off leash dog parks toronto

Unofficial dog park springs up next to off-leash one in Toronto that closed down

Off-leash dog parks in Toronto were closed off late last month under the direction of public health professionals. But one Toronto resident is wondering about the efficacy of this after seeing people congregating outside of a closed-off park, effectively creating a makeshift dog park.

Jason Smith says he was walking by Stanley Park when he noticed a group of eight to 10 dog owners with their dogs running around off leash. They were all respecting social distancing rules.

“Nobody appeared to be anywhere less than two meters [from each other], [they were] certainly much more than two meters from each other,” Smith notes.

But the encounter prompted him to wonder why the city doesn't just reopen the off-leash area and just have people respect social distancing there?

“Because the alternative is that the dogs are running all over the grass and peeing on the grass and pooping on the grass,” Smith says. And in Smith's opinion, while most dog owners are respectful, some aren’t.

Smith suggests that access to off-leash areas be limited "because the reality is all these people with dogs in their apartments need someplace to take the dog.”

Brad Ross, Toronto's Chief Communications Officer, admits he understands dog owners’ troubles.

“As a dog owner myself, I can appreciate the frustration of owners, and can only assume the frustration our dogs, themselves, feel who long to run and play off-leash,” Ross wrote over email.

But Ross maintains that it’s important to follow the direction of public health professionals and not congregate. Dog parks often put dog owners in situations where they might need to get close to others to such as breaking up an argument between dogs.

“The sooner we get through this, [the sooner we can] let the dogs out to do what they do best — run and play and put smiles on our faces,” Ross suggests.

In the meantime Ross advises pet owners to exercise by taking dogs on on-leash walks.

“Many dog behaviourists and trainers tell us that some of the strongest bonds we can forge with our canine companions is on a walk,” he said.

“Maybe your dog hasn’t quite mastered a loose leash walk. Now’s the opportunity to work on that, to regain the dog’s focus on you, perhaps, and master what some dog owners long for: a calm walk, free of pulling.”

Ross advises pet owners to make use of other options while respecting social distancing measures.

“A walk on leash, letting the dog sniff sign posts on a walk - literally and figuratively - can be as rewarding for a dog as a romp in the park,” Ross says.

Lead photo by

Jason Smith. Note: Jason Smith is a pseudonym.


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