The emergence of human severe acute respiratory syndrome incited renewed interest in animal coronaviruses (CoVs) as potential agents of direct and indirect zoonoses. The reinforced epidemiological surveillance on CoVs has led to the identification of new viruses, genotypes, pathotypes and host variants in animals and humans. In dogs, a CoV associated with mild enteritis, canine coronavirus (CCoV), has been known since 1970s. CoV strains with different biological and genetic properties with respect to classical CCoV strains have been identified in dogs in the last few years, leading to a full reconsideration of the CoV-induced canine diseases. The genetic evolution of dog CoVs is paradigmatic of how CoVs evolve through accumulation of point mutations, insertions or deletions in the viral genome, that led to the emergence of new genotypes (CCoV type I), biotypes (pantropic CCoV) and host variants (canine respiratory coronavirus). This paper is a review of the current literature on the recent genetic evolution of CCoV and emergence of new CoVs in the dog. The significances of the newly acquired information for the canine health status and prophylaxis programmes are also discussed.