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