Canaan Dog

AKC Herding Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Canaan Dog was originally bred in the 1930s from the feral dogs of Israel. Bedouins still use the breed today to guard, herd, and manage their sheep. The Canaan Dog has also been used as a war sentry and messenger, mine detector, and even as a guide for the blind. The Canaan Dog is a very hardy breed, well-adapted to the deserts of his native Israel. Drawings of similar-looking dogs were found in tombs dated to 2200 BC. The breed was first imported to the United States in 1965 when four dogs sent by the breed’s founder, Dr. Menzel, arrived. The Canaan Dog entered the AKC Herding group in 1997.


The Canaan Dog is a sturdy, medium-sized, squarely proportioned dog with a bushy tail carried curled over the back when the dog is excited. The ears are erect, medium to large, and set low. The head is shaped like a blunt wedge with a shallow, but defined, stop. The nose is dark, and the slightly slanted almond-shaped eyes are dark brown with dark rims that harmonize with the coat color. The eyes should have an alert, inquisitive expression. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite (level bites are acceptable under the FCI standard). The front legs should be absolutely straight. The round cat-like feet should have hard pads.

The double coat protects the dog from extreme hot or cold temperatures. The outer coat is 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches long and lies flat, and the undercoat is straight, soft, and short. Color is either solid black, brown, white, or in a patched pattern of white with black or brown. (The FCI standard allows solid white dogs, but the AKC standard does not.) Solid colors may have white trim on the chest, feet, and tip of tail. The first four imports to the U.S. were white with black mask and patches. These dogs and subsequent imports introduced a variety of color patterns. Although the majority of U.S. dogs are white and black, the complete range of colors is represented in the U.S. population of Canaan Dogs. Brown and white and black and white dogs should have a symmetrical mask matching the color of their patches. Red dogs are either born creamy white and then darken, or dark reddish brown and then lighten.

Key Facts

  • Height: 20 to 24 in. (male); 19 to 23 in. (female)
  • Size: Medium
  • Weight: 45 to 55 lbs. (male); 35 to 45 lbs. (female)
  • Availability: Very difficult to find
  • Talents: Tracking, herding, watchdog, guarding, police work, military work, agility, and competitive obedience


Canaan Dogs are very clean and do not have a doggy odor. A healthy, hearty breed with one of the lowest rates of hip dysplasia.


Tends to be a one-person or one-family dog. Very defensive of his territory, the Canaan Dog is a great watchdog. He should be well socialized when young with both dogs and people (especially children), as the breed tends to be naturally wary of strangers, though he is very friendly with those he knows. This breed can do exceptionally well in obedience, but tends to get bored with overly repetitive training. Very intelligent and independent. Responsive to training. Positive, motivational training works best with this breed. Outstanding at agility, tracking, and other pursuits where he is expected to think independently, yet work as a team with his handler. Many dogs display herding instincts and compete in herding trials. Gentle, devoted, and docile, but also lively, alert, and protective. A willing and vigilant guard dog. May be aggressive with dogs of the same sex.


  • Children: Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness: Moderately protective
  • Trainability: Very easy to train
  • Independence: Fairly independent
  • Dominance: High
  • Other Pets: Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
  • Combativeness: Can be a bit dog-aggressive
  • Noise: Average barker
  • Indoors: Moderately active indoors
  • Owner: Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming: Very little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat: Short coat
  • Shedding: Seasonally heavy shedder
  • Exercise: Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging: An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments: Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space: Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate: Does well in most climates
  • Longevity: Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Canaan Dog Breed Standard

Canaan Dog Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Canaan Dog

Canaan Dog Gifts