Category Archives: Vacations

Why the Bruce Peninsula is a great place for dogs

Some of the best trips you can take with your dogs are those where they can participate in activities with you every step of the way. Even if it’s not clear whether your dog would be allowed, over the years my motto has become “just ask.”

We visited the Tobermory area in early October and benefited greatly from the post-summer and pre-fall period when there are far fewer people clamoring to get to spots such as the sparkling turquoise water of the grotto at Bruce Peninsula National Park and other attractions in the area. While some of the resort community businesses are starting to close down or shorten their hours in early October, we found it was a great trade off to be there when there fewer people. It was better to access attractions such as the park, but also because it was less hectic for the dogs and people were generally more welcoming of them being there. Spring and fall are recommended as best times to visit to avoid crowds. Long weekends and summer vacation time is the busiest and can make your visit less than enjoyable.

Our Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Angel, enjoyed the hike to the viewing area overlooking the grotto at Bruce Peninsula National Park.

A highlight was being able to take the dogs on one of the glass bottom boat tours that ferry visitors through the waters of the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Instead of buying tickets for the boat tour ahead of time, we approached the ticket booth at Blue Heron Boat Tours  the morning we wanted to go and asked if we could bring the dogs. A TripAdvisor review I had read before we left home indicated dogs were allowed on the boat. The tour operator told us that if the cruise wasn’t full that day they would let us on with the dogs. In a short time we were given the go-ahead and enjoyed the tour which goes around to the various sunken shipwrecks that have been there for  more than 125 years, and as you will see in this video from the company, to the beautiful Flowerpot Island. The dogs were able to go anywhere on board (on leash).

The Blue Heron cruises take visitors to see the shipwrecks and Flowerpot Island. We were able to take the dogs on this boat and then hike across Flowerpot Island.

To get to the island we departed the main cruise ship and boarded a zodiac to reach the shore of the island. From there we got off and stayed for about hours, hiking across the island, exploring the caves and let the dogs roam around the beach.

The grotto at Bruce Peninsula National Park is an incredible place to explore with your canine friends. The grotto is a scenic cave area featuring an incredible pool of blue water, located on the Georgian Bay shoreline. During high season (all summer) the parking lot for this park fills quickly but in 2018  the park introduced a reserve parking system allowing you to book a four-hour time slot, making planning your excursion much more enjoyable. We took the dogs on a hike to the Grotto. On the day we were there in early October there were very few people on the trial.

We stayed at Wireless Bay Cottages which allows dogs in several of its cottages. Our cabin featured a small front porch and access to the shoreline of Georgian Bay where we watched the Chi-Cheemaun ferry come in each day. From here we were able to walk to the village to check out various shops and restaurants.

Natural attractions such as the Bruce Peninsula offer endless opportunities to enjoy a restful and educational vacation while at the same time enjoying the company of your dogs.

Please follow and like us:

Top 5 considerations when booking a ‘pet-friendly’ hotel

When friends of mine moved across the country last summer from Halifax to Regina they opted to drive the distance, primarily because they were moving with their dog, a sweet shepherd-mix named Khaleesi. The challenge for my friends was to find hotels that would welcome them along the way.

In the course of their journey they stayed in seven hotels from Edmundston, N.B through to Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, MB, and Regina, SK, where they checked into the Residence Inn Marriott for five days while they waited for their house to be ready.

The  hotel chains they found to be most dog-friendly were Four Points Sheraton, Super 8, Residence Inn Marriott and Marriott’s Town Place Suites.

At the Durham College/UOIT Residence and Conference Centre in Oshawa, guests staying with dogs are provided with a door tag indicating a pet is staying in the unit to alert housekeeping staff.

To have as smooth a ride as they did make sure you consider the following five items on your dog-friendly accommodation checklist:

1. Know what you’re paying

When staying in hotels with dogs, always make sure you understand the pet policy upfront to avoid unexpected and unwelcome additional charges at checkout. For example, the Hotel Residence One King West in Toronto, located right at King Street and Yonge Street, allows dogs but their website says only those that weigh up to 20 1b  are permitted and their pet policy  indicates they will charge a $100 “deep cleaning” fee to your bill. My friends stayed there with their medium-sized dog and had no issues or extra charges but policies do change depending on demand.

Most hotels will also ask you to sign a waiver at check-in and outline a (long) list of things you will be responsible for if your dog does any damage to the room. Hotels such as the Westin also stipulate you can be subject to a $200 fee for non-compliance of any of the rules outlined on their websites.

2. Check on the size and number of dogs allowed

The Westin chain also markets their dog-friendly accommodation but has limitations on size and number. For example, the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto promotes the availability of its “Heavenly Dog Bed” and Doggie Welcome Kit, however, dogs must be under 40 lbs and more than six months old. There is also a limit of two dogs per room.

3. Look for chains that promote their dog-friendliness

By far, our best experience I have had is with Choice Hotels, which include Comfort and Quality Inn hotels. The chain offers more than 2,500 pet-friendly hotels. If you have a Canadian Tire Roadside Assistance membership you get preferred rates.

One of the best experiences we had was staying at the Durham College/University of Ontario Institute of Technology Residence and Conference Centre in Oshawa. In the summer many post-secondary institutions open their residences to paying guests. We were travelling for a dog show and were able to stay in a two-bedroom suite equipped with kitchenette and bathroom for about $100 per night. It featured free Wi-Fi, 24-hour coffee and tea service, a fitness centre as well as great green space to walk the dogs.

Upon check-in we were provided with a door tag to notify housekeeping staff that a pet was in the room.

4. Ask for a room easily accessible to the outdoors

Not all dogs love elevators so I always ask for rooms on the main level, ideally with a door right out to the parking lot or green space. This makes it easier for late night or early morning walks with the dogs.

5. Take your dog’s home comforts with you

Never leave your dog unattended in a hotel room. For many hotels this is one of the first rules they ask you to sign off on, but it’s also just common sense. Why would you leave your dog in an unfamiliar place and expect things to go well?

If your dog is crate trained it’s a good idea to take their crate into the hotel room to make them feel more at home as well as minimize the amount of dog hair that accumulates on the carpet which will reduce the chance you might be charged a clean up fee. Soft-sided crates fold down for easy storage and unzip on the top for added air circulation during the night.

If you don’t travel with crates consider something like a collapsible travel pet playpen.

Pack a few extra small towels of our own to put down for the dogs to lay on and feed them in the bathroom to avoid any spilling on the hotel room carpeting.

Take your dogs along on a trip is fun and staying in a hotel can be fun. Don’t let it be a stressful experience by failing to prepare. Despite the increase in people wanting to travel with their dogs, many hotels are starting to say “no pets allowed.” Make sure those who do continue to do so by being a responsible traveller.

Should you ever find yourself travelling without your dog on business or for other reasons the Fairmont chain has “canine ambassadors” in residence at all their locations in Canada. You can even take them out for a walk. Most of the dogs are labs. For example, Beau, a yellow lab, hangs out in the lobby of the Fairmont in Vancouver. (The Fairmont Vancouver also allows dogs at a cost of $25 per day.)

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Take your dog to an off-leash amusement park

Let them run free

Trips that involve a considerable amount of driving mean you will need to stop along the way several times to give your dogs time and space to stretch and relieve themselves. Not all dogs enjoy a car ride so this is especially important for those who experience anxiety in a vehicle.

Whenever we are headed on a long-distance journey I search for the municipally-operated off-leash dog parks in the area and make a list on my smart phone or a small notebook with directions. Many cities and towns are creating off-leash parks in conjunction with volunteer community groups to help offset costs. Even the smallest towns are now offering off-leash parks as an alternative since some municipal bylaws allow for enforcement officers to ticket those who are using municipal parks to let their pets run free. Fines for doing so can be as much as $250.

On a recent trip to New Brunswick we discovered an off-leash park in Moncton that even had separate designated spaces for small dogs and large dogs. There were benches for the humans and other trails to enjoy with dogs on leash.

During a trip to Eastern Ontario we discovered the Quinte Dog Park in Belleville. In that same area Potter’s Creek Conservation Area features the Pooch Path located at the corner of Loyalist Wallbridge and Hwy #2.

Know your dog’s behaviour around other dogs before venturing into one — if they are not well socialized it could be a potentially unpleasant experience. Your dog should be good with greeting other dogs and playing, especially in very busy urban dog parks.

Many dog parks provide plastic poop bags for you to pick up after your dog, but try to remember to take your own just in case. The City of Toronto is currently testing the use of green bins in 20 parks across the city. Dog poop in plastic bags can be placed in the green bins and don’t have to be biodegradable bags. So far, an audit of waste bins located near dog parks showed that 84 per cent was organic waste.

The Bendor and Graves Tract located in Cedar Valley, Ontario near Newmarket is a wonderful fenced, off-leash dog park with surrounding hiking trails.

Locally, my favourite dog park for our three Tollers is the Bendor and Graves Tract, part of the York Region Forest Cedar Valley, east of Newmarket. The park has benches for the human traveller and large water bowls that are often full or you can replace with your own — always remember to bring water for you dog on any journey, even the shortest day trip.

Dog bowls like this one are provided at many off-leash parks. In this example a hole dug underneath the bowl provided a cool place for one visitor to place their bottle of water which they had left for the next visitor.

Admission to all dog parks I have ever visited is free, which is an incredible thing when you think about the joy your dog gets and the comfort you have in knowing they can be free in a safe environment away from roads and places where they perhaps aren’t always welcome.

So the next time you are hitting the road, take a few minutes to search the internet for dog parks in the vicinity of where you will be travelling. Even if you have to detour off a highway for a few minutes of peace to stretch legs and take a break it will be worth it for all involved.

 

 

Please follow and like us: