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Dogs Have Love Medicine: A Case Study Exploration of the Dog-Human Interface in a Remote Saskatchewan Community



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Many northern, remote and Indigenous communities in Canada report challenges with care and control of dog health, welfare and populations. Concurrently, these communities typically experience inadequate access to health and welfare services for dogs. To support optimal outcomes at the dog-human interface, we sought to understand the contributors to and determinants of these outcomes by understanding the dog-human relationship and the strengths and opportunities in current approaches to dog care and control in one northern Saskatchewan region. A team of researchers, service providers, decision makers and community members conducted a decolonizing qualitative case study incorporating Indigenous methodologies. A community-oriented approach was taken to ensure community priorities and empowerment were the focus. Data sources included 20 conversational interviews; 9 reflective journals from high-school students; 9 key informant interviews; and documents including relevant legislation; local dog bylaws; and local humane society records. Collaborative thematic and content analyses were conducted to derive themes. Rigor was maintained through member checking, data triangulation, team reflexivity and generation of usable outcomes for the study community. Findings reveal multi-dimensional dog-human relationships illustrated by an extended medicine wheel model where each domain (physical, social, emotional and spiritual) represents an element of relational health. The model allows consideration of the needs for a healthy relationship, and the proximal, intermediate and distal determinants of dog care and control. In this region, dog care and control concerns are mediated by inadequate access to resources and support for dog health and welfare. Dog health and welfare engages multiple sectors, and gaps in dog care and control are determined by local, provincial, and holistic or systemic factors. Challenges at the dog-human interface require local, regional and systemic capacity-building. Balanced relational health can be achieved by attending to factors that bolster each domain. The needs of dogs must be met at individual and community levels to ensure dog health and welfare, and this will require creative changes to practice and policy. Holistic influences on outcomes between dogs and humans draw attention to sociopolitical contexts and stakeholder approaches, providing opportunities for improved relational health overall.



Dog health, Dog-human relationship, Community health, Indigenous health, One health, Community-oriented research, Access to care, Dog welfare, Qualitative health research, Veterinary, Health policy, Decolonizing



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Western College of Veterinary Medicine


Large Animal Clinical Sciences


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