Canaan Dogs in Obedience
(No, its NOT an oxymoron!)

Indy and Ursula love the flip finish!

Doing obedience with your Canaan Dog can be an exhilarating experience or a humbling experience (but usually both). The joy of doing obedience with a canaan dog working with sparkle, verve, and precision cannot be topped; nor can the embarrassment when the same dog decides that obedience is not on the agenda that day.

In obedience, as in agility, the dog and handler must work as a team, each trusting the other. As a pariah dog, the Canaan Dog has a strong drive to continuously assess his environment and be alert to possible dangers; this vigilance and cautiousness is in contrast to the focussed attention to the handler which is the most basic component of formal obedience. The handler must earn the trust and respect of the Canaan Dog, if the handler expects the dog to focus on them to the exclusion of the strange surroundings, activities, and dogs.

Canaan Dogs are "soft" and remember unpleasantness for a long, long time. (On the flip side, they also remember things that they enjoy and their friends for a long time too!) Harsh training methods will usually result in the dog shutting down and refusing to work, as they will remember the punishment more than the reward. Canaan Dogs do best with short, upbeat training sessions, and many trainers have reported excellent success with positive, motivational training methods and clicker training. Some form of correction may be appropriate in obedience training, but it should be tailored to each dog. An appropriate correction may be lack of praise and immediately performing the exercise again. Most Canaan Dogs will rapidly learn that this indicates they did not perform correctly! Often a great reward for performing an exercise correctly is not having to do it again! Sometimes a sound such as "ick!" or "oops!" may help cue the dog that they are not performing the correct behavior. Care should be taken to not harshly correct a dog for failing to perform an exercise which they do not fully understand or in novel circumstances to which they have not been proofed; this may result in the dog shutting down.

Canaan Dogs are highly intelligent and can learn new tasks very rapidly; they often are the star pupils of their puppy classes! However, they are also independent and get bored easily with repetition, so they may not perform known commands reliably. Canaan Dogs have survived millenia as feral pariah dogs, and thus do not have the same "will to please" that that other more typical obedience breeds display, which have been selectively bred for this trait for generations. The role of the trainer is to determine what motivates their Canaan Dog: some dogs are food motivated, others work out of respect and love for their pack leader.

I am still waiting to learn of a Canaan Dog that will work outside its home territory for the chance to play with a toy -- is there one out there??? So far my queries of other canaan dog trainers have met with gales of disbelieving laughter and tales of the scornful looks their dogs have given them. Lack of willingness to play with toys outside the house does not, however, necessarily hinder obedience training; my Canaan Dog was trained to retrieve the dumbbell using clicker training and his retrieve is fast, precise, and reliable (his NQs in Open are in heeling, never on the retrieves). Most canaan dogs love jumping and scent work as well, which makes the Open and Utility obedience intrinsically more interesting to them than Novice.

There is a new type of obedience, Rally, in which Canaan Dogs excel. Unlike formal obedience, which forbids praise and interaction during the exercises, handlers are encouraged to give praise and encouragement in Rally. The Canaan Dogs which have participated to date have enjoyed it, and it shows - with excellent scores and class placements! This dynamic and interactive form of obedience is well suited to the Canaan Dog.

go back to the NCCDF home page!

Copyright © Northern California Canaan Dog Fanciers