By Dr. Edison Barrientos

Today’s urban dog has an incredible number of options for getting outdoors, exercising and meeting new buddies.

Some Pet Moms and Dads like to take them for a stroll on some of our many walkable downtown avenues.

Queen Street West, Kensington Market, College Street, King Street West, Bloor Street and Queens Quay are some of the places where on weekends you can see almost as many canines as people taking in all that downtown Toronto has to offer.

I personally live in Little Italy and one of my favorite activities is just strolling down College Street and sitting on a patio, my dog Dali beside me while I sip a cappuccino and watch the world go by. On a warm sunny day, things don’t get much better…

For dogs that need to get their energy out in a more vigorous way, there are some great parks in the downtown area. These are the places to go for dogs and their owners to spend some playful time together. There are many parks to choose from, from small leash-free enclosures to large parks where pet owners can go on lengthy walks with their dogs’ off-leash.

As always, please make sure you pick up after your dogs and only let your dog off-leash in designated areas! It is also important to have your dog’s license up to date; City of Toronto Inspectors have been known to frequent these parks.

It is also worth noting that before taking your dog to any of these parks, please make sure that they are up to date with all of their vaccinations as well as flea and tick prevention. Interacting with other dogs, wild animals, and nature can expose them to certain diseases and parasites.

Below is a list of the top dog parks in downtown Toronto’s West End


High Park

High Park provides the largest open space and variety of trails. The off-leash area inside High Park is located between Grenadier Restaurant and the High Park zoo.  There are a number of trails designated for dog walking, but please make sure your dog does not stray as other trails are only for people use or are closed for regeneration.

At the end of the trail you will find the “Dog Hill” which is the epicenter of dog socialization. You will often find dozens of dogs and owners of all types. There are a bunch of benches and tables where owners can rest as well as water supply for the dogs.

On weekends it gets very busy so be prepared for a lot of dog play and interaction. Many dogs that go here are larger in size so it can sometimes be intimidating to smaller dogs. However, if you want to give your dog a real “wolf pack” experience, then this is the place to go.

Trinity Bellwoods Park

This large beautiful urban park is located between Dundas Street West and Queen Street West. It has always attracted a lot of dog owners as there is a large leash-free area in “The Dog Bowl”. This is a small valley in the north part of the park- here dogs can run leash free and socialize with other canine friends. Dog owners can throw the ball as far as they can without worry.

On afternoons and weekends you can find a large number of energetic dogs running and playing. It’s also a great place to meet and socialize with fellow pet owners.

It is worth noting that if you choose to take your dog here they should be well socialized and have a good recall, because their leash-free area is not enclosed. Dogs have been known to get spooked and run onto busy Dundas Street- not good!

Stanley Park South Off-Leash Area

This smaller park at Niagara Street in the Liberty Village area has an enclosed dog running area. Here you will find a sandy surface where your dog can socialize with other dogs. This park is mostly frequented by people from Liberty Village and the King West neighborhood; it’s a wonderful way to meet your neighbors if you live in the area. It is a good place to take smaller dogs as it does not get as rowdy as in the larger off-leash parks.

Clarence Square Off-Leash Area

For condo dwellers, this off leash area offers downtown canines a sweet spot to stretch their legs and meet new friends. Just steps away from Spadina Avenue and Front Street West, the park is small and enclosed. This park is usually not very busy during the day but after work it can get quite active. It is a good place for smaller dogs although all sizes have been known to frequent it.

Victoria Memorial Square Park

At Wellington and Niagara Street, in the King West district, this park is in one of the trendiest parts of town just south of the Thompson Hotel. It is NOT off leash as there are no enclosures and a dog could wander onto Niagara or Wellington streets – so please make sure that your friend is on a leash!

Victoria Park is the central meeting place for many of the young professionals and their dogs who live in the King West Area. The park has large trees and lots of squirrels which keep dogs always wanting to come back.

So there you go- five options for all different types of dogs, owners, and experiences. We hope you have a chance to explore these places with your canine friend.