Travel to Ottawa with a Small Dog

Ottawa  and  Canada’s National Capital Area encompassing Gatineau and it’s Hills is known for many things, it’s famous canal (the worlds longest skating ring), the tulip festival, the many music festivals, the Gatineau Hills for hiking, cycling, maple syrup and fall foliage.  Here in this modest city, some of the Nations most popular and architecturally famous museums have put down foundations: The Museum of Civilization, the National Art Gallery, The new War Museum and the newly refurbished Canadian Museum of Nature to name a few.  This city celebrates its history, Parliament Hill sits proud with its magnificent tower and library, the Bytown museum explains the history of the canal that remains manually “manned” in the warm months.  You can grab an ice cream, walk over and watch the boats go up – or down – the canal locks with Fido at your feet. Travel to Ottawa with a small dog will offer a lot of sights to enjoy.

Ottawa hosts a number of pet friendly hotels and a healthy number of dog friendly parks exist; some are even off leash.  A great resource was developed by the Ottawa Dog blog and lists all the parks from best to least – it’s worth a look and includes maps and can be sorted by popularity or friendliness! Visit the Ottawa Park Finder for the green space closest to where you are staying. One thing is certain – you will have a park nearby. The most famous and best loved dog park is Bruce Pit, located in the far west end of Ottawa; it offers several acres of forested land with dozens of trails throughout.  The park even has its own website and discussion forum.

Although pets are not allowed inside any of the museums or on the Governor Generals lands, Ottawa is an easy city to walk with your dog.  Small boutiques in the downtown ByWard Market will welcome petite dogs on leash or in arms.  The new up and coming “Westoboro” area will as well.  (Note: Malls do not allow dogs)

Along the Rideau River, the Canal, the Ottawa River and in every area, parks pepper the city with large majestic trees – if you don’t believe it take a hot air balloon ride (without Fido I’m afraid) – the areal view will prove this point more clearly than any words could.  September 3-6 you can bring your dog and watch the hundreds of balloons raise, take-off and float up to the sky during the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival. See the sky decked with bright floating spheres as the sun sets over the region.

After spending the day roaming the parks and sights you’ll be hard pressed to find a “Fido’s welcome” place to dine.   This is where the city fails miserably.  City bylaws do not allow dogs to join you (please note that this may not be the case bylaw 562 says “no dogs where there is food preparation” and food is not prepared on a patio – investigating into the details – stay tuned!), not even on a patio.  Some restaurants will allow you to tie up your dog on the other side of the patio railing – but if you have a toy dog that makes this suggestion an unsafe practice…you’re out of luck.  Considering the long bout of winter this city gets (about 5-6 months) the lack of indoor pet friendly eateries is even more surprising.  There is one glorious exception to the rule and that is a Coffee Shop/Pet Boutique on Bank Street called WAG.  Here you can kick up your feet, sit down, enjoy some great java and  a cookie, free Wi-Fi as well as some dog cupcakes, treats and in the summer months … doggy ice cream!

If you love authentic croissant and a great espresso you can also stop in at Benny’s (named after their first wire haired dachshund), Ottawa’s very own and real French baker.  It seems, the owner decided to treat his customers the way he would in his native France and you will often see people walk in with either a pocket dog in their arm, or even a large husky on leash to go pick-up their fresh bread.  If there is room at the tiny bar, you may even linger a moment and enjoy a delicate French pastry and coffee. He takes the risk of being fined heavily feeling that strongly that the pros for his customers outweigh his risk.  To date the city seems to have turned a blind eye. Dogs are not however, allowed in the fabulous little bistro restaurant in the back.

In the warm months, most coffee shops have dog friendly patios. Since the food and coffee is served “to go”, they manage to circumvent the by law and allow dogs to join their humans outdoors. Ottawa has many Coffee Shops to choose from.  You’ll likely find your favorites such as Starbucks, Second Cup not to mention Ottawa’s own and excellent Bridgehead. A favorite is “Planet Coffee” tucked away in a little corridor of York Street, and is an outdoor space where you can sit down for some java with your dog.  Located in a inner courtyard its tables are spread out over the cobbled stoned sidewalk and path, surrounded by the massive old grey stone walls of the first Ottawa merchant homes. With no cars going by, the effect is such that for a moment – you feel transported to Europe.

If fresh, locally grown organic foods really gets you going then a dog friendly stroll through The Ottawa Farmers Market is for you!  Open from June to October on Thursdays and Sundays you will see, smell and taste all that this region has to offer.   The rules for vendors are actually very strict; producers must be within a specific radius of the National Capital Area to have a booth here and:

“The promise of the Ottawa Farmers’ Market is that all goods sold by the vendors who participate are produced by those vendors. This ensures that the customer wanting to buy locally is able to and is purchasing the freshest meat and produce available while supporting local producers.”

People will gather for an open air breakfast of waffles and strawberries, dogs will mingle, children will play and go on a horse and carriage ride and sometimes there is even a petting zoo. It’s great fun for locals and visitors alike.

If things that go bump in the night are up your alley, or you simply like to know the more sinister history of the city then Ottawa has a treat for you!  Sign up for a haunted walk of the city. This tour will tell you all the spooky tales that are a part of this cities rich heritage. Lucy, director of Canine Services, has been with the Haunted Walk since 1999. According to the haunted Walks website Lucy recommends the Original Haunted Walk to all of her canine colleagues.

Travel to Ottawa with a small dog can be fun. It’s a city full of dog lovers. The proof is in the pudding, the large number of dog schools, pet boutiques, dog parks, quality vets, doggy daycare, agility training and even doggy camp is a testament to a city that has gone to the dogs.  For a day-to-day perspective of the region just join me on Facebook!


36 Comments on “Travel to Ottawa with a Small Dog

    • I have met with the Mayor of Ottawa and there is absolutely NO city by-law which prevents pets accompanying their parents on outdoor patios.
      Please reinvestigate and correct this outrageous myth.

      • I am currently investigating. It is true there is no Ottawa bylaw. I have spoken to Health Canada inspectors and they stated that as long as the animal(s) does not need to go through the restaurant (indoors) to access the patio that there is indeed nothing for them to enforce. Thanks for putting me onto this lead. The question becomes then why almost all restaurants have the policy? Asking large dogs to be on the other side of the railing and denying access all together to small dogs. I sense a future blog post! Thank you Amber. (It looks like it is a Public Health law)

  1. This is great! Sounds like a nice place to visit, except during winter! Monte seems to love living there.

  2. Monte, thank you for these tips. I did not know about the market on Thursdays and Sundays at all! And you’ve pointed out a few more doggie-friendly spots than I knew about. Many people find Ottawa to be less dog-friendly than other cities, but we have more doggie friendly places than I realized, and if we use the doggie friendly places and use them responsibly, perhaps we’ll be granted more!

    I do want to (sadly) add a couple of cautions:

    1. Unlike Toronto and many other cities, Ottawa does not allow pets on public transit. It makes it a challenge for those with limited incomes and those who choose to be carless to get around with their pets. I have ideas for prompting a change with this, but it’ll take some work. Meanwhile, no pets on OC Transpo, assistance dogs excepted of course.

    2. Do honour the dogs on leash signs. First, Ottawa is a city of jogging and biking enthusiasts. Even the best trained dog can be distracted and, if off leash, take off after a jogger or biker or through either in chase of a squirrel. Your dog is probably as kind as can be, but that kindness can result in Fido inadvertently getting underfoot and injured. Second, there have been disputes over who “owns” what land in this city and we have had cases of people laying out poison for dogs who wander into territory that someone considers to be a no dog area. Ottawa is not unique with this; many cities have to deal with the problem of malicious poisoning. Keep your dog on leash when required and next to you, and eliminate the risk of poisoning. Third (and I speak on this from bitter experience), our parks and pathways are patrolled by bylaw officers, local police, and the RCMP (much of Ottawa is federal territory), and they will ticket you if your dog is off-leash (unless, of course, it’s an off-leash park). A city ticket issued by a bylaw officer may not be any more painful than a parking ticket, but if issued by city police or the RCMP, the ticket is issued as a traffic ordinance, so it goes on your driving record and the fine is hefty (an RCMP ticket is $115; I’m guessing a city ticket would be similar).

    • Thanks Dawn – I am late seeing this response! I thank you for the caution as well. I would say however, that I have often eaten what I am not supposed to eat … on leash. But the fines – I did not know that there were such complications and possibilities around them. Noted!

      I am with you for the public transport changes!!! That and patio’s … let me know when and we will be there!

  3. As someone traveling through Ottawa this past summer I can agree with your assessment that Ottawa is pet friendly city and we enjoyed all of the pet amenities, but it seems this hospitality doesn’t transfer to the hotel industry. Finding pet friendly hotels in ottawa was like pulling a tooth! After searching directories for hours, we finally found a hotel that was listed as pet friendly but when we got there, We found out they had a weight limit of 25 pounds! It turned out to be a very frustrating experience.

  4. Why is it that dog owners feel so they should be able to take their pets with them everywhere they go? I can think of a number of reasons that Ottawa city council would find this a very reasonable bylaw. There are many people in our diverse city who’s religious customs don’t allow them to touch dogs. Should they be forced to dodge fido on a patio when they want to enjoy a nice sunny lunch in the byward market. What about the many people with allergies to dogs? Or the awful mess this could create in an atmosphere where food and beverages are being served. I don’t see how this isn’t considered common sense to most folks. We aren’t in Europe. If you really need to have fido tag along everywhere you go then maybe you should consider a move overseas.

    • Thank you Steve for your comment – although we didn’t enjoy the tone we will respond to this all to common reaction.

      This blog is for the 4 million Canadians, 44.8 million Americans and 500 million dog owners worldwide who, for the most part often view their furry friends as members of the family. Not “just an animal”. This love for our furry companions is obvious when you consider numbers such as the US spending about 55.53 billion dollars on canines every year. Many of them, feel the way you do about dogs – about most children. They put their feet on seats, they cough, they have snotty noses and are noisy and often ill-behaved in public places. We have seen more children cause trays and tables to be turned over or drinks bumped than dogs. Yet we must endure them.

      The allergy card holds not ground with us, in this family. We have a person that suffers from severe allergies to scents (perfume, cologne, hairspray etc.) and one with terrible seasonal allergies … so unless we are all going to walk around in hazmat suits and cut down all the trees and replace all the grass with interlock or concrete (and that would create terrible dust allergies)… I’m sorry but allergies to fur are on the lowest end of the arguments.

      Religious beliefs aside, would it not be better to simply allow a business owner to decide? This is what they have done in most of the Southern States (California, Florida etc.) and Europe – This way, based on the clientele a particular establishment has – the owner can decide what to do. Honestly, most religions that do not allow the touching of dogs, do not either allow pork or the consumption of alcohol. So most pubs for example could have a section of the patio that is dog friendly with little loss of business since those that can’t touch dogs should not be there at all. There is a way to make everyone happy. Instead of a blanket “no”. Just like some places are kid friendly and others are not … why not have some places that are dog friendly and some places that are not.

      A move to Europe? Truly you are not suggesting that as dog lovers, we need to be deported? We are born Canadians and love Canada. We have a right to be here and live happily. I find this comment to lack tact on your part considering you entered this “travel with dog blog”.

      After all …

      “The Greatness of a Nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”
      -Mahatma Gandhi

      • If people arent fond of dogs and dont like being around them then WHY IN THE HELL WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN A DOG BLOG?????? Seriously!

        • Marlene and Montecristo,

          I couldn’t agree with you more!!! 😀 What in the hell is this person doing on the dog lover blog??? It beats me!

          • I suppose he is making his point. After all he may not wish to preach to his choir. I have no issue with his comment other than the snide tone.

      • You rock Montecristo!!! I think my longhaired deer nosed chihuahua Tulip met you at Lemieux Island recently. She was talking about how handsome he was all the way home. I adore how you replied. Instead of human children (overpopulation being the single worst problem in the world right now, contributing to the destruction of trees (the lungs of the world) from Brazil to Timbuktu) my husband and I, like a lot of folks, deliberately chose dogs over children. We are taxpayers equal to any other. Many communities in the world understand this. We don’t have to apologize anymore. These are our children. They are allowed to have their noses to the ground.

    • I am from Toronto and find what Steve said offensive and to be the typical Ottawa mentality. I cannot wait to be transferred out in 2 months…3 years here is 2 years and 364 days too long for me and my dogs. And what about all the smelly diapers and screaming kids throwing food I have to put up with in restaurants? I would take a dog on a patio anyday over some of the kids I have seen and how the behave……

      • I have come across this mentality everywhere. Not just in Ottawa. I know enough people in Ottawa to confirm that this is not an “Ottawa Mentality” but rather that of a person that does not love dogs, or animals. We live in Ottawa and love it here. There are so many wonderful things about this city. But like any place anywhere in the world there is always room for improvement. And it is people like ourselves, that will push for that change. Many “pet unfriendly” issues in Canada are at the provincial or even Federal level. No dogs on Via Rail? That is not an Ottawa issue. No dogs on patio’s or restaurants? That is a Provincial issue. Some cities, like Toronto yes… have moved a bit faster by, for example, allowing pets on public transit. But many of the frustrations we have in Ottawa exist in Toronto … or anywhere in Canada or event he US. that is why we vacation so often in Europe. 🙂 What Steve said was his opinion. Was he rude? Yes. Is he alone? sadly no. And THAT is our challenge. I hope that you will join us in making Canada (anywhere in Canada) a more pet friendly place. Talk to business owners, to your municipal, provincial elects. Together we can bring change.

  5. In the interests of free speech, I was willing to let the guy slide, until he came up with the genius suggestion that you move to Europe if you don’t like the local dog ordinances. Maybe he never caught on that this is Montecristo’s blog and he’s a dog! Sheesh! Anyway, good answer.

    • Thank you Suzanne – we were very much in the same boat. We were fine until that suggestion. 🙂 Thanks for your support. It means more than you know.

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  7. Very well put-together article. I’m born and raised in Ottawa and I knew about most of these places already, but it’s good to learn about a few new ones as well!

    • I am thinking of doing a follow up article. You may enjoy my Local Treasures Series. All are within an hour drive or less from Ottawa (or in Ottawa). 🙂

  8. Great blog! We are moving to Ottawa soon and are looking for any and all info about dog friendly places!! Thanks!!!

  9. Great post! Another great off-leash dog part is nearer to centretown: Conroy Pit, near the intersection of Conroy and Hunt Club. It’s got a beautiful mix of wide open spaces and forest trails, and is never crowded. Here’s a good hint though, don’t use the busy parking off Conroy road, park in the residential areas on Athans, Barbara and Eureka streets/avenues. You’ll be stunned to find such beautiful forested areas right in town.

    • I have found Conroy Pit (and Bruce Pit) to not always be safe for the really small dogs. Has it changed in the last 2-3 years?

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