Dogs were kept by native peoples throughout Canada in the centuries before European exploration and settlement. They had various uses: for transportation and draft work, hunting, clothing materials and sometimes human food. Inuit dogs are still used to pull sleds and carry backpacks; they are also used in SEALING and to provide protection from polar bears.
Canadian Plains Indians relied on dogs for transportation (eg, by dog travois) until they acquired horses in the early 1700s; their breeds are now extinct. On the West Coast, the Salish kept a small, woolly type of dog, using the hair for weaving; it became extinct by about 1860. Dogs were also important in religion; the White Dog Festival, observed by some eastern tribes, required the sacrifice of dogs of a special breed.
Dogs have been an important domestic animal wherever people have settled. Hundreds of distinctive breeds developed over the centuries, partly through regional isolation and partly through conscious selection by humans. Several hundred breeds are currently named and recognized by various kennel clubs; some, eg, poodles, German Shepherd dogs and Irish setters, have worldwide distribution.
The Canadian Kennel Club which maintains registration records for Canadian purebred dogs, officially recognizes 143 breeds. Several other breeds are present but are not formally registered. The recognized breeds are classified into groups generally indicating the purpose for which they were developed: sporting dogs, hounds, working dogs, terriers, toys, nonsporting dogs and herding dogs. A miscellaneous category exists for breeds in the process of achieving full recognition.
Five of the breeds recognized by the CKC can be claimed to be uniquely Canadian: the Tahltan bear dog, the Canadian Eskimo dog, the Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever, and the Newfoundland and Labrador retrievers. The last 2 have Canadian names but owe most of their development to breeders in Great Britain and Europe.
Tahltan Bear Dog
Canadian Eskimo Dog
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
These dogs, probably from the same stock as the Newfoundland, were shaped into a distinctive breed by the English nobility, who selected them for smaller size, finer bone and a short coat. Other sporting breeds were crossed into the stock. The breed is one of the best gundogs in existence and is used as a "seeing-eye" dog. Most are black but other colours (yellow, chocolate and cream) have become popular.
Most dogs in Canada are kept as pets. Many purebred dogs provide recreation and employment for people participating in competitive events governed by the CKC. Such competitions include conformation shows, obedience trials, field trials for hounds and sporting breeds, tracking tests, and the new spectator sports, lure coursing and scent hurdle racing. Sportsmen use various specially bred and trained breeds for hunting upland GAME BIRDS, WATERFOWL and small mammals. Greyhounds and wolfhounds are used in western Canada to hunt coyotes and wolves.
Many kinds of dogs actively work for man. Sled dogs are useful in the North. Border collies retain their superiority for sheepherding, and the Komondor breed is being used experimentally in western Canada to guard flocks. Australian cattle dogs, formerly known as Queensland heelers, are gaining popularity with Canadian cattlemen for driving livestock. The German shepherd dog, Doberman pinscher and Bouvier des Flandres are widely used in police and military work and as guard dogs. Schutzhund (protection dog) training is increasing in Canada. It involves intensive schooling in obedience, tracking and defence.
The most remarkable dogs are those trained to guide the blind; several hundred, many from training schools in Ontario and Edmonton, are at work in Canada helping their blind owners to lead more normal lives. Several breeds are used, including German shepherd dogs, Labrador retrievers, boxers and collies.
Author R.D. CRAWFORD
Links to Other Sites
Animal Health Care
Animal Health Care is a site devoted to pets, veterinary medicine and the pet care industry. Check out the info about the CVMA Pet Food Certification Program. From the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.
Canadian Kennel Club
The website for the Canadian Kennel Club. Click on the "Breed Standards" link to access detailed descriptions of purebred breed standards. Cliquez sur le lien «race des normes» pour accéder à une description détaillée des standards de race pur-sang.
Canadian Council on Animal Care
The CCAC monitors the care and use of experimental animals in Canada. Their website offers detailed guidelines, data on animal use and related material. Sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and other agencies.
The Human-Animal Bond Association of Canada
HABAC promotes the benefits of human-animal relationships for senior citizens and others. Includes information about the Canadian Canine Good Citizen Test.
Canadian Eskimo Dog Association of Canada
This website is dedicated to the history, care, and raising of the Canadian Eskimo Dog breed.
Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run
This site traces the route of the Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run and offers photos of sled dog teams.
The website for the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Features musher profiles, a photo gallery, race news and interesting educational resources.
Glossary: Veterinary Medicine
A glossary of terms related to veterinary medicine. From Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Hudson's Bay Company: Heritage
This colourful HBC website documents over 300 years of company history. Features illustrated biographies of prominent personalities, an online art collection, e-books, historical games, timelines, interactive maps, and much more.
Protecting 4-legged friends
A CBC news story about the regulation of pet food in Canada.
Inuit Sled Dogs
Final Report: RCMP Review of Allegations Concerning Inuit Sled Dogs. From the RCMP website.
Inuit Truth Commission
CBC News article: Inuit truth commission begins hearings on sled-dog deaths.
Margaret Marshall Saunders's novel "Beautiful Joe," based on the story of a dog rescued from a brutal master.Beautiful Joe Heritage Society
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...