Another major characteristic is reactability. To survive in difficult conditions, the Canaan has to be able to react immediately
to various stimuli. This means that, first of all, his senses are extremely keen
and well developed, much more so than those of many other breeds. He has to be totally aware of what is going on around him. Another part of this is suspicion towards anything sudden or unfamiliar. This is a characteristic familiar to anyone who has worked with wild animals. A wild animal must be suspicious of anything strange and ready to react in a fight or flight pattern immediately
in the wild, taking time to look things over will usually result in it being too late to safely react and protect yourself. And in most situations, all wild animals will use the flight option, unless the circumstances
force them to fight. The Canaan is highly suspicious of anything he is not familiar
with and his tendency is to back off as long as he is not sure that it is safe. This
results in people that do not understand basic survival behavior calling him shy or cowardly at times. But this is not true. This is simple self-preservation. We see that Canaans that have a good deal of experience with varying environments,
people, and situations are much calmer and less likely to be shy. They have learned what is normal and what requires a reaction. There is a good deal of difference in individuals, some being much more highly reactive
than others. The relationship of the dog with his master and family has a good
deal of influence on his reactivity as well. Over the last years, we have seen
the development, overall, of a more stable and calm temperament. The Canaan, living more and more as a city dog and pet, has
begun to adapt himself to his new life style, that of a 21st century dog.
We should not penalize those Canaans that still show extreme reactivity, however, but try to help them with their adaptation
to modern life. To the contrary, I think that we should penalize any Canaan that
does not show basic traits of caution and suspicion. A dog that is friendly to
everyone in all circumstances, unafraid of anything new or strange, and calm and accepting of everything -is not a Canaan!
Another important temperament characteristic
of the Canaan is his need for structure, to be part of a pack. The pack structure
is a very basic part of the canine social structure. All dogs want to be part
of a pack. Isolation is the most serious punishment you can use on a dog. The
Canaan, however, as a primitive dog, very much needs a well-organized pack hierarchy to provide him with the tools for coping
with everyday life. In a pack, there is always a clearly defined and accepted
leader, and this leader provides confidence and an example of behavior to the more junior pack members. The Canaan very much needs this hierarchy. He wants to know his place in the pack, and to have a leader
that he can depend on. This gives him self-confidence and courage. If there is no leader, one of two things may happen. The dog may become totally lacking in self-confidence
and be unable to cope with anything, and will then be labeled shy or cowardly. If
he is a dog with a more dominant nature, he may decide that if there is no leader, than he will be the leader, and he becomes
dominant, hard to control, and aggressive. This dog tries to lead, but doesnt
have the experience to know how to react to various situations, and ends up making many mistakes, some of which may be serious.
A Canaan who knows that you are his leader
is self confident and content. He knows he can rely on you to give him the example of correct behavior that he must follow,
and an indication of how to behave in unfamiliar circumstances. He also feels,
as part of a pack, that he is not alone, but that he has support in coping with things.
Associated with pack behavior is territoriality. Defense of the packs territory is essential to wild canines. The territory contains
the packs necessities for survival: food, shelter, and a place to raise offspring. Overpopulation
of a territory, or its invasion by outsiders could have serious results for all. Out
of this basic necessity of defending the packs territory has come the strong, well-developed instinct of the Canaan to guard
and protect his property. The Canaan does not want strangers, whether human or
animal, invading his territory, and he will do what is necessary to protect it. The
territory includes not only an actual physical location, but whatever is within it, which may also be his humans, their possessions,
other livestock and so on.
Our own pet cats, for instance, belong
to our territory and us, but strange cats from outside the territory are another story!
As a function of the necessity to protect
his territory and his pack, the Canaan will make use of aggression. As a rule,
in all dogs, the amount of aggression used is the minimum that is necessary to gain the desired effect. If barking at approaching strangers is enough to deter them from entering the territory, this is the amount
of aggressive display that will be used. I can have two groups of Canaans in
adjoining yards, for example, and both groups will put on a big show at the fence, barking, snarling and threatening. But this is as far as it goes. Each group is putting on a display to define his territory,
but as each group accepts the boundaries, there is no necessity for increased levels of aggression. However, if a strange animal insists on ignoring warnings and enters the territory, or if one of the other
pack members is physically threatened, than the level of aggression necessary may be greater, even to the point of a bite. In general, even when a dog bites, the bite is intended as a warning or display of
strength and is not serious. It is anti-survival for a dog to be prepared to easily get into a physical confrontation with
another; the possibility of serious injury that will hamper his ability to survive is too great. Serious problems tend to arise if the dog has been trained to bite. His natural inhibitions have
then been removed artificially.
In relation to territorial defense, the
pack structure and acceptance of a leader are very important. When someone comes
to visit me, my dogs see that I, as leader, accept and welcome the visitor. Therefore,
it becomes clear to the dog that this stranger is not a threat to the pack or the territory and is acceptable. Such a visitor can come in, have no fear of being attacked, and the dogs will often even approach, inspect
the newcomer and allow him to stroke them. If the same visitor, however, were
to come when I was not at home, the dogs would not allow him to enter the territory.
The same is true of strange dogs. This is harder for the Canaan to accept,
as for him a strange dog is definitely more of a threat than a strange human. But
I can, through my authority as leader, make it clear to my dogs that a strange dog is allowed to enter. They will not become friendly and accepting, but as long as I am in the vicinity and making the decision,
they will accept the fact that the dog is allowed to enter.
As the pack leader, I also make it very
clear to my dogs that there is no necessity for defense or aggression when we are outside of our territory. Therefore, when I take the dogs out, whether to a show or other location, they are calm and accepting at
meeting strangers and strange dogs. This is not their territory, they are on
neutral ground and therefore can be neutral in their reactions. However, they
may find it necessary to react with a warning or more (if the warning is not heeded) if a stranger, dog or human, gets too
close, thus invading our personal space, or is in some way threatening. An excellent
example of this was presented by Yitzhar (Isr.Ch. Bundessieger Yitzhar me Shaar Hagai) when I was travelling with him in Europe. When accompanying me on walks in new and strange surroundings, he totally ignored
passersby, but if anyone started walking towards me, he would immediately stand in front of me in a protective stance,
growling. Another excellent example was given by Hami (Isr.Ch.WW Hama me Shaar
Hagai). I took her to our local obedience club occasionally. One day, the instructors were starting agitation on dogs that were in training for Schutzhund. I decided to test Hamis reactions. We stood in a circle with
the other dogs and handlers, as the instructor, inside the circle, moved from dog to dog, flapping a burlap sack and making
threatening gestures and noises. The other dogs were in hysterics, leaping up
and down in excitement on the end of the lead, growling, snapping, and trying to lunge at the instructor as the handlers held
them back. Hami stood quietly next to me, watching this display attentively,
but showing no reaction. The instructor, seeing how passive she was, decided
that she would not react, and lounged up to us, suddenly flapping his sack and waving his arms in threat. Hami instantly reacted, snarling and leaping, not for the flapping sack, but in the direction of his throat. The instructor stumbled back in shock. I
was not surprised. Up to this point, it had been interesting to watch, but now
the threat was personal and called for a reaction, which Hami immediately provided.
Never underestimate your Canaan!