time.  

Canaan stood in a forest


2 facts about Canaan Dogs

1. Needless to say, they’re self-sufficient

Vigilance is the Canaan Dog’s signature trait. Any breed that survives 2+ millenia as a wild dog in the desert can surely endure a busy household. It’s their ability to be very highly reactive to anything that’s given them staying power. Get ready for a superb canine with a fast trot and a very watchful eye.

2. Vim and vigor 

The Canaan Dog has quite the legacy. With thousands of years under their belt, what’s their secret? Scrappiness but also a general state of well-being. The breed is fairly free of health problems but routine tests should be conducted at your veterinarians to ensure that the breed stays in the best shape. Hip, elbow, thyroid, patella, and ophthalmological evaluations should all be part of your check-up to make sure your Canaan Dog is on track.


History of the breed

With survival instincts that stretch back to the second millennium B.C., the Canaan Dog braved rugged desert to emerge in the 21st Century as a treasured breed. They are known as a pariah dog, one that comes from a line of non-domesticated medium-sized dogs that live near humans and are used mostly as watchdogs. The dog’s name hails from the ancient Near-East region now occupied by Lebanon, Israel and Jordan where they were used 2,000 years ago by Bedouin sheep herders to guard, drove, and herd.

About the year 70, the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem and when the inhabitants fled, Canaan Dogs were left behind, retreating to the Negev Desert where they survived on their own.

As the State of Israel took shape, a smart breed was necessitated for the army and to guard burgeoning populations. Dr. Rudolphina Menzel, an Austrian cynologist, helped to reintroduce this wonderful dog. Highly trainable, the Canaan Dog jumped in as messengers, service dogs, and landmine detectors, also used after that as leader dogs for the blind. They are one of the AKC’s oldest breeds.

Black and white close-up portrait of a Canaan dog


From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Canaan Dogs 

1. Ears

Walnut-shaped eyes.

2. Head

High-set ears on a moderately sized head.

3. Body

Very short legs and a long spine.

4. Coat

Tail tapering to a rounded tip.

5. Tail

An all-weather, silky coat.

White Canaan stood in the wood


Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Canaan Dog
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I’m barking, I’m barking...

A better watchdog would be hard to find but as great as their temperament is, the Canaan Dog can go overboard in the communication department. They can become over-barkers, if making too much noise and for no visible reason. The breed is always on alert for anything new or strange in their midst, which is great to know that your dog is on patrol but could be stressful for the neighbours. Training with a professional and obedience classes can help curb the urge, and teach them impulse control.

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Dog-on-dog aggression

With their legacy as a primitive dog used to fending for themselves in the desert, the Canaan Dog is also used to a pecking order when it comes to fellow canines. They have a desire to establish pack leadership and can be aggressive with the dogs in their circle - and those outside of it. They will need continual socialisation and reassurance through their lifetime to help them recognise that not everything is a threat.

Canaan dog mid-air with dried leaves on the ground


Caring for your Canaan Dog

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Some dogs need more grooming than others, and the Canaan Dogs is one of them. They are shedders, no mincing words, so brushing their thick hardy coat should happen a few times a week to keep dead hair at bay. Make sure also to remove any debris that may get imbedded in the coat and cause skin lesion. Baths can be infrequent as this breed tends to stay clean. As with all dogs, nails should be trimmed regularly and teeth cleaned. Despite their fairly high activity level, the Canaan Dog requires only moderate exercise. They flourish in professional competition, such as tracking, coursing ability tests, nose work, and agility. Training can be tricky for the Canaan Dog. They are very independent and intelligent so will take matters into their own hands if they can get away with it. Early discipline is best, so the breed develops into a sociable and affable dog. Feedback should be neutral, not scolding, to make the greatest impact on this delicate dog.

All about Canaan Dogs

There is a difference between a dog used for security - one with a hulking body and the ability to physically confront intruders if necessary - and one used to watch over the house with alertness and agility. This breed fulfills the latter to a T. Very vocal, the Canaan Dog will bark at anything even seemingly suspicious, using verbal tactics in place of aggression. They are constantly aware of their environment and on watch for elements of surprise from any angle.

Very common in Israel and adjacent countries in the Near- and Middle East, the Canaan Dog is on the rare side, They are indeed found in other lands, mostly however in North America and parts of Europe. The Canaan Dog is known as a pariah dog, from a line of non-domesticated medium-sized dogs that live near humans performing watchdog functions.


1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/