Thinking about adding a new dog to your family in British Columbia? Dogs are wonderful companions, but they represent a big commitment. Before you start looking, consider what kind of dog will fit your family, enjoy your favourite activities, and adapt to life on Canada’s west coast.

Picking a breed

When choosing what kind of dog you'd like to take home, it might be good to consider your own lifestyle. Do you spend a great deal of time outdoors? Like to spend time hiking, cottaging or boating off the coast of Vancouver Island or mainland BC? Your ideal dog might be a retriever.  Labradors, for example, love the water and are great family dogs as well.

If, on the other hand, you're a Vancouverite or city dweller in a small apartment, a cute little Yorkshire terrier might be the perfect pup to cuddle with on cold nights and take for walks in the park. Your dog should be physically suited to your living space and your activities.

Vancouver's most popular breeds

  • Labrador Retrievers – Gentle, family friendly, and great dogs for sports and hunting. Labs are made for the great outdoors and are historically the most popular dog across Canada.
  • Terriers – Smaller dogs in quite a variety of sub-breeds, terriers range from the highly energetic short-haired Jack Russell to the long, silky-haired Yorkie.
  • Shepherds – Big, muscular dogs that are intelligent, highly trainable and make wonderful family pets.
  • Shih Tzus – Tiny breeds that are more hair than dog, Shih Tzus are friendly and playful, well suited to small living spaces.
  • Collies – This hard-working dog is athletic, intelligent, and dignified. The most popular collie in Vancouver is the medium-sized border collie.
  • Schnauzer – A small, wiry-haired dog with a distinctive beard, schnauzers can be miniature, standard, or giant. They are intelligent, protective dogs with a lot of energy and they bark a lot.

Searching for adoptable dogs in BC

The BC SPCA takes in more than 28,000 animals at its various locations every year, and there are many more rescue organizations with adoptable pets across the province. 

By opting to adopt a dog, you’re giving a great animal a second chance for a happy life while also creating more room in a shelter for future pets. 

Start by searching for your local shelter in BC from the BC SPCA website, or for a specific dog using the site’s online adoptable pet search tool.

BC dog laws

Municipal laws in BC stipulate that your dog must have a license (usually renewed annually), on-leash except in designated areas, and aggressive dogs must be muzzled and you are required to clean up after your pup. British Columbia has not banned any dog breeds, but fines can reach $500 for having an unmuzzled, aggressive dog.

Some municipalities like the City of Vancouver even have a guide for owning a dog in the city.

Your pet and the cold

No matter how thick his coat, you should not leave your dog exposed to the extreme winter conditions of BC winters for long. Even huskies can suffer from the cold if left without shelter for a long period of time. Be especially careful if your dog has a health condition that affects the body's ability to regulate temperature (ask your veterinarian for details).

Dog parks

Vancouver is full of off-leash parks where you and your dog can play. Many parks feature lakes, ponds, rivers, and even waterfalls to engage and delight your pet.

View a list of off-leash dog parks in Vancouver, Coquitlam, Burnaby, Surrey, or BC provincial parks.

Before you go, though, make sure your pup's vaccinations are up-to-date. Puppies are particularly susceptible to contagious diseases. He should also be wearing his license on his collar. If not, it can cost you $250. Being a responsible dog owner is good for everyone – especially you and your pet!