Off Leash Considerations

I try my best to describe areas on the walks where having your dog off-leash is possible. Before you do so, remember that the law in Toronto is to have your dogs on-leash in most areas. The only areas to let your dog off-leash legally are the official leash-free zones.

If you get caught having your dog off-leash, there is a good chance that you will be given a hefty fine. But what are the chances of getting caught? That's really the risk you must ponder and decide for yourself.


Beyond the potential fine, there are many good reasons to keep your dog on-leash. The primary goal is safety. While off-leash, the security of your dog is in jeopardy for several reasons, including them, running away, running into traffic, hurting themselves, eating something that is not safe, and, most importantly, harming another dog or person.

If your dog is well-trained and comes back when called, you may feel safe letting them off at times. If this is the case, there is still room for caution. For instance, ask yourself if you will be disturbing other users of the park or trail?


I've been a cyclist my entire life, so I can relate to the issues they experience when traveling in a city built for cars.

Cyclists feel safer riding the paved paths in the city instead of sharing crowded streets with cars. But, it's so tempting for a cyclist to go full speed on the trails. It's enjoyable to go fast. For a cyclist to safely travel at top speed, they need pedestrians to follow the rules. That's when problems occur.

As a pedestrian or dog walker, it's tough to follow the rules of the road as we do in a car. Maybe if you're walking alone, it's easy to stay to the right and to keep your dog close to you. But if you're walking in a group with other adults, kids, and dogs, it's nearly impossible to stay out of the way of cyclists.

Share the trails

We must learn to be aware of all the users of the shared paths. Perhaps the only way to understand the others, you must "walk in their shoes for a day." Try cycling your favourite walking trail. Or try walking with a dog down the path you usually cycle. It helps to see the issue from all sides.

My suggestion to cyclists is to slow down as you approach others. Ring your bell, so they know you're approaching. Bikes are nearly silent, and because they travel so quickly, it's often a shock for those walking when you appear out of nowhere.


I prefer cycling in European countries where they treat vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians as wholly separate entities. Paths for cyclists shouldn't allow pedestrians and vice versa. Preferably, cyclists should have a road to themselves.

The traffic planners in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany seem to have figured out the right balance.

Hiking in Winter

Maybe this is why I like hiking in the winter or on bad-weather days the most. Few others are using the trails and parks at such times, and it feels as though I'm living in a deserted world. When the warm weather comes, so do all the other people.

My suggestion is to use the winter season to train your dog to come when called, ignore others, and to stay next to you. Allow them off-leash when you feel it's safe for all and keep them on a leash otherwise.

Your best friend

Remember, your pet is your best friend, so having them next to you is the best thing in the world.

Leash-free zones

Toronto has many off-leash parks, and more are likely to be created. Some are better than others. But is that what dog-lovers and dogs really want?

I'll visit as many of the leash-free areas of Toronto as possible and discuss the issue with other dog owners who I meet on our hikes.


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