The Canaan dog is a very ancient type of dog and has been known as a natural inhabitant of the area now called Israel since biblical times. There are also pre-biblical carvings depicting dogs which are very similar to the Canaan Dog of today. The Bedouin and Druse still use Canaan type Pariah Dogs as guards dogs. They do not breed them but take male puppies from wild and semi-wild litters. Their natural alertness, territorial nature guarding instinct makes them ideal for keeping predators and thieves at bay. The true origins of the Canaan dog are not known, some believe them to be true wild dogs while others believe they were domesticated dogs that turned feral. 

Professor Menzel
In the 1930's Professor Rudolphina Menzel and her husband Dr.Rudolph Menzel, immigrated from Vienna to Palestine, now known as Israel. She was very well known in Europe as an expert cynologist and animal behaviourist. 
When she arrived in Israel Prof. Menzel was asked by The Jewish Defence Forces (The Haganah) if she would help them set up a service dog organisation.  She found that the dogs most commonly used by the military, German Shepherds, Boxers and Dobermans suffered in the difficult climate and terrain. She observed that the native breed, which she called the Canaan dog after the land of Canaan, was very well adapted to the conditions and possessed qualities which would make them good service dogs. They were extremely alert and had very well developed senses. She began to capture wild and semi-wild Canaan dogs and found them very adaptable, amenable to training and domestication. One dog she captured she named Dugma, it took her six months to capture him yet she was able to take him into town on a lead within a few weeks.

She initiated the first domestic breeding programme in 1934, the dogs were very successful as service dogs and were used for tracking and guard work as well as mine detection. She went on in 1953 to train Canaan dogs as guide dogs for the blind, she had reasonable success, but the Canaan dogs independent nature meant that it was not the ideal breed for this type of work.

As Prof. Menzel wanted to preserve the true pariah type, the resistance to disease, their adaptation to the climate and their modest food and care requirements, she included wild stock in her breeding programme whenever possible. She began to export Canaan dogs in the 1960's to Europe and the US.

The Israel Kennel Club recognised the Canaan dog in 1953, the FCI in 1966, the UK Kennel Club in 1970, The United Kennel Club in 1992, The Canadian Kennel Club in 1993 and the American Kennel Club in 1997.

The aim of breeders today should ideally be to preserve the Canaan dog's unique character, natural traits and survival instinct in line with Prof. Menzel's vision for the breed. Wild dogs are still occasionally captured and used in breeding programmes today to help preserve these characteristics.