Looking for fun places to take your dog in Vancouver, B.C.? Keep on sniffing!
Although it rains about 165 days out of the year, Vancouver is still a dog-loving city worthy of a furry visit. According to my gregarious Canadian friends who I met during my month-long stay, the environmentally-conscious Vancouver has a whopping 37 off-leash dog parks, and that’s in addition to all the dog-friendly parks in the city. According to the city’s official website, dogs are welcome in ALL of Vancouver’s parks as long as they’re leashed (unless they are in a designated off-leash area).
Only in this world-class city have I ever sniffed out so many rescue dogs; from Thailand to Taiwan, these rescue dogs come from all over the world and often sustain physical and mental injuries after years of living on the streets. Since my humans have helped rescue dogs abroad themselves, they can attest to the horrific abuse that stray and feral dogs endure. As a dog who was given up not once but twice, I wagged my stylish tail to see mutts and Formosan mountain dogs take over the city parks. A high PAW to Vancouverites for being such compassionate animal lovers!
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So now, let’s sniff out the best places to take your dog in Vancouver, B.C.:
Explore Stanley Park
With over 1,000 acres, Stanley Park is an urban public park near downtown Vancouver. As the 3rd largest park in North America (surpassing NYC’s Central Park), it’s Canada’s most famous and largest park where you’ll find locals and visitors walking, biking, running, rollerblading, swimming, and picnicking along with other fun activities. In addition to bark-worthy backdrops of the mountains and oceans, you may stumble upon totem poles, monuments, and even some wildlife habitat. Luckily for me, the massive Stanley Park IS dog-friendly – again, as long as dogs are leashed and cleaned up after (although I’ve seen some off-leash, well-behaved dogs as well). There’s also a small dog park here where dogs can technically roam around and go butt-chasing off-leash.
Walk along Beach Avenue (English Bay)
ARF, Beach Avenue is one of the most amazing places to take your dog in Vancouver. Since I resided primarily in the West End, I love strolling along the nearby scenic English Bay. From English Bay Beach Park to Sunset Beach Park, these bayside grassy field hangouts are the places to be for both humans and dogs. Regardless of where you start on Beach Avenue, you’ll spoil yourself with some gorgeous oceanfront views. The sunsets against the stormy skies are NO JOKE; the views are incredible (and this is coming from someone who has seen the world-renowned, overcrowded Oia sunset in Santorini, Greece). As my human gazes into the dreamy sunset, I make myself busy with investigative sniffs and chases after those notoriously friendly furry Canadians.
Enjoy a Beach Day
OK – I’m not much of a canine swimmer, but I enjoy kicking back sand for the heck of it. I also know plenty of dogs who never refuse a good dip (like my little Weimaraner cousin Sonny). As you can imagine, this dog-loving city has its fair share of dog-friendly beaches. My to-go beach is Spanish Banks Beach; located along the shores of English Bay, this sandy 16-acre beach with picturesque mountain and city views is dog-friendly with an off-leash dog area. South of Spanish Banks Beach is Sunset Beach Park, where you’ll also find lots of dogs roaming around despite a NO DOG sign. According to the city’s official website, dogs are allowed at beaches with designed off-leash areas (although not every pawrent may follow the rules). Other popular dog-friendly beaches include Hadden Beach and Trout Lake Beach, both of which offer well-maintained off-leash dog areas.
Take a Hike
WOOF, as barked in the beginning, all of Vancouver’s parks are dog-friendly as long as dogs are leashed. Hence, one can only assume that most hiking trails are also dog-friendly – well unless otherwise indicated. Although it’s a bit of a drive to North Vancouver, Dog Mountain has a popular, short summit trail that’s easy for small dogs like me. Closer to the city, you have Pacific Spirit Regional Park with over 73 km of clearly marked walking/hiking trails and on-leash and leash-optional areas. I also recommend Fraser River Trail, which makes a nice walk along the river with your furry athlete, and Everette Crowley Park, a popular hiking area for off-leash dogs.
Visit Granville Island
Just south of downtown, Granville Island is one delightful place to take your dog in Vancouver. Once a dumping ground for waste, Granville Island has transformed into a cultural center that now attracts art lovers, international foodies, and the typical tourists. Although their famous indoor Public Market (hosting an impressive 50 vendors) doesn’t allow dogs, your furry visitor can still dine with you at Public Market Courtyard, roam around Ron Basford Park, and hang out at the Picnic Pavilion. I also love exploring the exterior grounds of the island, walking along the Seawall, and attempting to get a deep sniff of the ocean waters.
Cross Cambie St. Bridge
This six-lane bridge connects the rest of Vancouver to Downtown, making it one of the coolest places to take your dog in Vancouver. With a 14-ft, 4.3-meter pedestrian walkway that’s separated from car traffic with concrete barriers, Cambie St. Bridge presents marvelous views of Downtown, False Creek, and the Science World ball. Despite the walkway designated for both walkers and bikers to share, there is plenty of space for all travelers (including furry ones like myself, but of course, always practice safety first). After an outing in Yaletown, I love crossing the bridge with my tiny furry paws, especially at night with less foot traffic and those illuminating skyscrapers.
Hop on a Ferry
Yes, ferries in Vancouver ARE dog-friendly! According to the official Aquabus website, dogs “are not just allowed, they are encouraged”! Their only request is that dogs must be “clean and on a leash.” ARF, sounds easy to me! As they dock from 8 different locations (Granville Island is one of them), traveling by Aquabus is an exciting way to see different parts of the city. The fares are also relatively cheap, ranging from $8.50 for a mini cruise to $16.00 for a day pass (last updated 12/2020).
1 Hornby Street
2 Granville Island
3 David Lam Park
4 Stamps Landing
5 Spyglass Place
7 Plaza of Nations
8 The Village
As one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, Vancouver boasts dynamic neighborhoods for you and your dog traveler to discover on foot (I mean, paw). Here are some of my favorite neighborhoods:
West End: Paws down, my favorite neighborhood in the city where I spent the majority of my time. West End is a laid-back, residential neighborhood with a foodie paradise reputation minus the yucky touristy feel. My humans are obsessed with handmade ramen noodles and dumplings from this hood. Its strategic location is unbeatable – right next to a beach and easy access to Stanley Park, which feels a lot like the Richmond District in my hometown San Francisco.
Yaletown: Renovated from run-down warehouse buildings, Yaletown is a small neighborhood known as the playground for the 20-30-something working Vancouverite professionals. Besides trendy restaurants, posh lounges, and heated terraces, Yaletown is also home to a pawsome waterfront park (David Lam Park) and a stoned Seawall.
Gastown: Many tourists flock to Gastown to see the two-ton Steam Clock that whistles and shoots off steam at every quarter-hour. However, I was much more captivated by their lovely cobblestone streets, which kinda takes me back to my wet nose escapades in Europe. Since their hipster eateries, indie art galleries, and boutique shops have attracted both new techie residents and tourists alike, Gastown sets off a very distinct vibe compared to the rest of the city.
Downtown: I briefly called the eclectic Downtown home before moving to the more easygoing West End. As a real urban dog, I am totally digging the city feel with the modern high rises and luxurious condos. From fancy boutiques to food trucks (not to mention their lively nightlife for humans), Downtown is an entertaining neighborhood to explore with your dog.
Useful Dog-Friendly Info
Restaurants and Bars
Unfortunately, restaurants and bars in the city are NOT so dog-friendly, even the ones with outdoor seating. Due to health regulations, the city of Vancouver does NOT allow dogs anywhere (not even outdoor patios) where food is served, except for registered service animals with proper paperwork. Fortunately, some restaurants and breweries may still allow dogs on their outdoor patio despite the city ordinance; it ultimately depends on management or perhaps the staff of the hour. I’ve set my tiny furry paws INSIDE a Japanese restaurant in the West End whereas I was immediately denied outdoor seating at a contemporary restaurant in Yaletown. Therefore, dining with your dog in Vancouver is almost a hit or miss experience. For long outings, my humans grabbed meals on the go to enjoy with me at a park if they were unable to find a dog-friendly restaurant. Red Truck Beer Company (295 East 1st Ave) is widely known for their dog-friendly patio.
Indoor Tourist Attractions
As with most cities around the world, Vancouver does not allow dogs to accompany their humans inside tourist attractions. The only exception is service dogs.
Dog-friendly hotels in Vancouver are not hard to find, but you should expect to pay a daily or weekly fee for your dog’s stay.
I took many cab rides around the city without any issues, even out of hiding from my carrier. As for January 2020, Uber and Lyft are allowed to operate in the city.
Unless you have a registered service dog, only small dogs like myself are allowed on public transit (including SkyTrain and public buses). Your small dog must be transported in a hand-held cage or carrier small enough to fit on your lap.
How to travel to Canada from USA with your Dog
Proof of rabies vaccination is the ONLY requirement for all dogs entering Canada from the U.S. For dogs under 8 months NOT traveling with their owner, a health certificate must be completed by a licensed veterinarian in the U.S. within 72 hours of arrival in Canada. However, unlike dog travel to Europe, the certificate does not need to be endorsed by APHIS. Since air travel can be stressful for dogs, I’m barking with an upright tail that I do NOT recommend air travel for dogs under a year old, even when traveling with their humans.
*Always check the official APHIS website for the latest information
For $100 each way, I flew in-cabin from Los Angeles to Vancouver on a quick 3-hour flight operated by Alaska Airlines. Although I got out several times for a quick breather on my return flight, I snoozed with paws in the air inside my carrier throughout most of the ARF-so-smooth round-trip journey.
Hope you enjoy these places to take your dog in Vancouver, B.C.!
Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob