I've always wanted to live abroad so I feel very fortunate that in December of 2018 I was lucky enough to head to, what I learned to be, the very dog friendly Vancouver BC (In case you're curious, Berlin, my 10 year old Shepard mix, and I crossed the border into Canada with ease since the only requirement was proof of her current rabies vaccination, which they didn't even ask to see).
I knew two things before I left Los Angeles:
Berlin and I were going to have lots of adventures, rain or shine, and that the Venetian blinds in our short term rental needed to be temporarily replaced.
Well, you see, Berlin is a very mellow dog except in three situations: 1) After a bath (who doesn't love the post-bath zoomies?) 2) At the beach where she runs in circles in the sand and 3) When she wants to get outside, be it to lay out in the sun or less pleasant things like escaping a scary sound (smoke alarm) or unfamiliar place (new housing). It's in this third situation we've learned Venetian blinds don't stand a chance. More on dog anxieties in a future post.
Want to hear about what happened on the road before we arrived at the border crossing? Read PART ONE — Dog Friendly Road Trip: Los Angeles to Vancouver at http://feetandpaws.com/dog-friendly-road-trip_la-vancouver_inland/
What I didn't know was how much I would cherish this time together, even as it was happening.
So, let's talk about all the fun dog friendly activities Berlin and I enjoyed in Vancouver. If you haven't guessed it already, it was winter so there was lots and lots of rain, but we didn't let that stop us.
PART TWO — A winter month in dog friendly Vancouver, B.C.
Downtown Vancouver is the southeastern portion of a peninsula and is almost entirely enclosed by a seawall. In other words, it is a beautiful city with amazing, uninterrupted views of the water in nearly all directions. This path, which also extends around Stanley Park and all the way to Granville Island, is the world's longest continuous waterfront path. Naturally I decided that Berlin and I should walk it in it's entirety, in small portions, with one exception. We had a good reason though!
One challenge of going on long walks with your dog in an urban area is the availability of dog-friendly, human restrooms.
Though there were typically large facilities at the popular public areas, 'we' had to be more creative on some of our walks. Over the course of the month we were there, a pet store was kind of enough to let me use their employee bathroom and on another day convinced a firehouse to let me use theirs (it was slightly cramped with Berlin in there so I'm grateful it was clean).
Really though, I love situations that force you to engage with locals.
In a cell phone world, it's becoming less and less necessary while traveling, so ultimately I embrace being a little lost or in need of help.
In part due to the bathroom hurdle, the only section Berlin and I did not walk was from Science World to Kitsilano Beach. I heard there was a lovely dog beach at the latter though. Had there not been one down the street from us, we might have included this destination on our must-do list.
Note: A lot of the Seawall includes a separate ONE-WAY bike lane. Berlin and I walked on the pedestrian path and therefore did not have to abide by this regulation. The list below reflects what direction we walked to get the best view.
- The Teahouse in Stanley Park to Prospect Point (the seawall takes you below Prospect Point Lookout so if you'd like to access this vantage point, consult a trail map)
- Vancouver Rowing Club to Hallelujah Point, particularly at dusk
- English Bay to Second Beach, either direction
To see a map of the entire seawall, visit http://firstname.lastname@example.org/wp-content/Seawall-Printable-Map.pdf
There is a remarkable amount of residential high rises in Vancouver and, perhaps because of this, there are also many dogs and, you guessed it, lots of dog parks. This made our walks and adventures really lovely, especially since all the dogs we meet were well socialized.
Now I've done a fair bit of traveling around the world and after being in several dog friendly cities (sadly without Berlin), I have a theory why dogs in most dog friendly, really almost dog centered, cities behave so well. It's not just the availability and accessibility of dog parks, dog friendly trails, restaurants, and stores, but the lack of private yards.
When a yard is not available, dog owners need to take their dog on walks as opposed to letting them outside to do their business solo.
Building from this, when a dog is walked regularly, especially from a young age, they are exposed to sounds, people, and of course other dogs. With their owner's guidance, not only do they learn to have positive associations with these things as well as good manners, like walking well on leash and properly greeting strangers, but they are also given the opportunity to strengthen their bond together on a daily basis.
That being said, Downtown Vancouver has a population of 55,000 and a footprint of 1.7km (1 mile) by 3km (1.86 miles).
In that small but populated space, Vancouver has an impressive number of off-leash dog parks: 8.
If I'm being generous and include some non-sanctioned off leash dog parks, Los Angeles (Inglewood to Sherman Oaks and Santa Monica to Downtown) has about 14 dog parks. Population: Millions. Sadly, not even one of those is on a beach. Not that I don't love Los Angeles, but Vancouver leaves us much to aspire to in this department. Let's get on it Los Angeles!
Getting back on track, each of Vancouver's dog parks has a different look and feel. Some are on the waterfront and lack any sort of enclosure, others are entirely fenced in and surrounded by many of those residential high rises, and two of the eight are right on the beach!
Here is the list of our four favorite downtown dog parks in order of our most to least favorite:
- Sunset Beach Park (Beach, 'Fenced'): Berlin and I went here as much as possible. She had a ball running back and forth along the shoreline and even contemplated plunging into the cold, winter water to chase the birds a few times. There's a fence/gate at the entrance and a steep staircase down to the beach. This beach is not fully enclosed with fencing because there are blockades at either side of the strip.
- Devonian Harbour Park (1929 W Georgia Street, Fenced): Is there a fence present? Yes. Does the fence enclose the dog park? No. Does the fence look like it's just decorative? Yes. This waterfront park is just outside Stanley Park and nicely maintained.
- Coopers' Park (1020 Marinaside Cres-Grass field east of the Cambie Street Bridge): The park is also waterside and well maintained. They don't even pretend to enclose it with even a small decorative fence so make sure you dog has a strong recall.
- CRAB Park at portside (101 E Waterfront Road-East side of the park, Beach): This park would be higher on the list if it was easier to access / safer to walk to and from. Once we were there Berlin might have laid down for an afternoon nap in the rare appearance of the sun. Ok, who am I kidding? She totally took a nap while I looked out over the water to North Vancouver.
Here is the list of our four least favorite downtown dog parks:
- Nelson Park (1030 Bute Street, Fenced): This was the park we visited the most because it is smack in the middle of the great Westend area, where our apartment was located. It's fully enclosed by a fence that is maybe 3-4 feet high, or I guess I should say 1-1.2 meters.
- Emery Barnes Park (Corner of Davie and Richards streets, Fenced): This park is all gravel and great if you're walking through or near Yaletown. It's entirely fenced in and more secure than many of the other dog parks, most likely because it is in the middle of a busy part of town with lots of cars.
- Stanley Park (Shuffleboard court area, Fenced): This park is great for local residents to enjoy but I wouldn't say it's a must-see for you and your traveling dog. It's small and all gravel, so unless you're in the area and want somewhere to let your dog run off-leash, I suggest walking (on leash) around the nice grass area outside the dog park instead.
- Andy Livingstone Park (89 Expo Blvd., Fenced): Ok, this is the only park we didn't actually go into because we were warned it was in sketchy area known for drug activity. Instead we enjoyed nearby Creekside Park which had a wonderful, unique boardwalk, sand area, and grassy knolls.
For even more information about all the dog parks in Vancouver, visit https://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/dog-off-leash-areas.aspx
Oh Stanley Park, where do I begin? We enjoyed walking your seawall, especially at dusk when we could see the city lights start to twinkle. We relished running through your trails, especially during a light rain where we were protected by the umbrella of your trees. We happily planned getting lost hiking through your forests, because who doesn't love climbing over and under fallen giants?
To say that I treasure all of our outings here is an understatement. We miss it everyday.
Some highlights of the park are:
- Hollow Tree
- Prospect Point
- Brockton Point Lighthouse
- Siwash Point
- Beaver Lake
- Lost Lagoon
- Totem Poles
- Environmental Art Walk
Now, there are some logistics you should know before you go:
- There is a charge to park. Prices vary by season and visit length.
- Credit cards are accepted at all pay stations.
- Hourly passes are available at all pay stations but daily passes are NOT available at all pay stations.
- The loop road is one-way going counter-clockwise. Plan accordingly.
- There are many bathroom facilities throughout the park. Of course, it is an outdoor nature park so, you know, if you got to go, you got to go.
- It's technically an on-leash park.
- No, sea lions have not invaded Stanley Park. You're just walking close to the aquarium!
And I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't stress this tip about Stanley Park:
Plan to get lost.
Even though the trails are well marked, cell reception is good (at least for me), and you don't want get a parking ticket, give yourself some time (and money on your parking pass) to just soak it all in. Go left when you might have gone right, or better yet, let your dog decide your path.
Find out more about Stanley Park at https://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/stanley-park.aspx
Capilano Suspension Park
The Capilano Suspension Park is home to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is 450 feet (140 meters) long and 230 feet (70 meters) above the Capilano River. It's a very popular attraction and I'm pretty sure it's ALWAYS crowded.
After successfully crossing the bridge with Berlin, we enjoyed the park's other attractions, including their holiday light display. I got to say, it was one of the best I've ever seen and a nice perk for visiting in December! They even had two sections that responded to your sounds (a clap or foot stomp) and a forest of floating orbs. It was beautiful.
The icing on the cake was the treetop adventure.
We had so much fun crisscrossing from tree house to tree house.
Note: The suspended walkways in this treetop section were not too shaky (though that entirely depends on you and your dog) BUT you do have to cross the long suspension bridge to get here. This means that this park isn't going to be for every person or dog.
So, before you plunk down the money for the pricey admission ticket, I have a suggestion.
Go for a hike at Lynn Canyon to see how you and your dog do on a much shorter suspension bridge first.
This way you can gauge you and your dog's ability and willingness to cross wobbly bridges without spending money on admission. That said, there is a huge difference between the Capilano and Lynn Canyon's Bridges and how much they sway. If after visiting Lynn Canyon there is any question at all about your dog crossing Capilano Suspension Bridge, I would leave them at your hotel when you visit.
**Remember, never force your dog into any situation, especially when it involves a wobbly pedestrian bridge that is suspended hundreds of feet in the air. Encourage them, listen (to their body language) and be supportive, not forceful.
Plan your trip and get tickets at https://www.capbridge.com/
Lynn Canyon Park
This was one of our first adventures after arriving in Vancouver. The weather was perfect and we wanted to explore outside the downtown area.
Lynn Canyon was the perfect destination for a great hike.
Unlike Capilano Park, it's free and therefore a great way to see what Berlin thought of a suspension bridge. The first few steps she charged ahead and then realized there was some extra movement from the 'ground' below her. She became hesitant but quickly followed me along and crossed it like a champ. After so many days in the car, it was great to breath the fresh air and stretch our legs surrounded by beautiful nature.
Note: This hike also included a lot of stairs and up/down hill hiking.
View the hiking trails and get more information at https://lynncanyon.ca/
Read about our road trip to Vancouver—
Part One: Dog Friendly Road Trip, Los Angeles to Vancouver
When snow doesn't come to you, you go to it! COMING SOON—
Part Three: A Dog-Friendly Day Trip to Whistler
Getting back to Los Angeles, but a different route. COMING SOON—
Part Four: Heading Back. Dog Friendly Road Trip: Driving the West Coast with my Dog from Vancouver to Los Angeles
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