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Honest FAQ for Canaan Dogs

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Canaan Dog

The Canaan Dog is a survivor, a type of pariah dog. He appeals to people who prefer a natural-looking dog and who can handle the breed's "primitive" behaviors (see below).

What kind of temperament and personality does the Canaan Dog have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding Canaan Dog temperament and behavior are:

athletic, agile, but quirky.... highly intelligent but independent thinker, vigilant, reactive (tends to startle easily), wary of strangers (defensively, not aggressively), cautious of new situations yet inquisitive, very vocal, destructive when bored, strong prey drive toward other animals

I give you my honest opinions about Canaan Dog temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, Canaan Dog Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

Where do Canaan Dogs come from, and what were they used for?

The Canaan (KAY-nun) Dog hails from the Canaanite lands of the ancient Israelites in what we now call the Middle East.

The breed's ancestors assisted ancient shepherds in herding/driving/guarding their sheep and goat flocks. When the Israelites were overrun by the Romans in the first century, the dogs fled to the Negev desert, surviving for many centuries on their own wits and endurance.

"Pariah" is the term we use for feral or semi-wild dogs found all over the world. There are Bedouin, Indian, and Egyptian pariah dogs. The Australian dingo is a pariah. Even the Basenji and Mexican Hairless have pariah ancestry.

Pariah dogs share similar physical traits: they're completely natural, mostly medium-sized, most with pricked ears, curled tail, and/or dense, weather-resistant coat.

Unfortunately, pariah dogs have quirky temperaments and behaviors unsuited to many (make that most!) families:

highly intelligent but independent thinker, vigilant, reactive (sometimes hyper-reactive), wary of strangers but defensive rather than aggressive, mistrustful of new situations, very vocal, destructive when bored, strong prey drive toward other animals

So what happened to bring those pariah dogs in from the Negev desert? Did people do it on purpose? Yes. In the mid-1900s, the new state of Israel was formed. The Israeli army needed smart, hardy dogs for sentry/messenger duties and for detecting explosives. Thus, out of the pariah dogs of the desert, a new breed called the Canaan Dog was developed.

Today, show breeders have managed to soften the breed's extreme vigilance and reactivity and increase their trainability. But the Canaan Dog remains an unusual "specialty" breed suited only to certain homes. Definitely not a breed for beginners or passive owners.

How big are Canaan Dogs? Height and weight?

About 19-24 inches at the shoulder, and 40-55 pounds, which puts them in the MEDIUM-SIZE category.

What colors do Canaan Dogs come in?

Predominantly white with black or brown patches. Or any shade of brown (such as cream, sandy, liver, or red), usually with white trim on their chest, belly, legs, and/or tail.

Do Canaan Dogs come in different "types"?

Not so long ago, yes, you would have seen a variety of types. But nowadays Canaan Dogs, especially those produced by show breeders, have a more consistent look.

However, some lines (and individual dogs), both here and abroad, are still heavier or lighter in build. Some have longer or thicker coats than others. Some have a very loosely curled tail, some a tighter curl. But they're all Canaan Dogs.

How much exercise do Canaan Dogs need?

Moderate exercise: long brisk walks, a decent-sized yard to romp in, along with active games of fetch and tug if your Canaan Dog will play. Some will, some won't.

Most importantly, provide activities that will challenge your Canaan's sharp mind.... I suggest herding, agility, and tracking/scentwork.

If you don't provide enough mental stimulation, a Canaan Dog, especially an adolescent or young adult, might try to vent his pent-up frustration by chewing up your house.

Do Canaan Dogs need a fenced yard?

Yes. Why a fenced yard? and best and worst fences.

Are Canaan Dogs easy to train?

Yes and no. They learn quickly, but will they obey you? All pariah dogs have a strong sense of pecking order and will only obey people they respect. So if you are an assertive person who can establish a healthy leader-follower relationship, most Canaan Dogs are very willing to work with you.

Conversely, if you're more of an easygoing, I-hate-conflict, live-and-let-live kind of person... don't get a Canaan Dog. This breed is not for easygoing beginners.

These dogs REQUIRE a strong, competent leader who will take control and structure their lives around familiar and consistent activities. Structured activities provide a suitable outlet for their energy and a calming influence on their mind.

Are Canaan Dogs easy to housebreak?

They're fine.

Are Canaan Dogs friendly with people?

Most Canaan Dogs are totally devoted to their family. With strangers, they might be standoffish or reserved... or downright wary and mistrustful. Being cautious helped pariah dogs survive.

However, some Canaan Dogs are so unhappy with a stranger on their property that they keep barking while moving around just out of the stranger's reach.

I worked with a 3 year old male named Rafi whose aloofness toward strangers had morphed into skittishness, suspiciousness, and hyper-reactivity. Unfortunately for Rafi, his owners liked to entertain and their four children liked having friends over. Such families should not choose a Canaan Dog!

Important: this breed is not an "attack" dog; Canaan Dogs are de fensive, not typically of fensive (aka aggressive). However, even a defensive dog will bite if pushed far enough from his comfort zone.

Are Canaan Dogs good with children?

Depends on the kids and the individual dog. Most Canaan Dogs are self-reliant thinkers who don't necessarily want to play just because a child wants to play. These dogs may not put up with pushy children who step over the line.

In general, I only recommend Canaan Dogs with kids over age 10 who have already proven that they treat animals with respect.

Are Canaan Dogs good with other dogs?

Often they're not. Many Canaan Dogs display dominant posturing and threatening behaviors toward other dogs, especially those of the same sex. I prefer to see them as the only dog in the household, or with dogs of the opposite sex.

Are Canaan Dogs good with cats?

I would not keep a Canaan Dog with a cat unless the two were raised together. Remember, pariah dogs hunt and kill other animals to eat. I wouldn't take that chance with a cat's life.

How much do Canaan Dogs shed?

Canaan Dogs are average shedders. Their harsh coat sheds moderately in the spring and fall, and minimally the rest of the year.

Are Canaan Dogs hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

Not at all.

How much grooming do Canaan Dogs need?

Just moderate brushing once a week... except daily during shedding.

What's a good training schedule for training Canaan Dog puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Canaan Dogs: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do Canaan Dogs tend to have?

Along with excessive wariness/reactivity to strangers and new situations and disliking other animals, these next three behaviors can also become problems:

Barking. Think of how prairie dogs keep guard over their little towns, sounding the alarm against any potential intruder. In the desert, pariah dogs did that too, warning other pack members about unfamiliar sights or sounds. This breed is extremely aware of its environment, frequently watching, listening, and sniffing for threats. Some Canaan Dogs are hyper-alert to the point where they react with sharp barking to the slightest stimuli.

Possessiveness of food and belongings. As you might imagine, resources (such as food) are scarce in the desert, which makes them highly valued by a pariah dog. Some Canaan Dogs will become over-possessive of their food or toys to the point where they will guard and defend them from anyone who gets too close.

Chasing other animals that run. Pariah dogs killed other animals for food.

On the plus side, Canaan Dogs seldom have housebreaking issues and they don't usually jump on strangers!

Before a Canaan puppy has reached adulthood, you must teach calmness and establish the right leader/follower relationship. Otherwise your Canaan Dog will end up firmly in charge of your household.

What health problems might Canaan Dogs have?

Epilepsy is probably the main concern. Hereditary eye diseases can cause blindness. Degenerative myelopathy is a devastating neurological disease that causes hindquarter weakness that eventually becomes paralysis. Lymphoma... inflammatory bowel disease... just some things to consider.

What breeds are similar to the Canaan Dog?

Carolina Dogs are the probable descendents of primitive dogs who accompanied the Native Americans through the swamps of the Southeast and the deserts of the Southwest. I've never worked with a Carolina Dog, so I have not written a review for the breed.

Where can I buy a Canaan Dog puppy?

From a show breeder. Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older Canaan Dog?

Not many individuals have been turned over to Rescue groups or animal shelters, because not many people own them in the first place. And it can be terribly hard for these cautious dogs to accept a new owner. Read my article.

I just got a new Canaan Dog. Which pages should I read first?

  • Canaan Dog Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Canaan Dog puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training Canaan Dogs, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Canaan Dog puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Canaan Dogs have pros and cons, and female Canaan Dogs have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable Canaan Dog puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible Canaan Dog breeder would ever place one of their Canaan Dog puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best Canaan Dog puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for Canaan Dogs?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my Canaan Dog to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your Canaan Dog until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Canaan Dog, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about Canaan Dogs that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my free online books.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

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