If you live in Toronto, you know that this is a dog friendly city. We are fortunate to have a vast selection of wonderful off-leash parks to choose from where our furry friends can romp and play while owners take a well deserved rest. Not all off-leash parks are created equal. Some enforce time restrictions or outline unclear boundaries, while the best parks cater to pets and owners alike – washrooms, poop-bag dispensers and seating are provided to make things easier and enjoyable….believe me, there’s nothing less enjoyable then running out of poop bags. There are over 50 off-leash locations approved by the City of Toronto at this time, but below are my favourite five worth checking out.
Located at the foot of Cherry Street, south of the Gardiner Expressway, this is probably the best place for a dog in the city. It’s fenced in from three sides, with benches for owners as well as restrooms, a snack area and plenty of parking nearby. Best time to go is in the morning when there is a little less traffic, but even in busy times everyone is friendly, not minding muddy dogs jumping around and beining…well, dogs.
Located in the west end of the city, south of Bloor West Village, High Park is Toronto’s larges and offers great strolling opportunities. The “Dog Hill” is the official off-leash area with plenty of seating, nearby washrooms and a drinking fountain for pets, but do bring your own plastic bags to pick up after your pet. There are many open areas and trails inside the park, and although it’s not permitted to let your dog off leash anywhere outside the dog park area, if your dog is well behaved you won’t get in trouble for letting your pooch run around.
Located between Dundas and Queen, west of Bathurst, this is Hipster Heaven. Any given weekend, or afternoon for that matter, the park is packed with parents with strollers, couples holding hands, and kids playing. Although at first glance this may not seem like a great place for a dog, walk a little further north and you’ll arrive at the sunken dog-friendly area. The giant “crater” provides enough separation and a good vantage point for supervising pet owners. There is plenty of seating and green bins for pooch waste. This is a great place for the dog and the owner to socialize or relax and enjoy a chocolate croissant from the nearby Nadege Patisserie or an Americano from White Squirrel. Parking is not the greatest, but you can find some free parking on the neighbourhood’s residential streets, or paid parking on Queen Street or Dundas Street.
Kew Gardens is located south of Queen Street East, east of Woodbine Ave. The Beach is a unique neighbourhood that feels more like a small town in a big city. You don’t have to be at the park for your dog to socialize as almost everyone walking up and down Queen East has a dog at their side. But living with an 8-year-old border collie, I know that there’s nothing like a tired pooch after a long run, so off to the Kew Beach we go. The off-leash area is bordered by the lake at the south end, and although the sand is not the kind that makes you want to sink your toes in and the water quality is questionable at best, the dogs don’t care. There are some drinking fountains around, but I recommend bringing a bottle of water for an emergency thirst quench, as well as plastic bags for…well, you know. Parking is tricky so either leave the car at home, or park west of Woodbine Ave. and walk over. After playtime is over, treat your pooch to a little shopping at The Dog Market or Big Dog Bakery for some homemade, better-then-a-belly-rub, goodness.
PawsWay is a pet-event centre at the Harbourfront. Just east of Lower Spadina, this is a popular attraction for both kids and pets. Although there is no outdoor space and you may wonder why this one is on my list, this indoor space is a 3700 square feet off-leash heaven. Long walks in the winter are miserable and PawsWay offers some help. There is a list of events planned every month and lots to choose from in terms of exercise and socializing. Beyond the exercise and fun for the dog, PawsWay offers an engaging environment where pet guardians, pet professionals and anyone interested in pets can explore permanent exhibits or speak with pet experts. There is also a Williams Coffee shop in the building where you can have lunch with your pooch by your feet, which is a nice change from having to tie him to the bike stand in front of the Starbucks.