Canaan Dog Breed Review – Israel’s National Dog

Canaan Dog

Intelligent, Alert, Loyal.

The Canaan dog breed is a medium-sized dog, originally bred in what is now modern Israel to be a watchdog and herder. They are known for being loyal to their owners and very smart. They are very alert dogs and are cautious around unfamiliar people and animals. Once one trusts you, they show their better qualities as affectionate and playful dogs.

A Canaan dog standing sideways to the camera, on a lead, with a dark background.
Canaan Dog Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons


The Canaan dog breed is known for being fairly energetic, but usually using that energy intelligently. Even with that energy, they are calm and precise in their actions. This is expressed in their athletic and agile movements. The breed’s more natural energy creates a canine companion that keeps you company, and is not a nuisance at the same time. Like most dogs, they are happiest when they work off excess energy through exercise or play.

Canaan Dog Breed – Temperament

Temperament Highlights

  • Reserved around strangers
  • Obedient nature
  • Territorial
  • Wary of other dogs
  • Vocal
  • Independent

The Canaan’s caring personality and their obedient nature make them a reliable and affectionate companion. That is, so long as the owner presents himself as an authoritative figure.

This breed functions with a pack mentality that makes them suitable for families so long as they aren’t taking the lead. If a dog believes it is the head of the household, it will be stubborn when it comes to paying attention to any of its owner’s commands.

The Canaan dog breed can happily live with families with children. Their less intense personalities make them relaxing, mature company.

They are distrustful of strangers, however, so it’s not ideal for there to be a lot of different people coming and going. It’s important to monitor these dogs around small children, as they may injure the dog accidently and make them bite.

The Canaan Dog breed is well known for being fairly shy. They are notoriously territorial dogs, not cozying up to every guest. This being said, they aren’t known to be aggressive with strangers, but they are very wary of them.

Too many visitors will make a Canaan dog anxious, so they aren’t recommended for places of high population density. They require a lot of socialization to familiarize them with various people, animals, and sights.

The Canaan dog is famously wary of other canines as well as humans. They can coexist with other dogs. However, it’s recommended that they are raised around them than introducing a new pet later on.

Their canine caution can be coursed out of them through exposure to other dogs. Owners often take their dogs to dog schools to socialize them. In doings so they familiarize them with other dogs, making them more comfortable and social all around.

Canaan Dog Breed

The Canaan dog breed is considered to be somewhat vocal. When they do bark, it’s mostly inquisitive or defensive, since it’s such cautious breed. Some owners utilize their wariness as watchdogs, alerting them to strangers. All around, however, these dogs aren’t known to bark excessively. If anything, they can easily be taught not to speak on command, in case it becomes a nuisance.

While they are typically pretty independent dogs, the Canaan dog can get anxious when left alone for too long. This can lead to excessive barking and destructive behavior if not dealt with. For owners that aren’t home all day, they might hire a dog sitter or send their dog to daycare. This breed wouldn’t too well in daycare, however, given its caution of others.

The Canaan dog is a breed that does require some sort of enclosure when outside. The breed is independent, and if it finds something more interesting than what its owner has to say, it can be difficult to get their attention.

While some owners can command the dog’s loyalty well enough not to need an enclosure, it’s recommended for the average owner. They are known to chase off any small animals, and may pursue beyond their property if excited enough. A fence is highly recommended.

History of the Canaan Dog Breed

Clues as to the Canaan Dog breed’s history can be found by looking at their name. Canaan historically is known as a place in the Middle East, supposedly spanning from the Jordan River Valley to Lebanon, including modern day Israel. The area has much religious significance, and the breed is discussed in many ancient texts.

A dog very similar to this one can be seen drawn in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs as well.

The breed’s life in Canaan can also be suggested by their personality. The dog’s natural wariness and caution around strangers suggest that they have been guard dogs for a long time.

The area was known for being very fertile, sponsoring early agriculture. It’s most likely that this breed was used by Canaanites as a guard for their herds.

As opposed to most breeds, interest in the Canaan dog did not spread throughout the ancient world. 

The Canaan dog breed wasn’t popular among the Romans, as they mostly domesticated dogs that they found to have the best working abilities of use to themselves.

These dogs remained somewhat unknown to the rest of the world, and, resided around their roots in Canaan.

The Canaan dog’s natural existence in the deserts of the area continued on undisturbed for a while.

They thrived in fertile areas around Israel, and most likely bred with other wild dogs. These dogs were also used as guard dogs by nomads in the desert. It wouldn’t be until the early 1900’s that the breed would once again be exposed to the influence of the outside world.

At the beginning of the 1900s, these dogs were reintroduced to the world. Dr. Rudolphina Menzel is responsible for the breed’s introduction to the modern world. She was tasked with producing a dog that could guard armed forces in the desert during Israel’s fight to become an independent nation.

These dogs were also used as mine detectors for desert forces and proved to be very effective.

Once they were brought into the modern world during WW2, they continued to gain in popularity through their natural talents.

Others sought out the dogs for simply as companions and domestic pets. Despite their growing popularity in Europe, it took longer for these dogs to gain fame in the Western Hemisphere. Dr. Menzel introduced the first Canaan dogs into the US in 1965.

Today, although they have made their way around the world, the Canaan still remains a rare breed of dog.

In 2015, it ranked 170th most popular out of the 185 dog breeds registered by the AKC. It still remains a very popular dog in Israel, where it holds the title as the nation’s dog, but as their rank suggests, they are extremely rare in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Vital Statistics

Average Height: 19-24 in. (48-61cm)

Average Weight: 35-55 lbs. (16-25 kg)

Average Lifespan: 12-15 years

Listed in the Herding Group


The Canaan dog breed is known for being multicolored. The AKC recognizes 7 colors and 7 markings for this breed.

The colors include:

  • Black
  • Tan
  • Red
  • Golden
  • Liver
  • Cream
  • White

Ease of Training

One of the reasons people are drawn to the Canaan dog breed is their ease of training. A well trained Canaan makes a great pet, so it’s worth the effort.

These dogs are known for being somewhat stubborn when it comes to training, so it’s best to earn the dog’s trust first and foremost. It’s also important to let them know who’s in charge early on, or else they’ll assume the position themselves.

Owners of this breed also tend to find difficulty when having guests, as these dogs are especially cautious of strangers. It’s highly recommended that these dogs are socialized a lot when they are young, so they are more comfortable around other people and pets. If not, the dog will become anxious and bark frequently. Dog Owners often take their dogs to dog schools to socialize them with other canines.

This breed tends to be fairly mouthy all together, which can become a nuisance at times. For the most part, they will be barking at strangers, or anything that seems unusual or out of place to them.

The best way to get them to bark less is by teaching them how to distinguish between friend and foe. Guests have to be introduced as trustworthy individuals rather than strangers.


When it comes to security, the Canaan dog breed is the dog for the job. After all, they’ve been guarding people and their property for a couple thousand years, they must be pretty good at it.

While their natural caution towards strangers makes socializing difficult, it is great for being wary of intruders. If there is an intruder on the property, this dog will know before anyone else does.

A Canaan dog is capable of keeping a vigilant watch on its owner’s property.This breed’s vocal personality makes it an excellent watchdog.

Once alerted to the presence of an intruder, this dog will be able to alert its owner to the threat. This is an ideal breed for protecting you, your family, and your property.

While they will be able to alert you to a threat, they’re likely to have more difficulty defending you from one.

The Canaan dog breed isn’t known for being particularly aggressive towards humans, although they will attempt to protect their owner if it comes to it. Unfortunately, given the dog’s medium size and weight, it’s not likely it will prove very useful in protecting you from a threat.


The Canaan dog breed does not prove to be too difficult to groom. Their dense coat sheds heavily twice a year, but otherwise, it sheds fairly little. Given their lack of shedding, the breed typically only requires being brushed once a week. Regular brushing removes dead hair, prevents matting, and keeps the dog clean.

The breed needs more than its coat brushed, though. It’s important to maintain the dog’s dental health as well. Regular brushing helps remove plaque and prevent tartar buildup, along with keeping the dog’s breath smelling fresh. It is recommended that these dogs have their teeth brushed at least 2-3 times a week.

These dogs need to be bathed every once in awhile as well. However, they do not tend to get dirty, so frequent bathing is not recommended. Frequent bathing will dry the dog’s skin out, and strip its coat of natural protective oils. It’s recommended that Canaan dogs are bathed once every other month.

It’s important to maintain a dog’s nails as well. If a dog’s nails get too long, they may become uncomfortable and even painful. It’s best to clip them before they get too long, so as to prevent discomfort. A good way to tell if a dog’s nails are too long is if you can hear them click against the ground as they move. Otherwise, it’s typical that they’ll need clipping every 2-3 weeks.

Health Considerations

All dogs are bound to face some sort of health issues during their lifetime. That’s why it is important to be aware of them, as some breeds are more prone to certain health problems than others. Altogether, however, the Canaan dog is a relatively healthy breed.

All owners should be able to provide the necessary healthcare for their dog. While not all Canaan dogs are bound to be affected by any of these health issues, it’s important to know the risks when buying the breed.

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Thrombopathia
  • von Willebrand’s disease
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia

It’s always important to purchase a dog from a reputable breeder. A good breeder will know a lot about the breed and be able to pass health checks for their dogs.

Famous Canaan Dogs

Dugma – The first Canaan dog that was re-domesticated in the early 1900s.

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