Are you looking for a new dog to add to your family? Consider one of the most popular dog breeds in Canada. Many of them have topped this list year over year, and for good reason.
Each of these breeds has some pretty desirable qualities that may just be exactly what you’re looking for. This article will break down some of the reasons to consider adding one of Canada's favourite dog breeds to your family:
1. Labrador Retriever
The reigning champs, Labrador retrievers, are not only the most popular Canadian dog breeds for over 20 years, they are also the only dog breed on this list that is actually Canadian!
Descended from a variety of sporting dog brought to Newfoundland by British settlers and fisherman, the Lab has been a staple of Canadian history. Labrador retrievers were officially recognized by the British Kennel Club in 1903, but we know that they’re Canadian heritage was established long before that.
Anyone who has ever owned a Labrador retriever knows what a loving, playful, and social breed they are. Labs are a great family pet and are easily adaptable to most lifestyles. Typically reaching between 55-80 lbs depending on gender and breeding, so they are well suited to both urban or rural environments.
Being such a common breed, labs are easy to find. There are many labs and lab crosses available through your local animal rescues. Labs can add many desirable qualities and health traits to any breed that they are crossed with.
Labradoodles are a lab crossed with another of our most popular Canadian dog breeds, the poodle. This sought after cross is a great pet for families looking for a hypoallergenic pet that still has the playful and friendly qualities of the Labrador retriever.
As a large breed dog, labs should be kept at a healthy and consistent weight, and muscle mass should be maintained through diet and physical activity. Because of their food motivated nature, this breed is prone to weight and mobility issues as they age, so maintain a consistent routine to keep your lab happy and healthy.
Labs can be a little on the drooly side and they are most definitely not afraid to get dirty. If cleaning dog snark off of your walls isn’t your ideal situation, then a lab might not be the right breed for you. They are, however, ideal outdoor adventure partners. Hiking, camping and swimming are all great activities to let your Labrador retriever tag along for. Whatever your favourite outdoor activity is, your lab can keep you company.
2. German Shepherds
Another longtime front runner on the list of favourite dog breeds of Canada, the German shepherd is a large breed that is an honorary Canadian based on its popularity.
The German shepherd is a well know herding breed that was first brought to Canada back in the early 1900s. Post World War I, the German shepherd's popularity grew and since then has become a staple of working-class dog breeds.
Commonly used in police work, and military efforts like bomb detection or search and rescue, the German shepherds have proven their loyalty, obedience, and intelligence, truly earning the canine moniker of man’s best friend.
Ranging in size depending on breeding and gender, they can grow up to 60-80 lbs and are typically lean but very muscular. Many very similar breeds are often considered offshoots of the German shepherd.
The Belgian shepherd, for example, the closest breed to the German Shepherd, is typically slightly smaller and has a smoother double coat, compared to the course, thick coat of its German cousin. If you prefer a larger version to a German shepherd, consider a King shepherd. These beastly dogs look very similar to a German Shepherd but can grow to over 100 lbs!
German shepherds are a naturally active breed and require consistent physical activity to eliminate destructive behaviours and anxiety. This breed isn’t for everyone, and wouldn’t be the ideal starter breed. They are very loyal and protective, so as a family dog, be prepared to put a lot of work into properly socializing your shepherd.
Because of their thick double coats, German shepherds require consistent grooming. They will shed excessively if they are not brushed to remove dead fur. Invest in a good deshedding tool if you are planning on welcoming a German shepherd into your home.
German shepherds are a great breed to families with a more active lifestyle, but can also be vulnerable to hotter temperatures. Summer activities should be chosen carefully to avoid overheating this natural insulated breed.
3. Golden Retriever
Another Canadian classic, golden retrievers are probably the most well-known dog breed in North America. Known for their family-friendly personalities and numerous appearances in movies and television, their notoriety is well earned.
This breed has an impressive lineage, descending from crossing a variety of well-known sporting breeds like Irish setters, bloodhounds, and water spaniels. Classified as either Canadian, American or English, all retriever breeds have unique physical traits but share a similar and welcoming temperament.
Goldens are the ideal family dog, great with kids, and are easily socialized. They are a loyal breed that takes direction well. This is why they are the number one breeds for assistance programs like guide dogs, search and rescue, and therapy work.
Similar to a Labrador retriever, the golden retriever is a versatile breed that is well suited for either urban or rural lifestyles and can adapt to many environments and climates, but still prefer to avoid extreme temperatures.
Goldens require minimal grooming routines. They have a flat, water-repellent coat that requires routine brushing to prevent tangles and mats, but shedding is limited without an undercoat.
This breed is easily and successfully crossed with a variety of other popular breeds, like poodles and shepherds. These unique crosses tend to have the same temperament as the golden retriever and reduce the occurrence of common genetic predispositions in the golden, like Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
The curse of the large breed is weight and mobility issues. To prevent degradation of the joints, it’s very important to maintain a healthy diet, weight, and physical routine. Lazy couch potatoes are great for cuddles but will lead to obesity as your golden ages.
Incorporate outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and swimming to keep your retriever fit and healthy
The fourth finalist for the most popular Canadian dog breeds is the poodle. The most bourgeoisie breed on our list, the poodle actually has a rich history. Poodles today are primped and preened for our benefit, but their funny haircuts actually served a much more practical purpose: water retrieving for hunters.
The trimmed sections of their fur provided them with more fluid movement in the water, while the longer fur around the joints and chest, called pompons, protected them from extreme temperatures.
Long past are the days of the working poodle, and since then we've been able to modify the size of the breed to accommodate different lifestyles. Mini and toy breeds were better suited to an urban city lifestyle, and today are often indoor dogs, while standard poodles can adapt to a more rural setting but are content with urban life as well.
The standard poodle is considered a large breed, reaching up to 70 lbs, while the toys and minis are considerably smaller ranging from 6-9 and 12-20 lbs, respectively.
Regardless of size, their temperament is the same. They are considered one of the smartest dog breeds, and that can be a blessing and a curse for pet owners. They learn quickly and can follow directions quite well, but they can also be stubborn. They are a very social breed and for the most part, they can be easy to train with consistent and routine training techniques. If you are looking for a family friendly dog that will be love every member of your family equally, then the poodle might be the breed for you.
Poodles are quite thin in stature but don’t underestimate them. Regardless of size, they can play rough just like the big dogs.
They do require routine physical activity to maintain muscle mass. Their slender build and fast metabolism means they are actually prone to being underweight, so make sure their diet is full of healthy animal proteins and limit sugary carbs that don’t provide long-lasting energy for building and maintaining muscle.
5. French Bulldog
Although originally an English companion dog for lacemakers in the 1800s, French bulldogs were bred as a toy bulldogs. The industrial revolution relocated many lacemakers and their toy bulldog companions to France, where the popularity of the breed grew and its name was solidified as the French bulldog.
Although Brachycephalic breeds aren’t everyone's favourite, the French bulldog tends to be genetically better designed than most short-snouted dogs like pugs and bulldogs. Breathing, esophageal, and digestive issues are commonly seen in dogs with shorter nasal and sinus passages, but French Bulldogs seem to have fewer issues than most, which is probably why they made the list.
If you are looking for a big dog in a little package than French Bulldogs are the dog for you. They definitely don’t know their small, but they typically only reach between 20-30 lbs. Their smaller build doesn’t slow them down though, and they are quite muscular considering they are usually only about a foot tall.
As a short coated breed, they don’t require a lot of grooming, but will still shed. Invest in a good brush, like a slicker to minimize shed and keep their coat smooth and conditioned. Without protection from a thick coat, you will need to take extra care in extreme temperatures. Winter coats and boots are required in colder climates, and sun protection is a must during summer.
All bully breeds are prone to digestive issues and flatulence, so look into a good quality low carb food to prevent your dog from clearing the room every time they pass gas. A good digestive aid or probiotic s also recommended to ensure that they are able to use all of the nutrients in their diet properly.
Like most stocky breeds, weight issues are a common problem. Monitor weight and provide a consistent physical routine to maintain muscle mass and reduce the occurrence of hip and joint related issues. Although they are not a large breed, they can still be susceptible to mobility issues, the most common being a luxating patella, also called a floating kneecap.
This condition can usually be prevented when a proper weight is maintained, but some dogs are just genetically prone to it. Joint support supplements that aid connective tissues can be a good preventative measure for French bulldogs.
The smallest breed on this list is the Havanese. This little ball of fluff is a common pocket puppy, but is still very energetic and loves to run and play. Havanese are a great family dog due to their outgoing personality and size.
Havanese are eager to please and typically easy to train. They are a very gentle and tolerant breed so they are great around kids and other pets. They do not require an intensive physical routine like most of the dogs on the list and are often adaptable to an urban lifestyle.
The Havanese were bred as companion animals in Cuba, thought to be brought over by the Spaniards during the days of the Spanish Empire, and do best when surrounded by their family. Although they aren’t a herding or sporting breed, Havanese shows many skills in these areas. The love to play hide and seek, scent detection, and other mentally stimulating games.
Obesity is common among Havanese, so avoid overindulging with people treats, sugary snacks and monitor food portions to reduce the risk of unnecessary weight gain. As they age, it’s important to adjust feeding guidelines to match their activity levels.
Small breeds live longer, so a breed like Havanese can be a 15-year commitment. They will reach their full size around 8-12 months of age, capping out below 15lbs, so they are a great indoor dog.
Indoor dogs don’t necessarily mean low maintenance. They are a non-shedding breed, but routine grooming is still important. You can clip your Havanese’s fur to reduce some of the maintenance, but leaving it long is fine too. Longer fur will require regular brushing to prevent tangles and mats.
Many small breeds are cursed with watery eyes, and in turn, tear stains. You will need to wipe their eye area daily with a damp microfiber cloth or wipe to prevent permanent staining. Diet can be a factor in the severity of tear stains, so make sure that you feed a high quality, minimally processed food and provide plenty of moisture in their diet. This will reduce the bacteria being secreted through their tear ducts and lighten the colour of eye secretions.
7. Shetland Sheepdog
Commonly known as Shelties, the Shetland Sheepdog is a natural herding breed hailing from the Shetland Islands, near northern Scotland and Norway. They are bred for herding sheep and were a vital part of sheep farming practices back in the day.
Their isolated homeland kept them almost unknown to the rest of the world until the close to the 20th century. Although it has some close ancestry to other herding breeds like the rough coated collie, cross-breeding with the sheltie has been limited to the last hundred or so years.
Having a superior work ethic to many non-herding breeds, shelties crave a sense of purpose. They are very adaptable to urban life, but will require regular, moderate activity, and will benefit from extra-curricular activities like agility sports.
Their eager to please nature makes them easy to train, and beyond the basic commands, shelties will be quick to learn more complicated tricks and commands. Look into classes, social activities and outdoor adventures to keep your sheltie mentally stimulated.
If you are looking for a hypo-allergenic dog, or a dog requiring little grooming, then you are barking up the wrong tree with the Shetland sheepdog. Their heavy undercoat needs to be brushed often to reduce shedding and matting.
This will not eliminate periods of heavy seasonal shedding, but will reduce daily shedding to a more manageable amount. Certain areas tend to mat easily, so pay close attention to their back end, tail, neck and belly.
On a positive note, shelties are built for cold weather, which is why they are a favourite Canadian dog breed. Their coat protects them from wind and insulates them from cold temperatures. Boots and paw protection are still a must, but this is one breed that can take a frigid Canadian winter like a champ.
Shelties typically reach about 25-30 lbs but can be as large as 40 lbs. They have many features of a small breed, particularly in their jaw structure and metabolism, but they are a medium sized breed.
8. Australian Shepherd
Don’t let the name deceive you, the Australian Shepherd is actually an American breed. Bred during the gold rush in the 1800s, this breed is a master herder. This seems to be a theme for Canada’s favourite dog breeds.
Herding breeds are often ideal family pets and are easily adaptable to Canada’s rapidly changing climate. The ‘Aussie’ is a medium breed, usually ranging from 40-60 lbs, but if you are wanting a slightly smaller breed, look for a mini Australian shepherd. Maxing out around 30 lbs, mini-Aussies have the same characteristics of the full-size version, but can be more adaptable to urban living.
They have big personalities and have no trouble keeping up with kids, other pets, and many outdoor activities. Without a stimulating routine, Aussies can get destructive, so keep your dog both mentally and physically stimulated to prevent unwanted behaviours. Aussies are great outdoor companions and are not overly sensitive to hot weather, so a great camping partner they will make.
Grooming for Australian shepherds is minimal, as they have a similar coat to golden retrievers, flat and water-resistant. Weekly brushing is recommended to prevent matting and tangles, and shedding should be minimal outside of shedding seasons.
It’s very normal for Australian shepherds to be born with a very short or even no tail. Those born with longer tails are typically docked within the first week of life.
This practice was originally done to prevent damage to the tail during herding routines and environmental factors, but is still a standard in North America. An undocked Aussie will not be recognized by the AKC or CKC, which is why breeders generally still participate in tail docking.
9. Bernese Mountain Dog
Hailing from Switzerland, along with 3 other breeds of Swiss herding breeds, the berner, as it’s often called, was bred in the Canton of Berne and has long been used to herd cattle, pull carts, and as an effective watchdog. Their large size makes them look intimidating, but in reality, they are a very affectionate and friendly breed.
The largest breed on the list, the Bernese Mountain dog can easily reach 100 lbs+. Although they are a great family pet, their size can make them difficult to handle. They don’t know their own strength or size, so they must be taught to play gently with smaller animals and kids. Their natural watchdog tendencies can also present with loud barking, which can be scary to a stranger, child, or another pet.
They can adapt to urban settings, but will not do well in a cramped apartment or condo. For a large breed, they are relatively high energy. They require routine physical exercise, and mental stimulation during down times. An under stimulated berner can destroy your house if left to their own devices.
This is a very drooly breed. You will often see shoelaces of drool hanging from your berner’s jowls, so if you are easily grossed out, then the Bernese mountain dog is not for you.
Grooming practices for a Bernese requires regular brushing and deshedding, otherwise, your home will be quickly overrun by dog hair. This is another breed that enjoys getting messy, so be prepared to bathe your Bernese mountain dog as needed, and also be prepared for the separate mess that will create.
Their thick coat helps them deal with cold weather, but they are very susceptible to summer temperatures. Monitor your berner closely when playing in hot weather, and limit exposure. They can quickly overheat, leading to dehydration and even heat stroke. Summer activities like swimming would aid in regulating body temperature.
10. Portuguese Water Dog
With water in the name, it’s clear that this dog loves to swim. The Portuguese water dog was, for several hundred years, used by fisherman in Portugal. When the fishing trade was at its peak, this water dog was an irreplaceable amigo, helping to herd fish into nets, collecting supplies and even passing messages between boats and to the shore.
With thick curly fur coating over the whole body, the Portuguese water dog looks a lot bigger than it is. For working purposes, as well as temperature control, most water dogs are clipped to reduce the bulk of the coat while still leaving a dense layer of curls.
Routine brushing is recommended for this breed, but shedding, similar to its cousin the poodle, is very minimal. They are often considered a hypo-allergenic breed and are sought after by pet owners with pet allergies. Maintain skin and coat health with high-quality diets and omega fatty acids to further reduces allergy triggering dander.
Porties, as they are playfully known, are a high energy dog with seemingly endless stamina. They are a great breed to take hiking, running, and of course any water activities. They are designed to deal with a wide variety of weather conditions, but extreme temperatures can still have a negative effect. Prepare for each season appropriately.
Sitting between 40-60 lbs on average, the Portuguese water dog is a medium-large breed dog. They are susceptible to many common large breed conditions, such as weight and mobility issues, to monitoring weight and feeding low glycemic foods can prevent obesity as they age and activity levels start to diminish.
Every breed on our list can be found through a breeder, but we always encourage you to look at shelters and rescues first. Many of these breeds are sitting in foster homes waiting for a furever home. While the idea of a purebred is desirable, cross-breeding has been used for hundreds of years to reduce and even eliminate negative genetic traits, extend lifespan, and refine their temperaments.
These dogs can bring just as much joy to our home as a puppy from a breeder, and often save a ton of money, the hassle of potty training, and the frustration of teaching basic commands and manners. Talk to your local rescue to see if they have a match for you and your family.
What’s your favourite breed from our list? What breed do you think should have made the list, and why? Share your comments below!
Posted by Krystn Janisse
Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channelling some crazy cat lady vibes with her five lovable, but rebellious cats.