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With its wide open spaces and vast areas of national and provincial parks, Canada is truly a wonderful spot for vacationing with your pet. In most of the major parks and attraction areas there are cabins, camping grounds, hotels, motels and luxury accommodations that offer dog friendly options. Since travel between Canada and the United States is easy by car, train, airplane or even boat, many visitors from the US bring dogs into Canada every year.
In general dogs will need to have a current vaccination record as well as vet certificate of health to cross the border. There are no quarantine issues between the countries providing the documents for the dog are in order and up to date. It is always recommended that owners have their dogs on current flea treatments as well as heartworm medications at least two months before any travel. Fleas and heartworms are not as big of a problem in Canada and the northern United States as they are in the mid to southern areas, however preventative treatment is always recommended. A current rabies vaccination will be necessary as part of the vaccination record to bring the dog across the border.
If you planning on camping, hiking or just spending some time in the great outdoors, you may wish to consider treating your dog for Leptospirosis and Giardia before you leave. In many areas of the United States these are already part of standard vaccination routines so be sure to check with your vet. As water borne health conditions they are not typically life-threatening but it is always better to treat your dog in advance to prevent any possible problems.
Most major cities in Canada will have similar leash laws and dog control regulations as major American cities. Dogs will have to be on a leash in public places unless designated as an off-leash park. Leash laws in smaller towns and more rural areas of Canada tend to be less restrictive and many areas have no specific laws or requirements once out of the major metropolitan areas. As always, check with the local animal control if in doubt.
There are several national parks and attractions that are really worth a visit. Most of the areas in Canada listed below are great for both summer vacations as well as winter downhill or cross country skiing, snow shoeing or year round hiking and exploring.
Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC: this massive and breathtaking park located in the heart of the city borders on the ocean and the Fraser River. The total size of Stanley Park is over 1000 acres with a designated off leash area in one section. From the park walkway you can stroll along and see the city, the mountains, the ocean and the massive ships moving in and out of the Port of Vancouver. Dogs are welcome in most areas of the park but must be on a leash. Owners are required to clean up after their pets even in the remote areas of the park. It is easy to step from the maintained walkways onto dirt paths that lead through massive stands of forest and ferns.
Vancouver itself boasts a great number of off-leash pet parks as well as pet friendly hotels and accommodations. A short drive up or down the coast can allow you access to beach areas that are great for walking. Dogs are not allowed on public beaches but the wide expanse of coastline does offer dog friendly spots, although they are a bit out of the way.
Banff National Park: Located in Alberta, not far from the major city of Calgary, Banff offers visitors and their pets a true wilderness and mountain experience. Many hotels in the area are pet friendly although dogs are not allowed inside of businesses or restaurants unless they are assistance dogs. Some outdoor restaurants in the summer may allow dogs on leashes in specific tables on the patio area.
While in Banff or hiking outside of the town expect to see a wide variety of wild animals including Bighorn Sheep, Elk, Deer and Moose. In the spring bears can be a problem in some areas so check for alerts or sightings in the area before walking your dog in the more remote trails and walks.
In the winter months pets are also welcome at the hotels, although it is important to keep in mind that most hotels do not allow the dogs to be left in the room. This is particularly important if owners want to take in some of the outstanding skiing in the area as pets are not allowed on the ski slopes for safety reasons. Some hotels offer referrals to local kennels or even in house doggy care as an additional service that is charged separate from the hotel.
Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba: located in southwestern Manitoba within the central area of Canada, Riding Mountain National Park is famous for its outstanding wildlife, beautiful lakes and bison herd. The park, especially the main tourist area of Clear Lake or Wasagaming, provides opportunities for camping, day hikes and even renting cabins. Trail rides and hiking excursions are popular throughout specific areas of the park, many which are open to dogs. In total the park boasts over 400 km of trails, more than enough to keep you busy exploring.
The bison area of the park is only accessible by vehicle, more like a safari adventure. Dogs, for obvious safety reasons, are not allowed in this part of the park. Humans also have to stay inside the vehicles within the bison enclosure. Camping around the many lakes is only allowed within designated areas and dogs are only allowed on leash within designated areas of those campgrounds. All owners are required to clean up after their dogs and the dogs are not allowed on the public beaches within the park. Smaller lakes that are out of the way do provide opportunities for dogs to get their feet wet in the water.
Toronto, Ontario: if you are more of a city person, Toronto, Ontario offers a wide range of luxury and modestly priced pet friendly accommodations. There are also many different pet parks within the city limits and dogs are allowed in most public areas as long as they are leashed. Some restaurants may allow dogs in designated areas on the patio in summer months. Located just outside of Toronto on Lake Ontario is a huge 11 acre off leash dog park known as Cherry Park. The park is open year round and signs are posted as to rules and expectations when using the park.
Another ideal spot to take your pet in Toronto is the PawsWay Pet Discovery Center. Designed to incorporate a learning experience about dogs and cats for humans as well as a fun outing for dogs, PawsWay is dedicated to education about pets. It is funded by Purina and also hosts the Canadian Pets Hall of Fame. Dogs are more than welcome to tour the exhibits and participate in the demonstrations with their owners. Admission is free for all year round. The on site restaurant is open to both people and dogs with full meals and snacks available for owners and their canine companions.
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