Society

The dog park diaries

Photo by Suzanne Bird

Welcome to the dog park, where people are identified by the dogs they walk — and controversy abounds. From new leash requirements to rat poison in parks and an Ipsos-Reid poll that says one in three Canadians think Ontario is the least dog-friendly province in Canada, you could say it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there in city parks. But things are looking up. A new local online service helps dog owners find parks by location, and when The Dog Whisperer, a.k.a. Cesar Millan, came to town earlier this year, he devoted half of his presentation to teaching owners how to maintain their pack-leader status when Fido is distracted by hairy friends.

Here, a look at a few dog parks that are making headlines and how to act like a regular if you’re visiting them for the first time.

photo by Suzanne Bird

THE PARK
Bruce Pit
West Hunt Club and Cedarview roads

THE SCENE
Touted as “Ottawa’s premier dog park,” the huge west-end parcel of land attracts hundreds of dogs every weekend.

TALKING POINTS
How this is the only place to safely let some breeds roam free; the strange incident of the dog and the antifreeze.

THE RULES
Dogs allowed off-leash.

THE RATING
Popularity: 86%
Friendliness: 83%
Cleanliness: 61%

photo by Suzanne Bird

THE PARK
Jack Purcell
Lewis Street between Metcalfe and Elgin

THE SCENE
Semi-fenced area attracts friendly Centretown crowd of lap dogs and large breeds — and their owners, who maintain an active Facebook page.

TALKING POINTS
These days, the park looks more like a pit, which has lead to plummeting scores on the Ottawa Dog Park Finder, but it’s all for a good cause: redevelopment plans aim to turn the grass patch into a doggie haven à la New York City’s Tompkins Square.

THE RULES
Dogs allowed off-leash in most areas, but from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, it’s a pet-free zone. New redesign includes designated “leashing” area.

THE RATING
Popularity: 37%
Friendliness: 54%
Cleanliness: 35%

THE PARK
Sandy Hill
250 Somerset St. E. at the Sandy Hill Community Centre

THE SCENE
After-work playgroups see yorkies and dobermans alike fetching and frolicking while owners share dog tips and serve as ambassadors to the neighbourhood.

TALKING POINTS
Last summer, dog owners rallied together to save the park’s off-leash status after a petition to ban dogs was sent to the city. After much back-and-forth, city councillors voted overwhelmingly to maintain the north section as an off-leash area.

THE RULES
Dogs are allowed off-leash in the north section of the park.

Unrated at this time.