Canaan Dog

Other names: Palestinian Pariah Dog, Bedouin Sheepdog

Canaan Dog
Canaan Dog

The Canaan was bred from wild pariah dogs and has been in existence for thousands of years. They were semi-domesticated by the ancient Israelites, who used the breed as watchdogs and herd dogs. In the 1930s, Dr Rudolphina Menzel set up a breeding programme which tamed this semi-wild dog. After that, they were used as police and military dogs. Some dog lovers adopted the Canaan as a domestic pet, although this was rare. Experts believe the Canaan’s domestic population is around 2,000-3,000, with the majority living in Europe and North America.


Key facts about the Canaan Dog

  • Life expectancy : Between 12 and 14 years
  • Temperament : Playful, Intelligent
  • Size : Medium
  • Type of coat : Short, Hard
  • Price : Between £700 and £1200

FCI Group

FCI Group

Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types


Section 6 : Primitive type

Physical characteristics of the Canaan Dog

Adult size

Female dog Between 20 and 24 in
Male dog Between 20 and 24 in


Female dog Between 40 and 55 lb
Male dog Between 40 and 55 lb

Coat colour

Black. Cream. All shades of brown and red, usually with small white markings, or all white with colour patches. White or black masks permitted.

Type of coat

Short to medium. Rough, straight, thick. 

Eye colour

Dark brown. Black. Hazel. 


Medium size. Strong and square body. Thick coat with a large plumed tail. Short, pricked ears and long muzzle. Bears a close resemblance to wild dogs like the Dingo and Pariah dog. 



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The Canaan is not known for being an affectionate dog, although they do form strong bonds with their family members. These dogs have strong survival instincts, which makes them defensive and independent. 


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In the right circumstances, these dogs can be very playful. But games need to be fun, high-energy, and varied. The Canaan will quickly get bored of repetitive games or activities. 


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A high-energy, alert dog. Constantly on the move. Extremely curious. Will keep any owner on their toes.


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They are highly intelligent animals and, in the right hands, easy to train. They need plenty of mental stimulation to feel satisfied.


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More of a scavenger than a hunter, but they still have a relatively high prey-drive.

Fearful / wary of strangers

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This dog gets very nervous around strangers. Such behaviour is what helped them survive for thousands of years. It takes them quite a long time to feel comfortable around new people. 


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Fiercely independent animal. Unless handled correctly, they will become very stubborn. This can lead to disobedient behaviour. It’s important that these dogs respect their owner.

Behaviour of the Canaan Dog

Tolerates solitude

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They don’t need as much human as other breeds. However, the Canaan is a real pack animal. They need “doggy” friends. 

Easy to train / obedience

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In the right hands, these dogs are easy to train. The Canaan is an intelligent animal that thrives on having a firm but fair handler. 


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The Canaan is very territorial and will bark at any perceived “intruders.” They also have a tendency to bark at strangers and other dogs.

Tendency to run away

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They’re quick, agile, and very capable of escaping. A Canaan can jump over a 3 three foot fence and crawl through tight spaces.  


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Unlikely to display any destructive behaviours. However, this dog does have an aggressive streak. Training is vital and should start as early as possible.

Greedy / Gluttony

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After living in the desert for thousands of years, these dogs developed the ability to survive for long periods of time on very little food. 

Guard dog

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A first-class watchdog. Alert, attentive, and extremely territorial.

First dog

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Although they can make great family pets, Canaans are not the best choice for first-time dog owners. They need a confident and assured handler. 


Canaan Dog in a flat

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The Canaan was bred and developed in the deserts of the middle east. As a result, they’re not suited to living in flats or small houses with no garden.

Need for exercise / Sporty

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60 minutes of exercise every day. Ideally, they should be allowed to run off the leash in wide open spaces.

Travelling / easy to transport

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Ok with short car journeys, but will get bored, frustrated, and even anxious on longer road trips. Too big to travel on commercial airliners. 


Canaan Dog and cats

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The Canaan has a high-prey drive and was only domesticated within the last few hundred years. Not suited to live alongside cats.

Canaan Dog and dogs

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Although they generally get on well with other dogs, the Canaan can display aggressive behaviour, especially towards same-sex dogs. The males are very competitive.

Canaan Dog and children

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Canaan Dogs form strong bonds with every member of their family. Whilst not particularly playful, they still enjoy being around children they know. However, they should never be left unsupervised around new children.

Canaan Dog and the elderly

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Not a good choice for an elderly dog owner. Owning a Canaan is a real commitment and these dogs can be difficult to control. 


The initial cost of a Canaan Dog puppy is between £700 to £1,200. The average cost to keep one of these dogs (including vet bills, insurance, and food) is between £50 to £100 a month.


Minimal grooming requirements. A weekly brush is all they really need. 


Profuse shedders during spring and autumn. Moderate the rest of the year.

Nutrition of the Canaan Dog

2 cups of high-quality dog food a day.

Health of the Canaan Dog

Life expectancy

A very healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years.

Strong / robust

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A muscular, well-built dog. Strong, robust, and very tough. 

Withstand heat

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These dogs were bred in the desert;  they have no problems coping in warmer temperatures. 

Withstand cold

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Canaans have a dense coat that keeps them warm during colder times of the year. However, they will need a dog coat if temperatures fall close to freezing point. 

Tendency to put on weight

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No issues with unwanted weight gain or obesity.

Common illnesses

Good to know

Waiting lists for Canaan puppies can be very long, as they are a rare breed.

Same-sex aggression can be a real problem. They must be well socialised from an early age. They need a confident handler. 

Origins and history

The Canaan is a very ancient breed. Their remains have been uncovered by archeologists in and around Israel, and many believe that the Canaan was revered as a sacred animal. This was common for many desert dwelling tribes, as such animals helped them hunt and herd livestock that sustained the wider community. The first Western breeding programmes didn’t start until 1934 and by 1953 the Canaan was being used as a guide dog, a police dog, and a companion dog. Although they can make excellent pets, they’re still relatively unknown outside of the dog breeding community. 


Tish, Amber, Nomad, Sam

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