The Latest on State Dogs

When Maryland named the Chesapeake Bay Retriever as its State Dog in 1964, it became the first state to do so. Only a year later, Pennsylvania became the second state by similarly naming the Great Dane its official dog.  To date, thirteen states have State Dogs, most of them purebred dogs, and most of them “native sons and daughters” of the states which designated them as such. As of this writing, the most recent proposal to name a State Dog comes out of Connecticut’s 2023 legislative session, many arguing for the Siberian Husky in honor of Jonathan the Husky, the mascot of UConn (you can read about the runners-up here). We’ll be sure to update you if it passes.

That there aren’t more State Dogs isn’t for lack of trying.

The Golden Retriever was first nominated by Frank Albert to be Georgia’s State Dog in 1991, but the state senate wasn’t sold on the idea and voted against it 37-10.  The same year, the Bulldog  – mascot of the University of Georgia – was put forward by another senator.  Evidently, that didn’t pass either because in 2016, a bill introduced to make the “adoptable dog” the official state dog did pass. Right after that bill was passed, another senator proposed the English Bulldog again, but the bill was dropped and the “adoptable dog” is still Georgia’s official state dog.

For a year, the Golden Retriever really was Delaware’s State Dog, but the breed’s official recognition in 2016 had a one-year expiration date, and now Delaware is back to being a state without a designated dog breed.

In 2015, Staci Gile approached lawmakers with a proposal to make Labrador Retrievers Maine’s State Dog, but the State and Local Government Committee voted 9-2 to reject the bill. In 2018, a state senator also proposed making the Labrador Retriever the official State Dog, this time in Ohio.  The senator, Jeffery Rezabek, said the popular breed would represent Ohio values well because the Lab is working and sporting breed that also serves as rescue dogs, police dogs and therapy dogs. The bill went nowhere, and it didn’t help that PETA opposed the proposal, arguing that the bill will encourage substandard breeders to crank out puppies.

In 2012, New York Assembly Bill 9655 introduced by Harvey Weisenberg would have designated the German Shepherd Dog as the state dog of New York.  Assemblyman Weisenberg, then a Long Island Democrat, said he introduced the bill after a woman he met at a kennel convention asked him to. Sadly, the bill stalled in the Governmental Operations Committee.  

The Siberian Husky was proposed as the state dog of Washington in 2004, but the campaign didn’t make it past the House of Representatives; In 2012, Kansas nominated the Cairn Terrier as its State Dog, but the proposal was tabled. Becky Davis was equally unsuccessful in her argument in 2016 that because a Newfoundland named “Seaman” accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition to the West, Oregon should name the breed its State Dog.

In 2015, a group was organized to gather support for a proposal to the state of New Jersey to recognize the Collie as the official state dog, and pointed to the fact that the author of Lad: A Dog, Albert Payson Terhune, lived in Pompton Lakes, NJ and was home to Sunnybank Collies.  In 2019, a resolution passed supporting the Collie as State Dog, but we’re not seeing it on official websites.

In 2011, Oregon State Senator Bill Hansell, at the request of a constituent, Ron Folck, introduced the proposal to make the Border Collie the state’s official State Dog. The effort failed. Six years later, two resolutions in the Oregon State Legislature proposed a State Dog: Once again, the Border Collie was brought forward, along with Rescue Dogs. Presumably, neither passed since neither appeared on any official lists, but in February 2023, Oregon House Concurrent Resolution 8, a one-page declaration to declare shelter dogs and cats the state pet passed the Senate Rules Committee with a recommendation to pass on a 4-0 vote. It was expected to pass, but as of now, we’re still not seeing it on any official documentation.

For anyone curious about the other breeds that are official State Dogs:

Virginia named the American Foxhound its official dog in 1966.  Massachusetts named the Boston Terrier the state’s top dog in 1979, the same year that the Catahoula Leopard Dog represented the Pelican State, Louisiana, as its official State Dog.  The Boykin Spaniel became the official dog of South Carolina in 1985, the same year that Wisconsin named the American Water Spaniel as its official canine. North Carolina adopted the Plott Hound as the State Dog in 1989, and in Texas, the Blue Lacy was picked as the official dog in 2005. In 2007, the campaign to pick Alaska’s state dog started in a kindergarten classroom at Polaris K-12 School, and the Alaskan Malamute was named the state’s official dog in 2010.  The year before in 2009, the Chinook became New Hampshire’s official dog in 2009 thanks to a campaign spearheaded by elementary school students from Bedford, New Hampshire.  In 2019, Governor Bill Lee signed and approved the Bluetick Coonhound as the State Dog of Tennessee.

We conclude by mentioning that in 2013, Colorado became the 12th state to designate an official state pet, choosing shelter cats and dogs as proposed by schoolchildren – but in 2015, Colorado also became the first state in the country to recognize May 1 as National Purebred Dog Day. As we see it, May 1 is now every dog breed’s official day.

State legislators can select a dog breed to represent their state for any number of reasons, and when it’s proposed by school children who make their case as part of a class project, it’s a little irresistible. That said, usual suspects are out there who will try to stymy an effort to name a purebred dog as the State Dog. We think it’s worth the effort anyway.

Image of dogs on a US map by © Mkoudis |

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