The Canaan Dog in the Family

Canaans can make marvellous family pets, although they are not suited to everyone. They are extraordinarily loyal and devoted to his whole family – he is not generally a “one man dog”. This trait, however, can make it very difficult to rehome them as an adult if necessary, and it can take a year or more for them to adjust to their new home. Because of this, anybody buying a Canaan must be absolutely sure that it really is the breed they want and can keep for the rest of the dog’s life.

Character & Temperament

The Canaan Dog is quite unique to other breeds, retaining many characteristics which have enabled them to survive in the harsh environment of the desert. As a breed, they tend to be very suspicious of anyone or anything they do not know. Many Canaans, when reaching adolescence, go through an insecure period where this wariness is increased, but as they mature and gain confidence this disappears. Because of this wariness of strangers, early socialising is essential. Those Canaans that have had good socialising at a young age, with a lot of exposure to different people and different situations, tend to be far less suspicious and able to cope with strange situations much better than those who receive little or no socialising.

They are generally excellent with children, being very gentle and tolerent with them. They will also be very protective of children, often alerting you, for instance, if a baby is crying or a child needs you. Children should, of course, be taught to respect the dog and not pester them when they want time alone.

Although Canaans are independent by nature they are also very affectionate and extremely loyal to their family. Being a breed that is highly territorial Canaans are often, by nature, aggressive to other dogs of the same sex, particularly the males. However, good socialising and training can help to modify this behaviour.

Living with other pets

Whilst Canaans can tend to be aggressive to other dogs, particularly on or near their own territory, they rarely show aggression to defenseless animals, especially if raised with other pets. Indeed the Bedouin keep Canaan Dogs in order to protect their livestock. Many owners of Canaan Dogs in the UK have either cats or other small dogs who live quite happily alongside their Canaan.

Do they make good guard dogs?

Canaan Dogs are extremely alert at all times, and their senses are highly developed, with even their eyesight being very keen. This, together with their strong territorial sense, means that they make excellent watch dogs. We say watch, rather than guard, as they are not an “attack” dog but give warning of anything different by barking to alert you, the “pack leader”. When strangers approach the Canaan will bark a warning, but stay out of reach, often circling the intruder.

Do they bark a lot?

It is natural for a Canaan Dog to bark at anything that is different or strange or that they are unsure of or when they feel it necessary to defend their territory. So, yes, they can bark quite a lot. However, they usually bark to get your attention, as pack leader, so that you can come and deal with the problem. Because of this they can be taught, through patience and reassurance, to stop barking when told.


Canaan Dogs are very intelligent, they have to have been in order to survive as a Pariah dog for so many centuries! They learn very quickly, but can soon become bored, and with their independent nature may not reliably perform a command after they have learnt it! To keep his interest, training exercises should be kept short and varied, giving him new challenges as often as possible. They can often appear to be distracted, which is simply due to their natural alertness and being fully aware of their surroundings, constantly watching and listening for any possible threat.

Remember that the easiest way to train is knowing what motivates your Canaan Dog. Whilst discipline is important, particularly with a dominant Canaan, harsh methods of training should never be used. Instead the Canaan will respond much better by reward and praise. Being a naturally clean dog, the Canaan quickly learns the principles of being clean in the house and is usually quickly house-trained. Check out our recommended books for training.


Like all dogs, the Canaan will benefit from daily exercise. However, they are very adaptable and while they love to run and play in fields, and will be able to keep up with any sort of exercise you are willing to give them, they are just as happy to curl up on a comfy chair. Just a couple of short walks a day should keep a Canaan in a fit condition. Of course if you love hiking or cycling then your Canaan Dog is also happy to accompany you!


Canaans tend to be very clean dogs and in general require little grooming, but, like all dogs, will benefit by a good brush about once a week. Canaans moult seasonally and will shed their thick, woolly undercoat in huge amounts (see photo!). At this time they should be brushed at least once every day to remove the dead hair. This keeps them comfortable and encourages the new coat to come in quicker. To remove the dead undercoat, you can use a “rake”, purchased from any good pet shop. This gently removes the dead undercoat, while not damaging the harsh outer-coat.we use a brush called a slicker, which has fine, flexible, metal teeth that can rake the hair out.

What do we love about the Canaan?

What first attracted us to the breed was the fact that they seemed to be so laid back, and then we found out that they were so healthy! We personally find them a very easy breed to own. They are so devoted to you, and yet they don’t “crowd” you as other breeds do. Their characters are unique – the way they always lie curled up in a tight ball with their tail over their nose, the way they typically cross their feet when they lie down, even watching them digging in the garden is fascinating!

What do we hate about the Canaan?

Well, there’s nothing that we really hate about them. It would be nicer if they didn’t go through that excessive wariness as an adolescent, but we can’t say that we absolutely hate that period. it’s just a bit of a nuisance! But if we tried to change that, to breed it out, with genetics being what it is, other things would change with it and in the end the dog you have simply would not be a Canaan.