FAQ: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Canaan Dog

This page contains the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) concerning the Canaan Dog. This list has been compiled to help answer these questions. Many of the answers to these questions came from postings to Canaani-L, the Internet Canaan Dog mailing list (see (3) below).

This document has been compiled by John Relph, a resident of Maryland. Understandably, this document is biased towards the Canaan Dog in the United States. This document is not to be considered the final authority on all things Canaan Dog.

A big “Thank You” also goes out the the following people for their contributions to this document:

Kathy Bogner, Leslie Lowe Brown, Barbara Burr, Joan Capaiu Greene, Annette Eastland, Christine Franklin, Cindy Grupp, Cheryl Hennings, Jennie Larkin, Julie Lary, Jan Ziff.

1. What is a Canaan Dog?

The Canaan Dog, also known as Kelev K'naani, is a new breed out of ancient Pariah Dog stock, and is the unique project of a pair of scientists, Drs. Rudolph and Rudolphina Menzel, who were dog experts and world authorities on Pariah Dogs, who loved Pariah Dogs and considered them worthy progenitors of a new purebred breed.

The Canaan Dog was developed from redomesticated Pariah Dog stock captured in the Palestine, where they were first used for guarding and herding cattle and sheep. The Israelis have since used the Canaan Dog for guard duties, as mine detectors during war times, as messengers, and as Red Cross helpers. The Canaan Dog possesses extremely keen senses of hearing and smell, and he can detect approaching intruders from a considerable distance, becoming instantly alert. He is an intelligent, trainable breed whose tracking ability is excellent. He shows definite talent as a stock dog and is able to compete in herding events. However, he does not perform as does a Border Collie or Kelpie with that degree of “eye”. When raised with children and other pets, he becomes a devoted family companion and natural watchdog. He is aloof with strangers, inquisitive, loyal, and loving with his family. Because of the strong “denning” instinct of their recent semi-wild past, the Canaan Dog is naturally clean and easily housebroken. He does not require an excessive amount of exercise.

While the Canaan Dog has been derived from the native Pariah Dog, in the breeding program originated by Drs. Menzel, not every Pariah Dog found in the Middle East is a Canaan Dog.

The medium-size, square body of the Canaan Dog is without extremes, showing a clear, sharp outline. He moves with athletic agility and grace in a quick, brisk, ground-covering trot. He has a wedge-shaped head with low-set erect ears, a bushy tail that curls over the back when excited, and a straight, harsh, flat-lying double coat.

The Canaan Dog is recognized by the American Kennel Club (Herding Group), the United Kennel Club (Sighthounds and Pariah Dogs), the Israel Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club (Working Dogs), and the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), among others. The Canaan Dog is also registered with the American Canine Association, Inc.

2. Is there a national club for the Canaan Dog?

There are two national breed clubs in the United States: the Canaan Dog Club of America (CDCA) and the Israel Canaan Dog Club of America (ICDCA). The CDCA is the American Kennel Club Parent Club for the Canaan Dog and is currently the only Canaan Dog club recognized by the AKC. The ICDCA is the United Kennel Club Parent Club for the Canaan Dog.

Many people belong to both clubs, so don't be shy.

Note that various clubs have different standards for the Canaan Dog: The Israel Kennel Club and other international clubs subscribe to the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) standard; the ICDCA and the UKC use a “modified” FCI standard; the CDCA uses yet a different standard that conforms to AKC requirements.

3. Where can I find more information about the Canaan Dog?

Both the CDCA and the ICDCA have sites on the World Wide Web. Both sites contain much useful information about the Canaan Dog, including bibliographies of various Canaan Dog related publications.

Both the ICDCA and the CDCA publish regular newsletters for their members. The ICDCA publishes the award-winning Desert Tracks; the CDCA publishes The Canaan Kibitzer.

There is also an Internet mailing list for discussion of the Canaan Dog and other related topics. The list is called Canaani-L. To subscribe to the Canaani-L list, send a message addressed to:

<Canaani-L-subscribe (at) yahoogroups (dot) com>

or visit the Canaani-L page at “groups.yahoo.com/group/Canaani-L” for more information.

4. Is there a national Canaan specialty show in the U.S.?

Both the CDCA and the ICDCA hold national breed specialty shows each year.

Each year the Canaan Dog Club of America holds a National Specialty Show. The show is held in a different region each year, moving between the western, midwestern and eastern regions if possible.

5. Are there enough Canaans around to see homogeneity in type?

Yes. There will always be some dogs which are heavier or lighter in build, heavier or lighter in coat, but overall there is much more homogeneity in type than was seen ten or fifteen years ago. Some of the miyun imports from Israel can be heavier in build and coat, but they help to strengthen the breed and keep it closer to its origins.

6. Are Canaan Dogs used for herding?

Yes. Joan Capaiu Greene, past CDCA Herding Chair, has done herding with her dogs; her bitch Abbey was the first Canaan ever to compete in an all-breed trial in the world and took HIT (High In Trial) that day (an American Herding Breed Association trial). Denise Gordon rounded up herding titles with her dog Ze'ev Midbar; “Wolf” earned AHBA Started titles in Ranch Dog and regular Trial courses, and is a RHIT (Reserve High In Trial) winner, too.

The 1997 CDCA Specialty in Lexington, Kentucky, included a herding trial. At the 1997 ICDCA Specialty, an AHBA Herding Capability Test was held in which there were 11 Canaan Dogs tested and four passed the first leg. Virtually every Specialty since then has included an AKC Herding Instinct Test.

Virtually all of the breeders producing good conformation Canaani also test pups and breeding stock for herding instinct. The Canaan Dog is the only AKC herding breed that can make that claim. Pet and conformation dog owners are encouraged to get their dogs involved in agility, tracking, obedience, herding, and other activities. Canaan Dogs are capable of many things.

How many litters are there a year on average? What is the average price paid for a puppy?

It is estimated that Canaan Dog breeders in the U.S. breed between 15 and 20 litters in any given year. The average size litter is four puppies. The price of a puppy varies from breeder to breeder and dog to dog but the range is $700 to $1200. One can expect to pay at least $700 for a pet quality puppy (required to be spayed or neutered). Conformation pups and pups from good working lines will probably cost $1000 or more. However, there is considerable variation in price between breeders, and different ownership arrangements and requirements can result in a wide variation in final purchase price.

8. How much exercise does a Canaan Dog require?

Our dog would like nothing better than to sleep all day. That is, between 10:00am and 4:00pm. But in the morning and the evening, he likes to go for a walk. He also likes to run, but he's a sprinter, not a long distance runner. A trip to the off-lead beach tires him out for a day. A good high speed romp around the yard with a like-minded dog will also tire him out for the day.

Basically, our Canaan Dog likes two good walks per day, in the morning and evening. Most Canaani should get along well with this level of exercise.

9. Are Canaan Dogs good with children?

Canaan Dogs can make wonderful family companion dogs - but not for every family. When raised with children they are absolutely devoted to them and very protective. It is very important to socialize Canaani, with other dogs, with children, with adults. The more socialization, the better the dog will get along with other dogs and other people.

Leslie Lowe Brown says:

We did lots of research on several breeds before we decided to get a Canaan, and one major characteristic we were looking for was "good with children." Not just "tolerant of children," or "good when raised with children," but "GOOD WITH CHILDREN." We do not have kids yet, but I think we can offer some insight on when the puppies do not grow up with children already in the house. Right now Shiloh has a fair amount of contact with my godson Brandon (22 months old). She is so playful and gentle with him. When he is over, she will follow him all over the house . . . she knows he is her only source of people food. We never give Shiloh people food, but it is hard to constantly keep Brandon from giving her anything. This is another example of how gentle she is with him: he will offer her food, but he doesn't automatically let go of it. She is so gentle taking food from his little fingers, never any teeth! We also have several friends that come over with their infants and children, and she is always good with them. The only problem we have had is that she likes to give kisses, and not all kids like a dog licking their face.

10. Are Canaan Dogs good with other pets?

Canaan Dogs by nature are a bit standoffish, and as the AKC breed standard says, “reserved and aloof with strangers”. Canaan Dogs need plenty of socialization, both with people and especially with other dogs.

Canaan Dogs, like many herding breeds, tend to have a fair amount of dog aggression, especially towards members of the same sex. The best way to deal with the dog aggression is to socialize your Canaan Dog from puppyhood and into adulthood, with other dogs. Puppies, and their owners, should definitely attend puppy socialization or puppy kindergarten classes, and then, at the very least, a beginning obedience course.

How the Canaan Dog does with other animals such as cats depends on how they are introduced. If the cat runs from the puppy the puppy is going to chase it and that can establish a life long relationship. However, if properly introduced they can get along fine with cats.

Canaan Dogs and small mammal pets will probably not get along well.

11. Do Canaan Dogs bark much?

Kathy Bogner says:

Some Canaans can be barkers, but it depends on the dog. They will certainly bark if something new is in their territory. Some even notice if something is moved. One of my Canaans was very "furniture conscious". She did not like redecorating. My mother moved a chair in her living room and when we went to visit, my Canaan sat there and barked at the chair. She knew it was not in that position last time we visited. I am happy to report my other two girls are not as particular. Actually, none of my three girls have ever carried on excessively. They bark at the new object for a little bit and then shut up and watch it instead. To be on the safe side, I taught all mine when they were young that "nuff" means to stop barking. I live in a residential neighborhood with a dog to one side of us and another behind and have never had a problem with barking. Halloween is probably the worst when the kids ring the doorbell repeatedly.

Christine Franklin says:

They are not nuisance barkers but are very tuned in to what is "threatening" their territory, be it people or animals. We have taught ours, through consistent repetition, to respond to the word "leave" and "in" when they are barking too long. They have never tried to bite though they are keen guard dogs.

Cynthia Grupp says:

They are dogs, they do bark. Whether or not they become "problem barkers" depends on the situation. A dog left alone in a back yard for endless hours will find something to bark at. This breed needs a lot of socialization. As with all dogs, you get out of the relationship what you put into it.

Barbara Burr says:

Yes, the Canaan Dog does bark, some more than others. We, unfortunately had to have two of our Canaan Dogs de-barked as we were living in a very densely populated area and since we were only a block away from a school and had children going by constantly [the dogs] were announcing that there was someone there who they thought did not belong. The children tended to tease them and our neighbors complained so much we had no recourse. It does not harm them and you can still hear them, but only faintly. We currently have one who tends to get somewhat noisy, but generally quiets down when scolded for it.

12. Are Canaans tough to train? Are they willing to please? Are they “hard” or “soft” dogs?

There are really two parts to the question “Are Canaans tough to train”? The first part could be stated as, “Is it easy to teach a Canaan to perform various commands such as sit, come, stay, etc.?” The answer to this question in our experience is “Yes”. Canaan Dogs easily learn HOW to do basic obedience commands. They are very intelligent and learn new things very quickly. It is the second part of the question where the issue becomes more clouded with Canaans.

The second part of the question is, “Will Canaan Dogs reliably perform a command after they have learned it”? In our experience, the answer is “Maybe”. It depends on the circumstances, how much training the dog has had, and the dog's general disposition. Canaan Dogs develop a very close working relationship with their owners and will obey out of respect for the pack leaders. They require an owner that is willing to find out what motivates the dog, to develop a “team” attitude with the dog, and to earn and keep the respect of the dog. Many Canaani will continue to challenge their standing in the pack, and demand consistency and strength from their pack leader. If the pack leader lets them down, they may challenge their position within the pack.

Consider the heritage of the Canaan Dog. Canaans started out as feral dogs living in the desert. Canaan Dogs were redomesticated starting in the 1930's, which is not long compared to many breeds. Canaani still retain a lot of their “natural instincts”. Survival, in the wild, meant being alert and cautious. Canaans are always 100% aware of their surroundings. This can cause them to appear distracted. They constantly watch, listen, and smell their surroundings, evaluating for possible threat or opportunity.

Are Canaan Dogs willing to please? Not like Golden Retrievers or Border Collies. Canaan Dogs seem to evaluate each and every command with by asking themselves the question, “What's in it for me?” In high intensity training such as agility and herding the answer seems to be that they genuinely enjoy it, and the job is its own reward. But in less strenuous training, such as conformation and obedience, the Canaan Dog can become easily bored, especially by repetition. Excessive repetition of a learned command in a given training session can often cause a Canaan to stop performing the command. Short, upbeat training sessions work best for this breed.

The Canaan Dog behavior in actual herding situations is no exception. A working Canaan may stop to watch the scenery, may run off to check on the neighboring sheep, or may just ignore the flock. It will still be watching the flock, though an inexperienced handler might not think so. A dog may seem totally focused on its handler, for example, asking for praise, then without warning leave to stop members of the flock from escaping. Once the miscreant animals are returned, the dog will go back to its handler for more petting and praise -- all this with no commands. Canaan Dogs think, and are very sensible in their approach to stock. A Canaan Dog may suddenly realize that sheep, ducks or chickens have escaped their pens, gather then quickly together and herd them back through the escape route, then quit and go back to their previous activities. They watch the pen casually, but if an animal attempts to leave, it is turned back.

The Canaan Dog is a “soft” dog. A creature can be designated as “soft” when even small unpleasantries exercise a lasting influence on its behavior. If you train with harsh methods, the Canaan Dog will learn that training is no fun. They will not enjoy the training, and will remember the punishment more than the reward. Canaan Dogs have long memories. They will give you respect, but only if you earn it and show them respect in turn. Training sessions should always be positive, with lots of praise and rewards, and Canaani will enjoy learning and performing. And always remember that Canaani are very pack oriented and even the most submissive dog will take over in a house where there is no clear pack leader.

13. What should I feed my Canaan Dog?

Remember that the Canaan Dog is an omnivore. Always feed your Canaan Dog high quality food. Use foods preserved with tocopherols (Vitamin E). Do not use foods with chemical preservatives (such as ethoxyquin). Canaan Dog owners report good results with Purina Pro Plan, IAMS, Eukanuba, and California Naturals Innova.

Many Canaan Dog owners also report good results using the Bones And Raw Food (BARF) diet, described by Ian Billinghurst in his book Give Your Dog a Bone?.

Our dog Tycho ate more or less depending on the weather, activity level, and state of mind. He loved carrots and rice. We feed a mostly raw diet, especially Nature's Variety Raw Frozen Diet, but also raw chicken necks and wings, ox tails, and kefir.

14. How many Canaan Dogs are in the U.S.?

Based on 1997 American Kennel Club registrations, it is estimated that there are over 500 Canaan Dogs in the United States. It is assumed that not all Canaan Dogs in the country have been registered with the AKC.

15. Is there a Canaan Dog Breed Rescue program?

If you have a Canaan Dog that you've rescued or can no longer keep, or you are interested in living with an older Canaan Dog that needs a new home, please contact the Canaan Dog Rescue Network. Visit their website for more information, or contact the Canaan Dog Breed Rescue coordinator:

Teresa Clement
Email: tclement (at) charter (dot) net

16. Where can I buy a puppy?

You can get a puppy from one of the many reputable breeders in Israel, the United States and other countries. If your country has a national Canaan Dog club, that club should have a Breeder Referral Officer who can answer your questions and direct you to a breeder who may soon have puppies available. The Canaan Dog Club of America (CDCA) has a Breeder Referral program.

Our breed is fortunate to have a small group of dedicated breeders that communicate with each other regularly and work together for the betterment of the breed. Because of this deep commitment, prospective buyers may find that purchasing a Canaan Dog is not as simple as purchasing a dog of another breed. Canaan Dog breeders tend to be highly selective and employ lengthy evaluation processes to ensure the integrity of our breed's future. It is not uncommon to wait 6-12 months for the right puppy nor it is uncommon for the breeder to choose your puppy based on her understanding of your needs dog. The breeder has a duty to the place puppies so they can live up to their best potiential whether it be as a companion or as a show/breeding prospect.

Remember also that the Canaan Dog is still a fairly rare breed and there are only a few hundred Canaan Dog puppies born worldwide each year, if indeed there are that many! (See (7) above.) There are almost always more people looking for puppies than there are puppies available.

If you are interested in providing a good home to an older Canaan Dog, please contact Canaan Dog Breed Rescue (see (15) above). There are almost always pre-owned Canaan Dogs looking for homes (without the difficulties associated with puppies). Please consider opening your home to an older Canaan Dog.

17. I have a mixed-breed dog that looks like a Canaan Dog. Should I enroll the dog in the AKC ILP program so that we can compete in agility events?

The short answer is “no”.

First, the AKC Indefinite Listing Privilege (ILP) program is for purebred dogs that cannot be registered with the AKC. The AKC web site points out:

There are various reasons why a purebred dog might not be eligible for registration. The dog may the product of an unregistered litter, or have unregistered parents. The dog's papers may have been withheld by its breeder or lost by its owner. Sometimes, it is the dog itself that was "lost." There are many dogs enrolled in the ILP program after they have been surrendered or abandoned, then adopted by new owners from animal shelters or purebred rescue groups. The ILP program allows the dog and owner a second chance at discovering the rewards of participating in AKC events.

Secondly, there are other venues for performance other than AKC. In agility there are also the United Kennel Club (UKC), North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC), and United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA). The UKC also oversees obedience events, as does the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA), the American Mixed Breed Obedience Registry (AMBOR), Canadian Association of Rally Obedience (CARO), and others. Sure, AKC is the biggest show in town, but it's not the only one, and there are many people that really prefer these other venues.

Most importantly, it is no easy thing to get a performance title on a Canaan Dog, and it is unfair to have mixed-breed dogs (which often have a much higher “drive to please” than most Canaan Dogs) take up the rankings in Canaan Dog performance. The Canaan Dog performance statistics on K9info.com bear this out. The ILP dogs are all the dogs without breeders or parents listed. Look how heavily they outweigh the actual Canaan Dogs in the rankings.

And finally, much of the conformation world views Canaan Dogs as glorified mixed-breeds and street dogs (in the most negative way). Why strengthen that bad impression by actively encouraging those with mixed-breed dogs to enroll them in the ILP program as Canaan Dogs?

18. Are Canaan Dogs aggressive?

by Renee Donaher

A question was recently posted to the international Canaan Dog List, Canaani-L, asking if Canaan Dogs "turn aggressive" as they mature. The answer is not a simple one. Canaan Dogs are derived from an ancient stock of pariah dog and they retain many natural canine behaviors. Generally, people intrigued by canine behavior enjoy Canaan Dogs. The breed requires extensive socialization and training for a longer period than most breeds and one's dedication in their rearing largely affects the resultant adult temperament. Prospective owners should seriously consider if they want a dog that requires active management versus a more passive co-existence.

As far as aggression is concerned, it isn't a black and white situation. The word aggressive is a broad term and covers a variety of behaviors to the layperson. Some people are not interested in the reason behind an act that might appear as aggression, nor do they care to understand the behavior and work with the dog. This may include a veterinarian, skilled trainer, daycare provider or even a close friend. If you choose to share your life with a Canaan Dog, it is important you do not fall subject to the misconceptions.

Understanding and working within the context of the Canaan Dog's fascinating personalities is part of the joy. Some Canaan Dogs express themselves vocally via grumbling, howling, moaning, or otherwise talking. This simple and truly charming aspect of the Canaan Dog personality can be confused for growling and deemed aggressive. Variations of vocalizations can occur as an invitation to play, displeasure with a request or activity, and/or as a greeting. Once you live with a Canaan Dog you learn to understand "Canaani-speak" and sometimes must translate it for leery friends and professionals.

Canaan Dog puppies are generally outgoing and well behaved in the department of house manners. Puppies can be termed "aggressive" when seen roughhousing in doggie play groups. Canaan Dogs generally play very loudly and roughly with other dogs. With their vocal repertoire of growls, barking, and snarls, I have heard playful young puppies called aggressive. This is not aggression. The puppies are just playing the way they know how and some people don't understand it. It is important to watch for other clues, such as the way the dogs are interacting, to see that it is all in fun.

Adolescent Canaan Dogs sometimes enter a fear period at around 9-12 months. For some, this period doesn't subside until around two years of age. During this period, the dog maybe hyper-neophobic; pull away from the touch of strangers, bark at benign things, have a wide-eyed stare and demonstrate avoidance. If the dog has not been raised and handled properly to this point, this stage may show itself in an extreme way to keep people at bay. Some people may consider this period aggressive should the dog even appear ready to bite out of fear. In general, the Canaan Dog is not a biter. Canaan Dogs will largely choose flight over fight as a stress response. An air of confidence on the part of the owner, without compromising what the dog must endure, is generally the approach taken to overcome this difficult period in the Canaan Dog's life.

At the age of around two, the maturing adult might become more territorial of his home turf. Home turf for a Canaan Dog means anything he considers "his" - which could include your local dog park (if you visit often enough), the family car, or other frequently visited places. A Canaan Dog will attempt to keep interlopers from invading his space unless they have been raised to regard his owner's opinion over his own.

Canaan Dogs (adults and pups) tend to be the dominant sort and will often be the "bully" or top dog. To people with breeds less wanting to lead, this can appear as aggression.

For example, when one of my adult bitches is taken to an off leash dog park she is the "controller". She is happy to ignore other dogs at my request, but if any other dogs start playing rough, she breaks it up. Her appearance between two wrestling dogs, accompanied by barking or grumbling at each, has been called aggression. She does not attack, bite, or otherwise torture the playing dogs. She simply stops them from playing. I do not call this aggression, but others do and it certainly does put a damper on the fun of the wrestling labs and their owners. Their territorial and dominant nature does not make the Canaan Dog a welcome life-long dog park participant. I have found it to only be enjoyable until maturity.

As an adult the types of aggression that need the owner's management the most would be same-sex, territorial, and prey-drive behaviors.

  • Same-Sex Aggression - Adult Canaan Dogs generally do not immediately welcome same-sex playmates unless there is a definite delineation in status, such as one is neutered and one is not, or a significant age difference.
  • Territorial - Unless welcomed by his owner and introduced properly, an adult Canaan Dog will aggressively run a strange dog off his territory. This is why it is important to have a securely fenced yard. Ideally, introduction of dogs should be done on neutral territory.
  • Prey Drive - In some breeds, certain portions of the prey drive have been bred for and against. The Border Collie's chasing and stalking portion of the prey drive has been enhanced, but the catching and killing portions have minimized. A Canaan Dog has an intact prey drive. This means, he will quite naturally exhibit the entire prey behavior sequence of stalking, chasing, killing, and sometimes consuming small prey.

All of these forms of aggression are manageable in a well-trained and socialized Canaan Dog. But the question a prospective owner must ask him or herself is: do you want to be a manager? Canaan Dogs need management; otherwise they will walk all over a passive owner.

Canaan Dogs may be considered by some to be aggressive in some way, but that is largely due to passive management by the owner. Canaan Dog owners have to be aware that they have a savvy, intelligent, and very natural dog whose regard is earned with lots of early training and socialization. Canaan Dogs need management; otherwise they will walk all over a passive owner. If the Canaan Dog is raised properly, you will be rewarded with an entertaining, sensitive companion who can accompany you most anywhere. Those of us who have chosen Canaan Dogs as companions adore them. They make unique and fascinating companions in the right home.