Urban dog owners know that navigating good doggy parenthood in a big city is no small feat. After all, dogs know when it’s time for a walk. They don’t care if it’s pouring rain or if there is two feet of snow on the ground. And urban dog owners don’t judge when it’s 7:00am and you’re standing outside with bad hair and no makeup, patiently waiting for the right time to put that poop bag in your hand to good use.
As any puppy parent will tell you, it's extremely rewarding to see that tail wagging with joy. After all, dogs live for two things - making us smile and exploring the great outdoors. I know what you’re thinking - that’s difficult to do in a big city. But dogs are curious creatures by nature so the hustle and bustle of the city isn’t all bad. Luckily, Toronto is a dog friendly city with vast selection of wonderful off-leash dog parks where your pet can run to their heart's content while making friends with other locals.
Not all dog parks are created equal. The best and most popular parks are not only fun for the four-legged patrons, but for the owners as well. Features like washrooms, seating and poop-bag dispensers are much appreciated luxuries.
There are over 50 off-leash locations currently approved by the City of Toronto. Here's my list of a few of my favourites that assure a lot of tail wagging, howling good fun for the furry friends in your life.
High Park Leash Free Dog Park
This 125-year-old park and recreation area offers 398 acres of gorgeous gardens, hiking trails and picnic areas, as well as an off-leash dog park. Located between Grenadier Restaurant and the High Park Amphitheatre is “The Dog Hill”. This area is not fully fenced so if your dog has a tendency to spontaneously run off, this park might not be the best choice for running free. But even if your puppy is not great off the leash, there are many open areas and trails inside the park to discover. There is running water inside the off-leash area as well as a few large benches and tables where dog owners can socialize, but there are no plastic bag dispensers so please bring plenty of your own.
Trinity Bellwoods Park
The “Dog Bowl” - as it’s called by the locals - is located between Dundas and Queen, just west of Bathurst. This dog park in the Queen West neighbourhood is perfect for hanging out with your dog on any given day. It features a large grassy space, restrooms and plenty of water to quench the thirst after a long ball chasing session. This off-leash area is also not fully-fenced but its giant sunken crater-like shape provides enough separations and good vantage point for supervising your pet. One of the advantages of this dog park is its proximity to Queen Street's cafes and bakeries. Before heading over to the Dog Bowl, be sure to stop at White Squirrel for a rich cup of java or Nadege Patisserie for a chocolate croissant, or two. Trinity Bellwoods is one of our favourite parks in Toronto, for dogs and humans alike. Here’s more about the park and why we love it! —> Looking For Leash-Free Doggy Love At Trinity Bellwoods Park.
Clarence Square Dog Park
This fully fenced dog park is located in the historic Clarence Square, just a block south of King Street West, east of Spadina Avenue. This green resting space amidst the bustling city is one of the oldest parks in downtown Toronto. In fact it’s been around from the time Toronto was known as the Town of York. These days it serves as a rest stop for tourists, a lunch spot for those working in the office in area, and dog owners from the nearby condos. As the condo community grows, this off-leash dog area has quickly become party-central for city dogs. If your fur baby loves to socialize, this is a great place to make new friends. This generous size dog park has a pea gravel surface and offers two water dispensers. There are also several trees providing shade and lots of benches lining the walkway. We also love the charm of the quaint 19th century row houses on the square’s north side. Even on a cold day, spending time with your pooch here doesn’t feel like a chore especially when enjoying a sweet treat from Le Neuf, a French cafe located in one of the charming row houses across the square.
Cherry Beach Dog Park
If your dog loves water, this is doggy heaven on earth. Located at the foot of Cherry Street, south of the Gardiner Expressway, Cherry Beach has one of the largest areas of lakefront and beach of any off-leash dog park in the city. Fenced off from three sides, almost the entire west side of Cherry Beach is designated for dogs. This area is very popular with dog walkers so there is a lot of meet and greet time, especially during the warm months. Since the beach is in a somewhat industrial and undeveloped area, it almost feels like you’ve left the city. This dog park offers restrooms, some seating and you might even see a few food trucks in the afternoons. This is a great park for a stroll, playing in the water and making new friends.
While not all of the Beltline Trail is considered an off-leash area, it still offers lots of fun trails for your puppy to discover. This unique part of Toronto’s parks and ravines follows an old railway line from Allen Road south of Elm Ridge Drive and west to Mount Pleasant Cemetery. If your dog is the type that prefers to keep you company rather than chase a ball, he will love exploring the trail with you. The trail is quite long so bringing your own water bottle is a good idea. If your pooch needs to work off some energy, make a stop at the Forest Hill Road Dog Park at Chaplin Crescent before hitting the trails. The area is not fenced but far enough away from the main road so if your dog is not the type to wonder off, it’s quite safe. The Beltline Trail is especially worth visiting in the fall. Here is more on why we love this spot —> Autumn Colours At Toronto’s Kay Gardner Beltline.
Paws Way, Pet Discovery Centre
Ok, this doesn’t exactly fall into the off-leash dog park category, but it is a fantastic alternative for days when the weather is not co-operating and cleaning wet, muddy paws doesn't fit into your weekend plans. Located on the waterfront at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, Paws Way is a first of its kind centre devoted completely to dogs and cats. The centre was designed to foster healthy and happy relationships between pets and their guardians and it’s an especially great place to visit if you are a new dog parent looking for a bit of guidance. This 16,000 square feet public space offers pet related exhibits, interactive learning opportunities and it’s a one-stop resource for tons of information. If your puppy loves to learn like my Border Collie, you’ll love the Paws Way drop-in program for agility training. For a very small fee ($3.50 + HST) the staff will help you and your dog master obstacles and learn obedience skills while building confidence in your pup and exercise his or her mind. This is also to wonderful spot for organized play dates, and while your fur babies play, the parents can enjoy a coffee or a bite at Williams Fresh Cafe located in the building. Everybody wins!
Dogs can and do thrive in cities. All it takes is a lot of love and learning on our part to make sure they are healthy and happy. Taking the time to find a place where your dog can run around and burn off steam is part of it, especially if you’re moving into a small space without easy access to a backyard. If that’s you, check out Buying a Condo Your Dog Will Love for some great tips on buying a condo with your dog. And when it’s time to move, be sure to follow these 8 Simple Rules To Moving With Dogs.
Are you on the hunt for that perfect place to share with your pooch? Do you have questions or topic ideas about caring for dogs in the city?
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Guest Writer: Monika MacMillan, Sales Representative
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 530-1100