The Canaan Dog is an ancient breed, and they, like the other pariah dogs of the Middle East, are thought to have originated with the Indian Wolf. A member of the southern Spitz family, the Canaan Dog was the guard and herd dog of the ancient Israelites. After the dispersion of the Israelites from the land of Canaan, the dogs then too dispersed, the majority ending up in the Negev Desert that harboured much Israeli wildlife. In 1934, at the request of the first Jewish defense force for her to develop a service dog organisation, Dr Rudolphina Menzel captured some wild Canaans, eventually developed a breeding program, and introduced the breed as a working dog.
Today the Canaan Dog can still be found guarding the Bedouin camps and flocks. The Israeli public has also come to value the qualities of its native breed and use the Canaan Dog as home guard dogs. The Israeli army continues to rely almost exclusively on Canaan Dogs for guard and patrol work. Though numerically small, the breed has established worldwide recognition with populations firmly established in Israel, England, Western Europe and the USA.
The Canaan Dog is a medium-sized, well balanced, square dog of the pariah dog type. They are 50-60 cm (20-24 inches) at the shoulder and weigh from 18-25kg (40-55 lbs). Their outer coat is dense, harsh and straight and of short to medium length with a close and profuse undercoat, according to season. They come in a variety of colours, from sand to red-brown, white or black, and may be solid or spotted.
The Canaan Dog is a healthy and adaptable dog, which needs an owner with a firm but loving hand. They are an excellent family dog, easily trained, but also easily bored with repetitive commands. They need moderate exercise, are territorial and defensive of this territory. Canaans are very clean dogs with frugal eating habits and their grooming needs are minimal. Though wary and somewhat aloof with strangers, Canaan Dogs are very loving with the family and really enjoy being stroked and cuddled. This handsome, versatile dog appeals most to those who have a respect for a natural dog with the ability to survive and a loyalty and love given by choice.
Due in part to the fact that the foundation stock for the breed were healthy dogs taken from the wild, and partly to the fact that in Israel, Canaans are still be taken from the wild and introduced into the gene-pool, combined with the dedication and care taken by breeders, the Canaan Dog is an exceptionally healthy breed. Because of this, there are no required health tests for the breed, but it is recommended that breeding stock be hip-scored and eye-tested to help prevent any problems creeping into the breed.