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Herding - Introduction

U-CDX AKC CH. Ze'ev Midbar, CGC, TDI, AKC-CD/HI/NA/NAJ; AHBA-HTDIs/HRDIIs; CDCA-HS/V; ASCA-STDs-- doing his thing


The Pros and Cons of Herding With Canaan Dogs
By Denise Gordon, USA

The Canaan Dog, though not specifically bred for herding such as the Border Collie, does maintain an instinct to herd, a trait used by nomadic people for millennia and, more recently, in farm/ranch situations with not only sheep and goats, but cattle, ducks and horses. In the United States, Canaans have been routinely tested for that instinct through tests sponsored by the Canaan Dog Club of America (CDCA) and the Israel Dog Club of America (ICDCA); the percentile of those who pass is 40-60% per test, an admirable rate for a non-Border Collie breed. The following is a brief overview of the pros and cons of training a Canaan Dog beyond the instinct level to that of the working stock/trial dog.

Pro: The Canaan Dog, like most herding breeds, possesses a high degree of intelligence and quickly learns new commands; a new mental challenge is always welcome to them. Con: They can be bored easily by repetitious training and will quit working or create mischief (i.e., split the flock for fun).

Pro: The Canaan Dog is an independent, "thinking" dog, who can rescue a bad situation with the sheep (especially in trials). Con: Being independent, the Canaan has a mind and a will of its own and may not want to do what its handler asks (which can also happen in trials). Note: Abusive handling to force the Canaan to the handler's will should never be condoned!

Pro: The Canaan Dog is considered a "loose-eyed", tending style breed, versus the constantly focused "eye" of the Border Collie. Con: The handler should be aware that being "loose-eyed", Canaans can be easily distracted (i.e., a bird or a rabbit crossing nearby), but if a sheep leaves the flock during the distraction, invariably, the dog will automatically go after the miscreant to bring it back.

Pro: The Canaan Dog has a natural drive ability, which needs little training to develop it. Con: The herding adage, "great drive, lousy outrun (gather of the sheep)" is true in this case as wide, proper outruns need to be occasionally reinforced once the dog is doing driving work with the stock on a steady basis.

Several overall important points should be mentioned in regards to the training of a Canaan for herding purposes. Obedience training is required; Canaans prefer to halt and stand rather than drop to the ground when called to a stop, so a "down" command is not always necessary, but "come", "stand", "stay" commands are essential. Traditionally aloof in personality, Canaans should be socialized to other dogs and humans; this is an absolute must as other dogs and unfamiliar people may be in the same arena during trial competitions (i.e., to help hold livestock) or helping with farm/ranch work (i.e., to split and hold sheep for shearing or treatment). While they can easily manage small groups of livestock, according to Joan Capaiu, Herding Chairperson for the CDCA, Canaans prefer large flocks or herds, as they have been used to work 200-300 head of sheep and goats in their native land of the Negev desert in Israel and other locations in the Middle East. In addition, although many herding instructors like to start training dogs at a young age (approx. 6 months), the Canaan Dog is a late maturing breed (i.e., full maturity at 4-5 years of age), and thus, can start its training later in life, if necessary. An example of this fact is the top herding Canaan Dog in the United States, "Wolf" (UKC-CDX AKC Ch. Ze'ev Midbar, AKC-CD/HS/NA/NAJ, CDCA-HS/V, AHBA-HTDI-s/HRDI-s) was instinct tested at 1 years old, did not begin training with sheep until 3 years of age, earned his first trial level title with honors at 3 years of age, and became the first Canaan in American history to earn an American Kennel Club (AKC) herding trial level title at 5 years old; definitely, one can teach an older dog new tricks!

In conclusion, in herding, as in all aspects of living with this breed, the Canaan should be regarded as a partner, not a servant. They are a willing herder if given patience and avoidance of the above-mentioned problems by the owner/handler. The Canaan Dog is an adaptable, loyal breed with more "sheep sense" than they are usually given credit.

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Last Updated on the 1st November 2000