Canaani Togethering at the Quarry Reservation

Submitted by Jerry Halberstadt on Sun, 02/03/2008 - 21:47

Two Canaans with feisty reputations met and got along like normal Canaan dogs.

Dog people focus on their dogs, obsess about their dogs, talk about their dogs, and are at risk for not having any friends who don't have dogs. But it wouldn't matter because it seems like their dog is the only friend that matters. And that is as it should be. Today Beth and Mike have been added to my list of favorite dog people. Beth is active in the Israel Canaan Dog Club of America and we had been in touch for some time, but this was our first chance to meet.

Beth has an 8 year old cream-colored Canaan dog, Adam, with a white blaze; who is somewhat shy around other dogs but with a wonderful calm disposition. Mainly his shyness is because a couple of dogs that he could beat in a fair play fight had gotten to him when he was on lead and unable to maneuver and defend himself.

I have a 5 year old Canaan bitch (red and white, with patches of red and "ticking" or spots of red) who doesn't play well with others, probably out of fear and probably because other breeds don't talk the same dialect of dog. At least that has been one theory. It took some serious work and telephone advice from an excellent behaviorist, Brenda Aloff Dog Aggression, to desensitize Keren and teach her to be calm around other dogs. To the point where people with snarling dogs would congratulate me on how well behaved Keren was!

Keren and I drove out to the Quarry woods and met Beth and Mike, plus Adam and their mixed breed hound, Ginger. All the dogs were on long leads (10 meters/30 ft) throughout the walk. On meeting, Adam barked and growled a bit but Keren was amazingly placid and calm. As they approached each other, Keren slightly bared her teeth. "Hello, but don't make any moves on me if you like living." There was a lot of peeing and sniffing of pee. "Getting to know you." Keren sniffed at Adam's rear and between his legs. Adam politely restricted his investigation to Keren's front end (I suspect this respectful demeanor is out of deference to Keren's clear signals (partly-bared teeth) and probably why Keren did not explode at him.) Keren's tail stayed down but she remained calm, and Adam acted curious but not overly eager.

A while later, when Keren finally paid attention to Ginger, there was a bit of fuss--Ginger probably a bit squeamish and afraid and very submissive. Ginger was out in front. Keren just behind her. Coming up fast on the trail was Adam, growling a protection signal--Ginger is part of his pack, no fighting allowed. Keren turned from Ginger, faced Adam, and did a perfect "Yawn" or open mouth display. The expert, Turgid Rugaas, Calming Signals says a yawn in this context means, "Hey big fella, I am not a threat to Ginger, cool it." Wow, Adam understood her and stopped in his tracks. I think this three-dog interaction illustrates another point I learned from Rugaas--some dogs are great peace-makers, and they can teach communication skills better than humans. Adam observed that Ginger was stressed and intervened from a distance, and both Keren and Ginger responded.

At one point after an hour on the trail, both Adam and Keren went down into play bows--they really wanted to romp together but their leads were pretty tangled in bushes and the moment passed. I think Adam and Keren really understood each other and respected each other.

I know that Canaans, like any dogs, will get into serious fights with each other. But I do think that the ease with which Adam and Keren got along, contrasted with Keren's history with a variety of dogs, points to a key difference between Canaans and other, more civilized dogs. Simply, as others have proposed, the Canaan language and etiquette is very rigid and the Canaan is quick to reject the dog that is not clear and/or respectful of etiquette. I don't discount entirely fear, jealousy, guarding one's owner, or other possibilities but the dog-dog communication issue is hard to ignore.

This was the most interaction Keren has had with another dog for a couple of years. And with the least amount of insecurity. I hope that someday Keren and Adam, or another Canaan, can run free together someplace where there is room and safety.

A few photographs made after the walk show how comfortable the animals became with each other. Lime Quarry Photographs