Canaan Dog Breed: From Pariah Wild Dog to Israeli Army to America

March 30, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

Canaan dogs are not a well known breed in America. Originating in the Middle East the dogs once used by Bedouins to guard their camps can make great companions.


Drs. Rudolph and Rudolphina Menzel first bred Canaan dogs from the Pariah dogs that roamed the wild areas of Palestine. The Israeli army asked the Menzels to breed a dog that could serve many functions.

The same traits that served the Pariah breed in the wild made the Canaan dogs valuable as guards, mine detectors, and as message carriers for the Israeli army.

In Israel they are known as Kelev K'naani.

In September 1965 four Canaan dogs arrived in America. Not a commonly heard of breed they have still captivated many with their appearance and personalities.


  • • Medium size, height 19-24 inches, weight 35-55 pounds
  • • Sturdy build with long legs
  • • Bushy tail that curls tightly when the dog is excited or alert
  • • Head is wedge shaped with broad based ears that have a rounded tip
  • • Eyes are slightly almond shaped and can be dark brown to golden
  • • Life span is 12 – 15 years

The Canaan dog's coat color can range from solid white, black or brown with some patterned with blocks of black or brown on white according to the Dog Breed Info Center, the Canaan Dog Club of America, and the AKC. These colors are the ones recognized by these organizations but not the only colors these animals come in.

What it is hard to find on-line is photos of the Canaan dog colors not accepted by dog breeding and show organizations. Gray coats or brindled are rejected for some reason. These variations are still beautiful dogs with winning personalities.

Personality and Traits

  • • Intelligent and purposeful
  • • Natural guards and herders
  • • Gentle, devoted and docile to their people or family
  • • Love to play and walk especially in the early morning or late afternoon
  • • Love to sleep the day away
  • • Very alert to sounds and sights
  • • Protective of territory and pack (even human pack)

The Canaan dog's natural tendencies make it vital to socialize them from puppies and continue it throughout their lives. Strangers are viewed with suspicion until they become friends. Dogs of the same sex may be seen as potential rivals. The humans around them must be seen as dominant for Canaan dogs to be properly socialized.

  • • Very clean and without a doggy smell
  • • Healthy, Canaans have low incidents of hip dysplasia
  • • Easily housebroken and kennel trained (cover the kennel with a blanket to make it more “den like”

Living with a Canaan dog can be as entertaining as trying; it is up to the humans in their pack. The human must make the rules and enforce with calm assertiveness and the Canaan will respond positively.

Watching a Canaan run with grace and speed shows how good they can be at agility contests if trained. Seeing the mischievous light in their eyes when they discover a new toy is a joy.

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