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9 Native Canadian Dog Breeds – The Guide to All Dogs from Canada

Canadian dogs were originally kept by indigenous people and bred for specific outdoor work and jobs. So if you’re looking to get a dog for the family, you will want to consider the breed’s initial purpose and how it will relate to your current need.

Canadian dog breeds possess desirable qualities that have kept their bloodlines active to date. But on the other hand, there are shortcomings you should be aware of before settling on any particular dog. Each breed has different needs, strengths, and weaknesses.

In this article, we’ll go through various dog breeds of Canada, by examining their traits and the history of their origins. There’s more to Canadian dogs than you may know. Continue reading to learn more about these unique canine breeds.

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All Native Canadian Dogs

The list of all Canadian breeds is not a particularly long one. And when you only consider breeds that are still in existence, the list shrinks even more.

All Canadian dog breeds include:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Canadian Eskimo dog
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling
  • Labrador Husky
  • Landseer
  • Seppala Siberian Sleddog

However, the Tahltan Bear Dog and Hare Indian dog are Canadian breeds that have gone extinct. Still, there are plenty of recognizable dog breeds that you probably didn’t know originated from the land of maple syrup and hockey.

1. Labrador Retriever

Highlights: Active, Friendly, Intelligent

Labrador Retrievers are intelligent because they have high working, obedience, adaptive and instinctive intelligence.

Despite its name, this breed did not come from the Labrador province, but rather from Newfoundland. The Labrador was employed as a water dog to retrieve ducks or fish for fishermen. As such, their fur is well adapted for this job since it repels water while its webbed paws help in swimming.

In the early 1800s, some English nobles spotted the Labs and brought them back home. They called the breed “Labrador dogs” and the name stuck. Farmers and hunters in the United States also adopted this breed, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized it in 1917.

Needless to say, Labrador Retrievers are some of the most well-known breeds in the world today. In the US, they’re the single most popular breed. This makes them the most famous Canadian dog breed to reach the rest of the world – and probably by a long shot.

  • Labrador Retrievers have been America’s favorite breed since topping the AKC registration in 1991 to date.
  • In England, a Labrador is required to have a working certificate for it to stand a chance of becoming a bench show champion.
  • Many other retrievers were interbred with Labs but fortunately, the Labrador characteristics predominated. Finally, enthusiasts wrote a law against interbreeding.

Labrador Retriever Temperament

The Labrador is famed for being friendly and affectionate to people and other dogs. After all, they are the number 1 family dog in America. In a family setting, Labs bond well with both adults, kids, and other pets. They’re always eager to please and fun-loving too.

Labrador Retrievers are very energetic and athletic, hence require lots of exercise sessions such as swimming, vigorous walks, or a game of fetch. You need to keep this dog both physically and mentally occupied to prevent boredom.

Because of their high level of intelligence (they are ranked No. 7 in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs) and their adaptable nature, the Lab can be trained to carry out a variety of tasks, such as hunting, therapy work, tracking, detection and more.

2. Newfoundland

Highlights: Patient, Loyal, Noble

The history of Newfies starts from the Canadian province of Newfoundland, as the same with Labs. This huge working dog is believed to have descended from dogs brought to the area by European explorers. It is believed that Newfies evolved from black retrievers and the Great Pyrenees.

Bred as shipboard working dogs, the Newfoundland helped fishermen retrieve fishing nets to show, haul carts, and rescue people from drowning. Today, Newfies are one of the most beloved breeds due to their gentle personality and patient nature. They still serve as water rescue dogs.

Now given their 140-pound frame, it may be hard to imagine these heavy dogs as efficient swimmers. But they are! In fact, they were bred with physical traits that help them swim. For example, Newfies will have webbed paws and a water resistant coat.

  • In 1860, the Newfoundland made its first recorded official showing at the national dog show in Birmingham, England.
  • AKC recognized this breed in the year 1886 and registered it as the club’s 32nd breed.
  • The Newfies are ideally suited for water rescue because of their muscular build, webbed paws, thick double-layered coat, and swimming abilities.

Newfoundland Temperament

Despite being well adapted as working dogs, the Newfies are also affectionate companions. This breed is loved by many for its gentle disposition. Plus, they’re one of the largest dogs in the world and can easily rescue a grown man from drowning. 

Newfoundlands are famously known for their patience and watchfulness over kids in the home. It’s why they’re one of our top dog breeds for kids. These “gentle giants” are very loyal and reliable. However, a Newfie can also be good with other pets, though with training.

One of the most important characteristics of the Newfoundland is its sweet temperament. This has even been clearly outlined in the United States’ breed standard. Their gentle nature has also made them the ideal dog companion in the world of therapy.    

3. Canadian Eskimo Dog

Highlights: Brave, Tough, Loyal

The origin of the Canadian Eskimo Dog dates back about 4,000 years ago among the Eskimos (or Inuits) of Greenland and Alaska. Their main roles included pulling sleds and hunting. They were also used to accompany explorers during expeditions in both the North and South poles.

Canadian Eskimo dogs began declining in numbers when snowmobiles became more popular. In fact at one point, they nearly went extinct. But thanks to the CKC, Canadian Eskimo Dog Research Foundation, and the Canadian Government, the breed was revived.

In terms of appearance, the Canadian Eskimo dog is built with power and athleticism in mind. Plus, they have all the traits of a spitz dog – including the erect and triangular ears, sharp muzzle and feathered tail. However, males will be distinctively more masculine.

  • IHistory has it that the Inuits used the Canadian Eskimo Dog’s frozen urine as one of the ingredients in their medicine. This breed’s fur was also quite valuable.
  • As a result of their place of origin, this breed is very much adapted to cold wealther.. They are prone to heatstroke during hot weather, and in winter, they prefer to sleep outside.
  • Canadian Eskimo Dogs are deceptively powerful. They must always be kept in an enclosed area since they are bound to start running if let loose.

Canadian Eskimo Dog Temperament

Largely thanks to their original work history and environment, Canadian Eskimo Dogs are familiar with being around people and part of a dog-pack. As such, this breed is affectionate and gentle towards humans and bonds well with its canine pack members. 

On the flip side, Canadian Eskimo Dogs are aggressive towards dogs that aren’t part of their pack. Likewise, avoid keeping this dog together with small pets like cats and birds because they see these animals as prey to be devoured. 

All in all, this Canadian dog breed makes a lovable family pet as they’re loyal to their owner and playful with the kids. They are also very energetic and so require plenty of daily exercises. Be patient when training, as they are known to go on stubborn streaks. 

4. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling

Highlights: Outgoing, Alert, People-oriented

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever takes its origin from the Acadian community (Little River of Nova Scotia’s Yarmouth County), around the beginning of the 19th century. This breed was developed to be a waterfowl retriever by acting as a decoy.

Given the unique and unusually long name, the Duck Tolling Retriever is, you guessed it, primarily a duck retriever. They’re a relatively small gun dog, though they’re surprisingly agile and strong. They tend to sport a trademark coat that ranges from crimson to gold.

If you’ve never seen a Toller tolling, check out this video.

The Toller’s intelligence allowed it to be trained to employ the fox’s hunting methods. Today, they’re a versatile breed that can play different roles on the field. And according to historians, this breed is a mix of spaniels, retrievers, setters, and farm collie. 

  • In 1980, the Toller gained national recognition, and in 1995 it was declared Nova Scotia’s provincial dog.
  • This breed was once known as the “Yarmouth Toller” and “Little River Duck Dog.” But in 1945, after its official recognition by the Canadian Kennel Club as a purebred dog, it got its current name.
  • The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is developed after the MicMac Indian Dog.

Duck Tolling Retriever Temperament

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a high-energy dog. For this reason, dog parents should be aware of the physical and mental commitment required to keep them busy. They need plenty of exercise and attention; otherwise, they may become destructive.

The Toller’s affectionate and outgoing nature makes it a great companion and lively family dog. This tiny retriever is always eager to please, and plays well with kids. If you have other pets in the home, the Toller will gladly befriend and play with them too. They aren’t very aggressive either.

Tollers are adaptable and easily adjust to new environments. They’re easy to train though they may not take well to harsh treatment. Rather, train with positive training techniques. As with any other dog, this training, plus socialization, should be started early in puppyhood.

5. Labrador Husky

Highlights: Friendly, Loving, Loyal

Despite popular belief, they Labrador Husky is not a Labrador Retriever x Husky hybrid. Though, we can understand the confusion. Rather, they’re a spitz-type dog that was brought to the Labrador region by the Thule Inuit tribe in 1300 AD. And yes, they’re that old.

Labrador Huskies were developed to pull sleds and hunt, so the Inuit people bred them with wolves to improve their endurance and strength. And while they closely resemble a wild wolf, they’re smaller than a Malamute, Eskimo dog and wolf.

Because the Labrador Husky adapted well to the cold or isolated wastelands, they continued to do its job effectively. But when snowmobiles came around, this breed was no longer required as much. This led to a career change – for search and rescue or drug detection.

  • The Labrador Husky has a dense double-layered coat that’s well adapted to the cold climate up North where it lived and worked.
  • The name of this breed suggests a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Siberian Husky, but in reality, this is not the case.
  • The Labrador Husky is similar to the wolf because it doesn’t bark, but rather howls.

Labrador Husky Temperament

The Labrador Husky is a lively and energetic dog. It’s possible that they make decent family dogs, but they need a strong pack leader. These wolf-life dogs need a pack hierarchy, otherwise they tend to express displeasure with growling and biting.

Labrador Huskies are high-maintenance dogs that require lots of attention from owners, intense and frequent physical activities, as well as mental stimulation. This is not a dog you can leave alone for a long time. They will easily get bored and destroy your living room.

This dog is strong and loyal, but not necessarily protective. In fact, they don’t mind strangers and are not usually bothered by them. Labrador Husky can work with other dogs, but owners shouldn’t keep other small pets nearby because of their prey drive. 

6. Landseer

Highlights: Caring, Intelligent, Patient

Like many other Canadian dogs, Landseers originated from Newfoundland. Some believe they’re closely related to the Newfoundland. However, Landseers are a distinct breed as selective breeding of this dog was done in Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany. 

The importation of Landseers from Canada occurred in large numbers during the 1800s. Although the breed was kept all through the World Wars, it was officially given the name of the Landseer European Continental Type (ECT) much later on.

As such, the Landseer were finally recognized as a distinct breed by several kennel clubs (apart from the AKC). Known for their iconic black and white coats, the Landseers were believed to have been bred from waterdogs and shepherds.

  • Despite their huge size, Landseers are largely sedentary dogs, though daily exercise is still required to keep them fit and avoid obesity.
  • One famous example of a Landseers is Nana from Peter Pan’s original script. He was given the job of babysitting the kids.
  • The very first pure Landseer litter was born in Holland in 1893.

Landseer Temperament

The Landseer is a giant breed that makes a great family dog due to a calm, peaceful, and loving nature. This Canadian breed is almost always even-tempered and bonds well with family members, including the kids (supervision is necessary).

Be warned, the Landseer drools and sheds a lot, so if you’re not comfortable with that, better rethink this breed. Still, the friendly nature of Landseers is endearing. They are tolerant of other pets and will only take up a guard dog position if they sense danger. 

Landseers are intelligent and easy to train. They are mostly responsive to firm but calm commands though they may seem to be particularly slow because of their huge size. All in all, Landseers tend to enjoy the company of his people and human interaction.    

7. Seppala Siberian Sleddog

Highlights: Smart, Affectionate, Docile

The Seppala Siberian Sleddogs can be traced way back to the early 1900s, making them one of the most ancient Canadian dog breeds. The Northeastern Siberian sled dogs were their ancestors, and the famed dog driver Leonhard Seppala was credited with breeding this dog.

Like other sled dogs, the Seppala is strong, agile and packs an impressive amount of endurance. It’s what they needed to run for several miles at a stretch. They’re bulkier than a Husky but smaller than the Alaskan Malamute. Both of which, are renowned sled dogs.

For a long time, the Seppala Siberian Sleddog and Siberian Husky were considered the same breed. But in the late 1990s, the Canadian agriculture authorities recognized Seppalas as an “evolving breed” and later became a distinct dog breed. 

  • The Seppala enjoys running around. This plus their prey drive causes them to easily take off after small game animals.
  • Seppala Siberian Sleddogs are Arctic dogs, therefore, heat intolerant. Because of this, they are not recommended for owners living in tropical countries.
  • Togo was the original dog in this breed of sled dogs.

Seppala Sleddog Temperament

Seppala Siberian Sleddogs were developed strictly as working dogs that pull sleds through biting cold weather. Because of the nature of their work, they developed a pack instinct in them. In other words, a loyal Seppala gets along great with other dogs and members of the family.

The Seppala also makes a great house pet due to its gentle and docile nature. With sufficient training, a Seppala considers the owner its “pack leader.” This is why pet parents of this breed need to be firm and consistent in order to maintain their authority.   

The Seppala is affectionate to all family members and is always ready to guard and protect them from perceived threats. Though they are rarely aggressive, Seppala Siberian Sleddogs will bark to alert the owner of imminent danger or potential intruders. 

8. Tahltan Bear Dog

Highlights: Brave, Affectionate, Kind

The Tahltan originated in the Pacific Northwest territories of Canada with the Tahltan Indians. They’re a primitive breed developed for hunting game (e.g., bears, big cats, beavers, etc.). Though small in size, these dogs were very powerful, brave, and vicious in a packs.

They had all the qualities of a top hunting dog. For example, the Tahltan sports a double coat with a black, brown or blue hue. This special coat protected them as they courageously race into the crowded forests to track and chase down game.

Unfortunately, Tahltan Bear Dogs are extinct as a result of the introduction of other hunting dogs in the regions of Southern Yukon and British Columbia. The Canadian Kennel Club has already revoked its recognition of Tahltans and has declared it extinct.

  • It’s believed that a specialized breeding program has helped this dog survive to a small extent until today.
  • Since they were so small compared to other hunting dog breeds, Tahltans were carried in pouches by their owners.
  • Tahltan Bear Dogs were also known as Chien d’ ours de Tahltan or just Tahltan.

Tahltan Bear Dog Temperament

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the Tahltan dogs is courageousness These hunting dogs did not seem to care about their size. They would boldly surround much bigger animals, such as grizzly bears, and confuse them until the hunters came close enough to strike.

When off the field, this breed was also kind and affectionate to its owners, the Tahltan Indians. These dogs were allowed to live in the family tents too. Tahltan Bear Dogs were also known to be friendly and bonded well with other pets. 

And being a hunter in packs meant that Tahltan Bear Dogs enjoyed the company of other dogs. As such, they played well with others in the family. Their loyal nature allowed them to seamlessly fit into any loving and attentive household.

9. Hare Indian Dog

Highlights: Friendly, Loyal, Playful

The history of the Hare Indian Dog dates back in the 18th century, where they were bred in both the USA and Canada. There are many origin theories. However, researchers who examined the dogs’ DNA in 1984 confirmed that it was a hybrid of the coyote, wolf, and domesticated dogs

As for appearances, they looked similar to their parents and breeds in the spitz family. They will always have pointed ears with a broad base – similar to the Canadian Eskimo dog. Expect to see an elongated muzzle as well.

These dogs were bred as hunting dogs, and their resilience and adaptability were undeniable. But as the hunting methods changed with the invention of firearms and guns, the Hare Indian Dogs were no longer needed, and so they ultimately went extinct. 

  • The Hare Indian Dogs were great hunters because they had the ability to go for days without food, were quick, and possessed broad feet.
  • This breed was also known as Trap line dog and Mackenzie River dog.
  • Apart from hunting, it’s believed that the Hare Indian Dog was used as a sled dog as well.

Hare Indian Dog Temperament

Based on their working experience (such as hunting in packs), Hare Indian Dogs had pack instincts so deep-rooted that they viewed their human owners as their “pack leader.” If their owners remained firm and consistent, the dogs would follow the leader for miles on a journey.

The Hare Indian Dogs were also loyal and devoted. They were friendly to people and got along with all people, including fellow canine animals. Their affectionate and playful nature are unlike anything you would expect from a ‘part-wild-wolf’ dog breed. 

But while they may be friendly, they are not docile or calm. Hare Indian Dogs can live in a home setting, but they’ll still have wild animal tendencies if not trained. Don’t expect too much barking, but they’ll howl instead. After all, it’s their way of communicating.

So tell us in the comments section below, which is your favorite Canadian dog breed? We’d love to hear from you.

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