Shaar Hagai Canaan Dogs
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Judging the Canaan Dog

Another outstanding characteristic of the Canaan temperament is his loyalty and devotion to his own pack.  The Canaan is extremely attached and devoted to his own people, and feels no necessity to be fussed over or petted by strangers. He may condescend to his masters wishes by allowing visitors to pet him, but he does not seek this kind of attention.  His devotion is not expressed blatantly. He is not the kind of dog that is always climbing all over you, shoving his nose under your hand, and following you from room to room, crying if the door is shut on him.  He is perfectly content to lie quietly in the corner, knowing where you are and what you are doing, and to be ready to immediately join you if something interesting is going on.


However, his total devotion is unquestioned.  The Canaan has a very hard time adjusting to a new home and new owners once he has given his love and loyalty to someone.  An excellent example of this was Barry, a young dog that I sold to a new home when he was about ten months old.  His new owner was an elderly lady who wanted a dog to live with her in the house as a companion and watch dog.  She had had dogs before and knew how to handle them.  Barry had grown up out of doors with the other puppies and dogs, and had lived in the house with me for a short period when I housetrained him and gave him some basic obedience training.


About a week after Barry went to his new home, his new owner called me to tell me that he still wasnt eating and also wasnt drinking. She was giving him water into his mouth with a spoon, and trying to hand feed him.  He spent his time under the kitchen table very depressed.  I gave her some advice on how to manage him, and told her that it was hard for him to adjust, but he certainly would start eating very soon. He must be very hungry by now!

Nearly another week passed, and Barry was still refusing to eat and drink.  There was nothing more to be done. I went to pick him up and bring him home.  The minute he saw me, he came out from under the table and ran to the door, Lets go home! clear in every line of his body.  When we got home, he ran in at the gate, snarled at a neighbor that was too close to his territory, went directly to the water dish, drank his fill, and happily ate a hearty meal.  He was home!


Canaans, being very survival oriented, usually do not go to this extreme, but I have had Canaans in boarding with me who would eat, drink, come out of their kennels to do their business, and then immediately return and sit in the corner, waiting for their masters to come and get them and refusing to have anything to do with me.  Most of my own dogs, if I have to go away and leave someone to care for the kennel, will eat and drink, but will refuse to let anyone else touch them until I get back.


On the other hand, combined with extreme loyalty and devotion, is the characteristic of independence.  The Canaan has a mind of his own.  You can tell him what to do, but he will make up his own mind.  A successful relationship with a Canaan is based on mutual respect, never on the expectation of submissiveness.  If you have built up the proper relationship of leadership with your Canaan, and he respects you, and if you respect his drives and needs, then the partnership will be a success. 


This, of course, is connected with the question of obedience.  The Canaan can be very obedient.  He does, very easily, learn the rules of the household, is very easy to housetrain, is not destructive, and quickly learns to understand commands.  However, he will not follow commands automatically.  One example of this was Zaaka (Isr.Ch. Zaaka me Shaar Hagai).  She was a bitch that I did quite a lot of obedience work with.  At the time, we were members of an obedience club, and we all practiced together and did shows and demonstrations.  One day, we went to a new location for practice.  It was a huge field, empty except for a few huge boulders scattered here and there.  We were practicing a group recall, and all the dogs were left in a Sit-stay at one end of the field while we went off to the other end.  We all called the dogs, and they all came running towards us.  Zaaka, however, as she came past one of the huge boulders, slowed down, stopped, smelled it, walked around and examined it from all sides, and then, after deciding that it posed no threat, happily continued on her way to me.


However, I have never had any trouble with disobedience when it was important.  The Canaans are not dogs that run away, like many of the other Spitz breeds. Even when off lead, they always stay in eye contact.  As pack animals, they will not leave the pack, and are always ready to accept the directions of the leader. 

Canaans work best when they have a good reason or motivation for it.  This can make obedience competition somewhat of a problem. It tends to bore them.  Shachmat (Isr.Int.WW Shachmat me Shaar Hagai), for instance, is very well trained and has won some obedience competitions here. So when I needed a dog to accompany me to do demonstrations for groups of children at various schools and community centers, I decided to take him.  Usually I use a Border Collie for these demonstrations. Border Collies are willing to do the same thing over and over a million times. Just give me a command, please, please, please!!!! but the bitch that usually worked these shows was in season.  Shachmat was thrilled. He loves going places.  The first show he did superbly, with great style and verve.  The next day, he also worked very well, though he threw me a few questioning glances.  But as the days went by, I saw his enthusiasm dwindling more and more. We have done this already!  Why are we doing it again?!!!  Finally, he was still performing all the commands correctly, but in slow motion. This was boring, boring, boring.!  He was glad to relinquish the job to the Border Collie when she finished her season.


Agility and such, on the other hand, is fun and interesting, and the Canaans usually love it.


I would like to mention once again the characteristic of suspiciousness.  This is one of the primary traits of the breed, which has been essential for the survival of these dogs.  I have seen articles lately on Canaans being temperament tested under various schemes and tests.  I think it essential that we understand that, while a Canaan will learn to very effectively cope with the norms of his environment, for instance, a city dwelling dog will be accustomed to a lot of noise, traffic, busy streets, trams, and whatever, we do not want to breed for dogs that will be totally laid back and ignore anything that is unusual.  This may be considered to be a stable temperament  and is fine for a Labrador or such, who are expected to be very nonreactive, basically, to strange things.  However, it is not natural behavior for a Canaan. The Canaan must react to strange things and circumstances instantly, though if he is a dog with a stable temperament, he will quickly discern what is threatening and what is not, and will react accordingly.


These are the basic factors in the Canaan temperament.