Calgary is a very dog-friendly city and this is evidenced by the fact that pretty much wherever you go, you are bound to see dogs trotting along next to their human. And while I have seen many, many breeds represented, there are some that seem to be more popular than others.
This is an ‘unofficial’ list of popular dog breeds that I have put together based on my observations (so there is nothing scientific about it!), but I thought it would be fun to showcase the types of dogs that people seem to go for when they are choosing a larger breed (and perhaps even help you when you are choosing a dog!).
Mixed breeds are probably the most common type of dog we meet when we’re out and about on walks. In fact, our two dogs are crossbreeds – Indy is a Border Collie x Labrador, while (we think) Socks is a Border Collie x Labrador x Australian Cattle Dog (aka Blue Heeler).
People go for mixed breeds over pedigree dogs for a variety of reasons. For instance, you may be struggling to choose between two breeds, or you specifically want the unique looks and traits that come with crossing two breeds. Crossbreeds (with the exception of popular ‘designer’ crosses like Labradoodles and Cockapoos) also tend to be cheaper than pedigree dogs, so they can be a great option if you are on a budget. Rescue organisations are also a great place to pick up a mixed breed, as they seem to end up in shelters more often than pedigree dogs.
Bernese Mountain Dog
I have never seen so many Bernese Mountain Dogs as in Calgary. In fact, they seem to be so popular, that some people keep them in groups of 2 or even 3! This is quite an impressive undertaking, given the Bernese’s large size (they weigh between 30-50kg or 70-115lbs). But, the Bernese’s playful personality, affection towards their family and their intelligence make them a popular choice for families, while their thick double coat makes them ideally suited to enjoy Calgary’s long winter months. One thing to note is that Bernese mature slowly – both physically and mentally – so if you want to bring this breed into your family, you need to have plenty of patience with this gentle giant.
In addition, I have noticed that many people are walking around with Bernedoodles (i.e. Bernese Mountain Dog x Poodle), so this may be an alternative for you if you like the idea of a Bernese, but would prefer a less sheddy, more hypoallergenic version.
Siberian Huskies were specifically bred to pull sleds in their native Siberia, and snuggle up with their families overnight to help keep everyone warm during the harsh winters, they are the perfect choice if you want an active, yet family friendly dog that can enjoy brisk walks even when the temperature plummets. Huskies’ sleek, wolf-like looks make them a sought-after breed, but their high energy levels and razor sharp intelligence mean that they are more suited to experienced dog owners who can provide constructive activities for these dogs.
Husky crosses are also very popular, with Siberian Husky x German Shepherds being the most common, but we have come across Husky x Border Collies and Husky x Malamute. In addition, both Huskies and Husky crossbreeds are commonly found in rescue shelters, as sadly, not all owners who are drawn to the Husky’s distinctive looks can devote the necessary mental and physical stimulation, as well as training that is required to keep these dogs content. Therefore, if you think you would be a good fit for an active Husky, be sure to check your local rescue organisations for adoptable dogs!
With their long silky coats, soulful brown eyes and floating gait, Golden Retrievers are arguably one of the most striking of all dog breeds. But, Goldens are not all about looks – they are are a gentle and tolerant breed, which makes them great with little kids, and because they love to please their humans, they are also quite easy to train, so are a good choice for first-time dog owners.
Since these dogs were originally bred in their native Scotland to retrieve water fowl, they have a penchant for swimming and fetch, and despite their silky looks, do not mind getting wet and muddy. And while Goldens do like a good run around, they are equally happy to laze around as couch potatoes – YouTube is full of comical videos of Goldens who have decided that they are no longer interested in having a walk plopping down in the middle of the road or a puddle and refusing to budge.
The Labrador Retriever shares many of the same characteristics as the Golden Retriever, making them a great alternative if you are looking for an intelligent and affectionate family-orientated dog, minus the daily brushing that is required to keep a Golden’s silky coat from getting matted and tangled. With their wide grins and rudder tails (they have a tendency to wag furiously and knock things off coffee tables in their enthusiasm), this breed generally has no reservations about meeting new people or animals.
While many people assume that Labs were bred as gundogs to retrieve water fowl, in fact, they were bred by Newfoundlanders to help haul in fishing nets and nab any escapee fish. This helps explain why Labs absolutely love swimming, so if you decide to bring this dog into your family, you need to be prepared to get wet and muddy as well. In addition, this dog has an insatiable appetite and will happily vacuum up any dropped or spilled food, as well as stare at you with puppy dog eyes begging for a treat.
Thanks to their distinctive black and golden coats and their wolfish looks, German Shepherds are one of the world’s most iconic and instantly recognisable dogs. Their intelligence and trainability makes this loyal breed a top choice for rescue, military and law enforcement work around the world, while their protective instincts mean that they make good guard dogs. Even though German Shepherds are affectionate and friendly with the members of their family, they tend to be aloof with strangers and other dogs so early socialisation is especially important for this breed (Indy has had some unfriendly encounters with German Shepherds, and tends to approach this breed warily).
With their thick, shaggy coats, German Shepherds are not bothered by Calgary’s long winters. However, despite their rugged exterior, German Shepherds are quite sensitive, and dislike being left alone for long periods of time. Like most working dog breeds, German Shepherds like to keep active – both mentally and physically – and because of this, many of them unfortunately end up in rescue shelters when their humans cannot provide the necessary stimulation that this breed requires. Therefore, if you think you would be a good fit for a German Shepherd, be sure to check your local rescue organisations for adoptable dogs!
Bred to herd sheep on the rugged (and sometimes lawless) English-Scottish border, Border Collies are tough, hard-working, smart, and have seemingly boundless reserves of energy. Their stamina makes them great hiking companions and they often enjoy playing fetch and excel at agility and obedience work. While not specifically adapted to to cold climates (like Bernese and Huskies are), Border Collies are nevertheless hardy dogs that can cope with the weather all year round.
Border Collies are often ranked by researchers as the most intelligent of all dog breeds partly because they are extremely sensitive to their human’s verbal and non-verbal cues, so this makes them highly trainable. However, without adequate socialisation at a young age, this sensitivity can go into overdrive and make Border Collies become wary of strangers and balk at loud noises (for instance, Indy hides when we says the word ‘no’, even if it is not directed at him, and he hates all loud bangs, such as fireworks, thunder and hammering).
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers (or ‘Tollers’, for short) are the smallest of the retriever breeds and often get mistaken for miniature Goldens. These distinctive foxy-looking dogs were bred on Canada’s Altantic coast as gun dogs to lure and retrieve water fowl and therefore love getting wet – they even have webbed feet to help them swim more efficiently! Another unique Toller feature is a high-pitched squeal that they emit when they are excited or nervous, but like their retriever cousins, they do not tend to bark excessively.
From a personality point of view, Tollers are a kind of cross between Labradors and Border Collies, as they share many traits with these two breeds. On one hand, Tollers are friendly, laid back and very tolerant of kids, like their retriever cousins, but they also stubborn, high-energy and have a high prey drive, like Border Collies. While the Toller’s silky russet coat is quite low maintenance, they do like to get wet and muddy, so you will need to rinse them off after outings. Overall, Tollers would suit an active family that enjoys hiking, camping and other fun activities that their canine companion can participate in.