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Dogs in Canada

Dog (Canis familiaris) is a carnivorous mammal, and probably the first domesticated animal. In Canada, dogs were first kept by Indigenous peoples. The Canadian Kennel Club recognizes 187 breeds, five of which are uniquely Canadian: the Tahltan bear dog, the Canadian Inuit dog, the Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever, the Newfoundland dog and the Labrador retriever. A sixth dog breed indigenous to Canada, the Salish woolly dog, went extinct before the Canadian Kennel Club officially registered it as a breed.

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Inuit Sled Dogs Killed

Sled dogs are killed as part of the Sled Dog Slaughter, a government assimilationist initiative to force the Inuit of Northern Québec to deny their nomadic lifestyle and move them away from their traditional lands.

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Canadian Inuit Dog

The Canadian Inuit dog (Canis familiaris borealis) is one of five dog breeds recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club as uniquely Canadian (see also Dogs in Canada). While the Canadian Kennel Club refers to this breed as the “Canadian Eskimo dog,” the Government of Nunavut calls it the Canadian Inuit dog and made it the territory’s official animal. In the Eastern Baffin dialect of Inuktitut the dog is called qimmiq (spelled Kimmik in other dialects). For hundreds of years, these dogs were used by the Inuit and their ancestors to pull sleds as a means of transportation. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other government officials killed thousands of sled dogs, rendering the breed extinct. Since then a revitalization program has helped re-establish the Canadian Inuit dog. As of 2018, there are approximately 300 Canadian Inuit dogs registered with the Canadian Kennel Club.

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Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever (or toller) is one of five dog breeds recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club as uniquely Canadian (see also Dogs in Canada). Originally bred for tolling and retrieving waterfowl, the toller is a highly intelligent dog. It loves the outdoors and is easy to train. The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is the provincial dog of Nova Scotia — one of two Canadian dogs declared a provincial or territorial symbol (the other, the Canadian Inuit dog, is Nunavut’s official animal).

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Newfoundland Dog

The Newfoundland dog is one of five Canadian dog breeds. In the past, the breed was used as a draft animal and as a companion to Canadian fishermen. Known for its ability to swim, the Newfoundland dog’s reputation as a water rescuer is unparalleled. The dog is a symbol of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the subject of many stories and legends based on the breed’s bravery and loyalty. (See also Dogs in Canada.)

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Labrador Retriever

The Labrador retriever is one of four remaining Canadian dog breeds (see also Dogs in Canada). Its history begins at the turn of the 16th century on the island of Newfoundland. Here, its ancestors were retrievers of fish and game. The breed was further developed in England in the 19th century to assist in hunting. With a friendly temperament, the Labrador retriever is popular not only as a working dog but also as a family dog. In Canada, the Labrador has been the most popular dog for more than 25 years.

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Tahltan Bear Dog

The Tahltan (pronounced tall-tan) bear dog was one of five dog breeds recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club as uniquely Canadian (see also Dogs in Canada). Although the name of the breed suggests it was only kept by the Tahltan Nation of Northwestern British Columbia, the dog was common among other First Nations in the region, too. These included the Tlingit, Tagish, Kaska and Sekani. The Tahltan people referred to it as “our dog,” which gave the breed its name. Indigenous peoples used the Tahltan bear dog in sustenance hunting— primarily for bear— an activity in which it excelled. The breed went extinct in the in the 1970s or 80s.