What is the Official State Dog

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I never knew that there was a thing called the official state dog until we adopted Oscar. The rescue told us that he was a Catahoula Leopard Dog, adding, “That’s the official state dog of Louisiana.”

Well, they were right and they were wrong.

They’re right that the Catahoula Leopard Dog is the official state dog of Louisiana. However, after doing the Wisdom Panel doggie DNA test, we learned that Oscar was more than just a Catahoula. He is basically your Heinz 57 dog.

The Concept of the State Dog

Catahoula Leopard dogs and Louisiana aside, you probably know that the United States is home to a diverse range of dog breeds. Each has its unique characteristics and qualities, much like the states themselves.

Many states have even adopted an official dog breed as a symbol of their state’s identity. Oftentimes the state dog reflects the state’s history, culture or geography.

For example, the Alaskan Malamute became Alaska’s official dog in 2010, given the breed’s suitability for the state’s cold and frozen tundra. Similarly, Louisiana selected that aforementioned Catahoula Leopard Dog as the state’s official dog in 1979. Why? Because it reflects the breed’s origins in the area that is now Louisiana.

catahoula leopard dog louisiana state dog
Catahoula leopard dog. Photo credit: Canva Pro.

Origin and Importance

The concept of state dogs is a relatively new phenomenon. In fact, it wasn’t until 1964 that any of the 50 states decided to name an official state dog.

The first one to do so was Maryland. It chose the Chesapeake Bay Retriever for obvious reasons — the Chesapeake Bay makes up a significant part of the state’s waterfront. Also, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is the official mascot of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).

Now which came first — the state dog or the college mascot? I’ll have to find out.

chesapeak bay retriever
Chesapeake bay retriever. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

Since then, only a handful of states have designated an official state dog breed. Each state has its own criteria for selecting an official state dog breed.

Some states choose a breed that is native to the state, while others choose a breed that is popular among its citizens. Other states select a breed that has played an important role in the state’s history, while others choose a breed that is known for its loyalty and courage.

Finally, having an official state dog is a way to promote responsible pet ownership and raise awareness about the importance of animal welfare. In fact, some states have chosen not to select a certain breed but instead to promote adopting rescue pets instead.

State Dogs and Their History

In 2013, Colorado listed rescue dogs and cats as the state pet, as did Tennessee in 2014. California also named the shelter pet as its state pet in 2015 because of all the abandoned shelter pets each year. California’s legislature hopes this will cause more adoptions of pets from shelters.

New York named “Working Dogs” the official state dog as a way to honor the search and rescue dogs that helped in downtown New York City after September 11, 2001.

Georgia’s official state dog is not one particular breed, but rather dogs that are in need of homes. Passed by lawmakers in 2016, the firm belief in “adopt, don’t shop” means that the millions of dogs in shelters and rescues have a chance at finding a loving home.

However, ask someone in Georgia that the official state dog is, and chances are they’ll tell you the Georgia Bulldog, for the University of Georgia mascot.

The Alaska Malamute

malamute alaska state dog
Alaskan Malamute. Photo credit: Canva Pros.

Sometimes the state dogs come to be in the most interesting ways. Take the Alaskan Malamute, the official dog of Alaska.

Although Malamutes are native to Alaska, it took a long time for the state to recognize them as the official state dog. In fact, it was only in 2010 that they were designated as such. And it was thanks to a group of school children who worked hard and raised funds for the Alaskan Malamute to officially become the state dog!

The Plott Hound

plott hound north carolina state dog
Plott Hound. Photo credit: Croft Fite, Shutterstock.

The Plott Hound is the official dog of North Carolina, named after the Plott family who bred the dogs for hunting. The breed’s history goes back to the mid-1700s when Johannes Plott brought five Hanoverian Hounds with him when he immigrated to America. The Plott Hound is known for its exceptional hunting skills, and it is still used today for hunting big game.

Finally, both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the United Kennel Club (UKC) recognize many of the state dogs as official dog breeds.

Dog Breeds by State

The United States has a diverse range of official state dogs, with many states opting to honor a specific breed. Here is an alphabetical listing of the states and their respective breeds.

AlabamaAmerican Pit Bull Terrier
AlaskaAlaskan Malamute
DelawareGolden Retriever
FloridaFlorida Cracker Cur
KansasBoston Terrier
LouisianaCatahoula Leopard Dog
MarylandChesapeake Bay Retriever
MassachusettsBoston Terrier
New HampshireChinook
New JerseyGerman Shepherd
New YorkWorking dogs
North CarolinaPlott Hound
PennsylvaniaGreat Dane
South CarolinaBoykin Spaniel
TexasBlue Lacy
VirginiaAmerican Foxhound

Here are dog mascots affiliated with baseball teams.

Places without a state dog

Here is a list of states that have not selected any kind of dog as their official state dog:

  • California (here are the most popular dog names in California)
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington State
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Final thoughts on official state dogs

If I’ve gotten anything wrong about one of the 50 states and their official dog breed, please let me know. I’m happy to review additional information and update this article accordingly.

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