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!