Zoom isn’t just an app we’ve come to use as a virtual office. It also refers to what a dog does when it gets a chance to escape its leash and run amok — something all canines need to do. But it can be a challenge to find a place for a good romp. Here are four off-leash dog parks in the area and, because you’re bound to get peckish after all that fresh air, offers tips for snacks along the way.
Canine etiquette calls for owners to keep a leash on hand in case you need to rein Rover in. Make sure you’re well stocked with poop bags, and ensure that your dog’s vaccines are up to date.
RIDEAU WINTER TRAIL
Mathieu Fleury, city councilor for Ward 12, is one member of a group of likeminded citizens who were keen to establish a winter trail where anyone — including dogs — could get their ya yas out. Their initiative, the Rideau Winter Trail, has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception in 2018.
“I always knew there were a lot of dog walkers,” says Fleury, “and there’s no better way to get exercise than if you have a dog.”
The idea behind this community trail is to provide a safe, groomed track for hikers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers, as well as their four-legged companions. (While the Gatineau Park offers hundreds of kilometres of year-round trails, free-running dogs are not permitted during the winter months.) According to Fleury, the Rideau Winter Trail “is a very inclusive environment.”
The first iteration was modest: a two kilometre loop starting from the Rideau Tennis Club. It then expanded to south of Highway 417, then to the Hurdman Hills. For the 2021–2022 season, plans are to extend it to Bank Street, and the group hopes to see the trail eventually reach Mooney’s Bay.
Trail users do need to keep their dogs on-leash, but are welcome to partake in any winter sport with their charges by their side. Rideauwintertrail.ca
Bites: Although we can’t dine in with our dogs in Ottawa, we can still grab a to-go snack for the walk home. Close to one of the entryways to the trail is the Vanier location of The Great Canadian Poutinerie. Tradition is everything when it comes to this favourite: fresh crispy fries, local cheese curds, and buckets of gravy. 200 Deschamps Ave., tgcpoutinerie.com
JARDINS-LAVIGNE DOG PARK
Managed by the Aylmer Canine Club — an ardent and active community of dog owners — in partnership with the city of Gatineau, Jardins-Lavigne Dog Park is an oasis in Aylmer that’s a hopping spot for socialization and recreation. Open year round, the park itself attracts walkers from far and wide, while the club hosts special clinics where your pooch can get pampered, microchipped, or photographed by a professional. The team that keeps it all going also hosts evening concerts and barbecues throughout the year.
Initiatives such as this one rely on enthusiastic volunteerism. Park users are encouraged to become club members, at no cost, to help promote and advocate on behalf of canines with city officials. As with other community-driven parks, it’s all about pups and their owners being on their best behaviour. The park is located at 250 av. du Bois-Franc in Aylmer. clubcaninaylmer.com
Bites: Along with the usual offerings of fries and burgers, La Pataterie Hulloise, a short drive from the park, offers custom made poutines (try it with pulled pork and smoked chipotle sauce), sandwiches, and sides. This classic stop in the Hull sector has been firing up its fryer since 1982 and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. lapatateriehulloise.com
Just outside of Stittsville is what any dog might call heaven: Barkwood Forest, 100 acres of dedicated off-leash paradise. Although city dwellers have access to numerous dog parks in town, their charges sometimes just need to run wider and farther than is allowed in many parks. The brainchild of a group of professional dog walkers, Barkwood is a membership-based service that requires potential clients to attend an open house where an expert will assess their pooch’s behaviour while in the company of their brethren. If all goes well, they’ll be invited to join.
Trails throughout the site are marked and take in woods and fields on mainly flat terrain. In winter, the trails are packed down after big snow dumps, so there’s no need to bushwhack knee-deep through the white stuff. Plan on 40 minutes to complete the loop if you’re quick on your feet. At the end of the trek, you can clean the mud off your charge’s paws at a washing station.
The trails are monitored regularly and are open only to members. Full memberships, which allow use of the trails every day between dawn and dusk, are $49 a month. Weekend memberships are $35 a month and allow access on Saturdays, Sundays, and statutory holidays.
Bites: For a nosh that schmecks, Brew Revolution on Hazeldean Road, a 10-minute drive from the forest, has takeout food and made-on-site craft beers. The mac and cheese, which comes in a gluten-free version, has a “secret” blend of cheeses; add pulled pork or chicken or bacon for extra oomph. With around 15 brews to take away, aficionados of every stripe will find something to wet their whistle. Brewrevolution.ca
BRUCE PIT AND CONROY PIT
Although most National Capital Commission trails are off limits for loose dogs, two pathways in the Greenbelt are open year-round for off-leash hiking. Bruce Pit (175 Cedarview Rd., accessed from parking lot 12) and Conroy Pit (Conroy Road, accessed from parking lot 17) are both popular spots for a stroll. Users report that both sites are busy on weekends but are quieter during the week. For up-to-date info, check the community Facebook pages dedicated to each site.
Bites: A five-minute drive from Bruce Pit, Lee Ga has a tempting menu of maki rolls, nigiri, sushi, and sashimi, along with bulgogi (grilled sirloin tips) and bibimbap (a steaming bowl of rice with vegetables, egg, and hot sauce) — perfect after a brisk outing. 1902 Robertson Rd., leegarestaurant.com
Or plan ahead and order baked goods online from Keto Sweets and Vegan Treats, located at 2430 Don Reid Dr., a few minutes from Conroy Pit. This online purveyor offers all-butter croissants, cinnamon buns, cheesecake, or whatever your sweet tooth might hanker. The owners took over the renowned Marcie’s Cafeteria mid-pandemic and are also offering take-home meals. ketosweetsvegantreats.ca