The Canaan dog is the national dog of Israel and has existed in the Middle East for centuries. This highly trainable dog makes an excellent watch dog.
It gained recognition as a breed through the work of the Drs. Rudolph and Rudolphina Menzel, who started a breeding program to develop a local working dog breed in Israel in the 1930's.
The Canaan dog descends from local pariah dogs that lived as strays on the fringes of Bedouin encampments and as feral dogs in the open, desert areas, for hundreds of years.
As a member of the spitz-family, the Canaan dog is related to other African spitz-type dogs such as the Basenji. Like these breeds it has a strong, square body, showing a clear, sharp outline. The head is wedge-shaped with low-set erect ears. The ears have rounded tips and are low set on the skull.
The bushy tail curls over the back when the dogs is excited. The double coat is straight, harsh and flat-lying. The coat comes in two color patterns: either solid colored or piebald (white with patches of another color), usually black and white in a "Boston Terrier" pattern. Among the solid colors desert colors (sand, gold, red and cream) are the most common colors. Other solid colors include red-brown, white, black, or spotted. Black masks and white markings are allowed on all colors. The coat color may change as the dog ages. Grey, brindle and tri-colored patterns are not permitted.
Solid black is not really typical of the breed; the color is not suited to the desert as it absorbs heat and stands out among the colors of the desert. However, black dogs are sometimes preferred as lead dogs by the Bedouins, precisely because they are easily recognizable. Likewise white is not so often seen as it is too obvious by day and night.
They move with athletic agility and grace in a quick, brisk, ground-covering trot.
Sexual dimorphism is very marked in this breed with males being very masculine in appearance, measuring from 19.5 to 23.5 inches (50 - 60 cm) in height and weighing between 39.5 and 55 lbs (18 to 25 kg).
The Canaan dog is an intelligent, trainable breed with an excellent tracking ability. 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, Canaan dogs become devoted family companions and natural watchdogs. They are aloof with strangers, inquisitive, loyal, and loving with their family. The Canaan Dog is naturally clean and easily housebroken, thanks the strong "denning" instinct of their recent semi-wild past.
Canaan dogs do not require excessive amounts of exercise.
The Canaan Dog Club of America
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The Israel Canaan Dog
by Myrna Shiboleth (Author)
Redomestication of the breed was the sole work of Drs. Rudolph and Rudolphina Menzel. Rudolphina was enlisted with the Haganah (Israeli Defense Force) and asked to develop a canine corps that could assist the Force and protect the israeli settlements.
The ideal working dog would have to be able to survive in the desert climate, which was not the case with the traditional working dogs imported from the West. Rudolphina decided to start her own breeding breeding using local wild dogs, which were best adapted to working and surviving in the desert. She identified three types or possible candidates among the pariah dogs: a heavier Dingo-type, a Collie-type and a slender-type. The Collie-type with its lighter built and spitz-like type were finally chosen as foundation dogs of the Canaan breed. Most of these dogs came from the Druse settlements and free living packs north of Haifa, which were mostly black and white colored. The Menzels established B'nei HaBitachon kennel and named the breed after the ancient land of Canaan.
Some of the dogs from the Menzels' breeding program were trained as guard dogs or as mine detection dogs. Actually, the Canaan dog was the first breed ever to be used to detect land mines. Some of her dogs also worked with the Red Cross, helping to locate the wounded and dead. Some Canaan dogs were also trained to be used as guide dogs for the blind.
Rudolphina kept introducing wild-born dogs in her breeding program, to make sure that the main characteristics for which she had selected these dogs (resistance to diseases, adaptability to the climate, modest requirements in terms of food, care and water) would not get lost.
When Menzel died in 1973 her breeding stock was bought up by Shaar Hagai Kennels, including one important foundation dog Laisih me B'nei HaBitachon, who is found in the pedigree of most Israel-born Canaans.
By 1948, 150 Canaan dogs were registered by the Palestine Kennel Club and the breed was recognized by the Israel Kennel Club in 1953. In 1966 the breed gained official international recognition (of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale) and the 60's saw the first Canaan Dogs exported to the US and Europe. Mrs. Ursula Berkowitz, of California first introduced the breed in the US. Of her four foundation dogs, two came from the institute for the blind founded by Rudolphina, one from the Druse and the fourth one from the Bedouins. Today, the breed is recognized by the AKC and the Canadian Kennel Club.