Originating in the area that is now Israel, Lebanon, and other neighboring countries, the Canaan Dog (pronounced "kay-nen") lived mainly undomesticated until the 20th century and were eventually bred to be used as a guardian and herder. Due to their long existence in the region, they earned themselves the recognition of being the national dog of Israel. The ancestors of this ancient breed, referred to as the Kelef K'naani (meaning "Canaan Dog" in Hebrew), were used to look after flocks of sheep in ancient Palestine and Phoenicia around 3000 B.C.E. Tomb drawings in Egypt, which date back to around 2200 or 2000 B.C.E., have been discovered that depict a dog who looks very similar to the modern-day Canaan Dog, showing that the breed has not changed much over the centuries. Not only were these dogs used for herding, but they also saw work as mine detectors, messengers, and service dogs during World War II.
The Canaan Dog is an ancient, Spitz-type herding breed that is both athletic, graceful, and well-balanced. Able to have survived in the desert for centuries, these dogs have a lean, muscular body and the ability to defend themselves from other predators such as wolves and jackals. Canaan Dogs have a straight, harsh topcoat that serves to protect them from the hot climate of their native homeland with a soft, short undercoat. Although known for their wedge-shaped head and erect ears, the breed also has a well-proportioned muzzle with a dark or liver-colored nose to match the color of the coat and dark, almond-shaped eyes. The tail of the primitive Canaan Dog can be carried in a curl or sickle over the lower back.
This ancient breed has been used throughout the Middle East as herders of goat and sheep due to their confidence, versatility, and responsiveness. These qualities, along with their protective nature and devotion to their families, make the Canaan Dog an excellent guardian. Although alert and hard-working, their natural instinct of self-preservation tends to make them mistrustful of unfamiliar people, animals, and new environments, making early socialization and training classes extremely important for this territorial breed. Having been undomesticated for centuries, the Canaan is very adaptable to either urban or rural living situations and are not considered to be overly dependent. These intelligent dogs can be quite trainable with a patient owner even though their wild heritage gives them a certain degree of independence. A properly socialized Canaan loves the company of children and tends to be quite protective of them. When it comes to exercise, they are not considered to have an excessive energy level but have been known to participate in various dog sports and other activities, giving a great outlet for physical and mental activity. Although the Canaan is an independent thinker with a strong personality, they can make an extremely devoted companion and loyal family pet for an experienced dog owner.