How Best To Judge A Canaan Dog
How Best To Judge A Canaan Dog
By Ellen Minto (Anacan)

It is difficult for some people to come into the show ring to judge a breed other than their own and to leave behind the prejudices they have developed in their breed. It has happened on more than one occasion that a person judging Canaan Dogs will say, "But they don't have feet like a .....", or "They don't carry their tail like a ...." Coat colour prejudice can be another issue where a certain coat colour is preferred (or disliked) in their breed and they allow that to affect the way they judge Canaans.

When a breed standard calls for something that would be considered a fault in most breeds, such as an undershot bite or a bowed front, judges will accept that in the standard. They will allow for a show of feistiness in a terrier, but they will not tolerate wariness when shown in our breed and will argue with other points in the standard as well. We have had judges say that they disagree with our standard and refuse to judge by it! They would never do so with another breed. Understandably, it can be difficult to not allow preconceived notions and prejudices affect the way one judges any dog, but one shouldn't be judging if they are unable to do so.

Breeders and judges alike should take a share in the responsibility of preserving this amazing breed the way nature intended it to be by breeding and judging properly.

Judging - This is an overview and not a point-by-point breed standard illustration.

The Canaan Dog is a medium-sized dog of the pariah dog type. It should be well-balanced, with moderate angulation and most importantly, should look like it has the potential for survival in the desert. Males should look masculine and bitches should look feminine.

This should bring a definte picture of the type of dog you are looking for. When the dogs enter the ring, the judge should look at them with this picture in mind. Are there any dogs in the class which can be eliminated from top honours because they do not fit this picture? Any dog that is overly large or heavy, or conversely, has too little substance in proportion to its overall size would not be the best candidate for survival on its own.

CDC of the UK Open Show
Photo by Ellen Minto

In all of the animal kingdom males and females are generally easy to tell apart. For example, it is the lion that carries the heavy mane; a stallion looks physically quite different from a mare; and it is usually the male bird that carries the brightly-coloured plummage. You should be able to tell with ease which Canaan is a male and which is a female. Even a larger female can be very feminine (not weak or snipey) in the head and a smaller male, quite masculine without coarseness.

You've had your first overall impression and now you ask the dogs to be moved. The Canaan Dog should move with a brisk natural trot which demonstrates agility and stamina. Are any of the dogs exhibiting hackney movement indicative of a straight shoulder? Are any overextending and striking their forelegs with their hind indicative of more angulation in the rear than in front (not well-balanced) or being too shortly coupled? Remember correct movement is essential in the Canaan Dog. Correct movement is indicative of correct structure. There are far too many judges who do not seem to be able to recognise correct movement. If this is a problem for you, attend another KC conformation and movement seminar and really pay attention this time around.

Now it is time to examine each dog individually and correct approach will make all the difference in the world Anyone judging dogs should know not to wear perfume or aftershaves, which often contain oils and pheromones which are offensive to the dog. Dangling jewelry is a no-no as are billowing skirts and overcoats. I have seen judges who should have known better wearing dresses in the ring that billowed right over the dog's head! This is all commonsense and applies to judging any breed of dog, but surprisingly, some people just don't think about these things before going into the ring. Oh, a smile would not go amiss either. Too often you see judges in the ring looking like they are carrying out some kind of punishment. If you don't enjoy what you are doing, please don't do it!

Don't dress like this.
Photo by Ellen Minto

Canaan Dogs, as with several other breeds, do not like prolonged direct eye contact. This is a very dominant gesture and can unnerve even the seasoned show Canaan. Perhaps surprisingly to some, acting hesitant can also be unnerving as the Canaan will feel that there must be something wrong if you are acting in a way they perceive as fearful.

A very young Canaan Dog starting its show career will, in all probability, be quite outgoing. However, though the timing may vary, it is usually aroung the ten-month of age mark that a Canaan will start to go through their adolescent fear period and will start to back off from the judge. A mistake many well-intentioned judges make is to ask the handler to restack their dog when this happens, but with each attempted approach by the judge, the dog will back off again. It is far better if the judge allows the young dog to sit, then runs their hand over the dog, and then ask the handler to restack the dog. In better than 90% of the time, the dog will then stand (albeit still a bit apprehensively). It is the initial approach that unnerves the youngster as they don't know whether or not the judge poses a threat to them. Given time, the Canaan will become more confident. But this can take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years depending on the owner's reaction to the dog's behaviour as well as the judges'. I have yet to meet a Canaan in the UK that would pose a threat of biting even when displaying nervousness (and if there is one they should not be in the show ring or in anyone's breeding programme), so please don't be afraid to approach a nervous Canaan. Your understanding approach can make or break this youngster's future show career.

An adult Canaan should be willing to stand for the judge. Though you do get the exceptions, most Canaans may not seem overjoyed about allowing a stranger to go over them, often looking right through the judge as though he/she doesn't exist. A slight drawing back of the head on initial approach should not be faulted. You start with the head checking for the proper wedge-shape, the breadth of which should be in balance with the dog's overall proportions. You also check for the correct low ear-set and correct ear shape. The eyes should be dark and slightly almond-shaped. Not only does a round eye spoil the looks of the dog but the almond eye has a function, reducing glare just as squinting your own eyes in the bright sun does for you. Though a black nose is preferred, allowances are made, even in the motherland, for a snow nose on a light-coloured dog. A true snow nose usually darkens with exposure to the sun and lightens during the winter months. Next the Canaan should have full dentition with a scissor or level bite.

Going down you look at the dog's front. The Canaan should have a deep, but not overly broad chest. There are far more fronts in the breed that are too narrow rather than too broad, though I have seen one or two of the later. The dog's forelegs should be straight with feet facing forward, the shoulders oblique and muscular with elbows close to the body. The feet should be catlike with hard pads. A note here, Canaan Dogs' nails do tend to grow quickly as in their natural environment they would be digging in hard ground. Therefore their nails are generally longer than in other breeds.

As you move over the dog you feel the shoulders, and then examine the coat for correct texture and undercoat. Though the standard calls for a coat which is straight, harsh and medium length, there are, to all appearances, two types of coat. The reason for the difference is that the coat is allowed to be anywhere from 1/2" to 1-1/2" in length. The shorter coat will appear to be flatter-lying while the longer coat, combined with a dense, woolly undercoat will stick out, not unlike a husky. Because of the undercoat, these coats will also feel different. Both coats are correct. What is not correct is lack of undercoat. Obviously undercoat will vary according to season and will not be as thick in a dog that is moulting or just finished moulting.

The topline should be level and firm with the tail set on high. Correct tail set is far more important that tail carriage. Too often judges have judged our breed on tail carriage alone. We have video footage of World Shows to demonstrate that not all Canaans (including some international champions) will carry their tail over their back when in a show ring. We show these videos at our seminars to prove that it is not just true of English Canaans, but of Canaans from around the world. Granted the Canaan on the move looks very good with the tail curled over its back, and if you have two dogs of equal merit in every way, by all means give the top honours to the dog with the happy tail carriage. But all we ask is that you do not judge on tail carriage alone. We have had judges admit that they put up on dog for that reason only. You must look at the entire dog and aesthetics should not weigh as heavily in your judgement as construction and movement.

You now look at the rear. The stifles should be well-bent, hocks well let down and the buttocks should be lightly feathered. Are the dog's front and rear in balance?

It is now time to move the dog. Most of you will call for the dog to move in a triangle and then straight up and down. It is essential that you watch the dog as it moves away from you and comes back towards you. Nice side movement is in itself not enough. I have seen dogs with nice side movement that actually crossed in the rear and paddled in the front. Remember, correct movement is essential.

You've gone over each dog and now it's time to make your final evaluation. Don't hesitate to check that shoulder again or to move a dog again to make sure you get it right. Remember to weight all faults against the idea that the dog should look like it has potential to survive in the desert.

Wild Canaan Dogs

Canaan Dogs do not live in the sandy interior of the desert, but in the rocky, gritty outskirts.

Now make your placements confident that, at least in your opinion, you have done the right thing.