Home to The Blue Jays, Raptors, Maple Leafs, Hockey Hall of Fame and the CN Tour, Toronto is characteristically Cancuk and generally dog loving.
But Canada’s largest multicultural metropolitan can be challenging to navigate with a dog in tow – unless you know where to go. If you’re visiting Toronto with your pooch, you’ll need a plan and good weather.
Warmer temperatures make for a better visit, because you’ll be spending most of your time outside. And this just got easier. As of January 2020, pets are no longer restricted from patios – that’s right, for years dogs couldn’t be near restaurants in Ontario (though a few neighborhood haunts flaunted the rule).
Thankfully, that’s all changed, and business owners now make their own policies.
So, it’s a great year to pack your dog in the car and check out Canada’s most populated province – starting with dog-friendly Toronto.
Where to run: High Park Dog Off-Leash Park
High Park (1873 Bloor Street West) is a 400-acre green oasis in Toronto’s west end and contained within is one awesome dog park. Many locals start and finish their off-leash experience at ‘Dog Hill,’ an open dirt mound, worn bare by four-legged friends, complete with picnic tables, a few trees, and a water faucet for canine hydration.
However, it’s better to veer off the beaten hill and follow the leash-free trail system through the woods. Thanks to rustic wire-mesh fencing lining the wide trails, you dog can freely find his way down the wood-chip road without interfering with wildlife, flora and fauna … or losing you. A map explains the looping trails and yellow markers mean no leash required.
But wait – there’s more. A dog-friendly zoo: inside High Park the 100-year-old charming High Park Zoo (77 Deer Pen Road) houses hooved animals such as deer, bison, capybara and llamas behind wire fences. This compact zoo essentially runs along a neighborhood pedestrian street, so leashed dogs are welcome, and you’ll see many tethered to baby strollers out for some afternoon air.
Where to tour: The Distillery District
Considering its nefarious past as a whisky running port, Toronto’s trendy Distillery District (9 Trinity Street) is an area ripe with ghost stories – a fact not lost on the Haunted Walk tour company running several tours in the Toronto. Some are dog friendly.
Specifically, the 75-minute Haunted Walks of Toronto’s Ghosts and Spirits of the Distillery, February to November, amusingly recounts tales of ghost sightings among the old industrial buildings currently filled with boutiques, galleries and coffee shops. First, bring your dog along to stroll the cobble stone walkways, then joined the tour.
The Haunted Walk of Toronto offers other walks throughout the city, but the Distillery District tour is the best because it is entirely outside, dog-friendly and confined to a reasonable walking distance.
Where to Party: Annual Dog Festivals
Woofstock claims status as North America’s largest pet festival. Admission is free at Woodbine Beach Park (1695 Queen St E) in Toronto during Woofstock, the first weekend of June each year (June 6 and 7, 2020), and if you arrive early, parking is free in the beach lot beside Lake Ontario.
At the festival, contests such as best-dressed dog grace the mainstage and a central lure course keeps pups busy. Big-named brands like Purina, Milkbone and Royal Canine hand out samples alongside pet product entrepreneurs selling anything from organic treats to dog closets. It’s crowded but festive.
If you’d rather stay inside, another large pet festival that sees people lining up to get in happens Easter Weekend each year – The Canadian Pet Expo finds a home at the International Centre (6900 Airport Rod., Mississauga) near Toronto’s Pearson Airport twice a year. The spring event is always Easter, but the fall/winter dates vary.
Where to stay: Pet Friendly Hotel
During the2013 ice storm that knocked out power to parts of Toronto for days, The Chelsea Hotel (33 Gerrard Street West) advertised fair rates for locals needing a place to stay. A newspaper ran a photo of a dog with its family at the hotel solidifying The Chelsea as the dog-friendly accommodation in downtown Toronto (but not the only one).
Book a Bring-your-Canine-Buddy suite (for $50 extra) at The Chelsea and you’ll find a dog bed, food and water bowl, and locally-made organic dog treats in your room.
Ask to be close to the ground floor for easier bathroom breaks because this is one of the largest tallest hotels in Toronto. It’s also the only one with a two-story waterslide jutting out the side – so the indoor pool (not dog friendly) is exceptionally fun for the family. No kids? Deck 27 is the alternate adult-only pool.
Young Street, the heart of downtown, is outside the Chelsea’s front door and where you’ll have to head for potty breaks. Pick up breakfast to go at the Expressio on-the-go café in the hotel, making eating with the dog possible and cheaper than room service. Bring your own dog food, though.
Where to nosh: Evergreen Brickworks Farmer’s Market
Beyond the downtown core, Evergreen Brickworks (550 Bayview Avenue) is a repurposed brick factory – now a trendy environmental space with landscaped trails, pond and open industrial space hosting events such as Toronto’s Saturday morning Farmer’s Market and permanent cafes, a bike shop and garden center.
Most of the area is dog-friendly, so much so the people drinking fountain has a ground level version for Fido. By farmer’s market standards, the Saturday morning event (8 am to 2 pm, June to September) is not that big, but it is exotic, chichi and dog-friendly featuring organic vegetables, artisan bread and even a few pet specific vendors like Healing Doggy treats and another selling raw Ostrich meat pet food.
Leashes are mandatory, and dogs can stroll all public places (including nearby green spaces) except one indoor building and the food prep area outside.
Have you visited dog-friendly Toronto?
Tell us about your experience in a comment below, or stop by the Everyday Dog Mom Collective, a private Facebook group for dog moms, and join in the conversation there.
About the Author:
Sherri Telenko is a freelance writer and publisher of Dog Trotting, global travel for dog lovers.