Home » The Most Dog Friendly Places to Live in Ontario

The Most Dog Friendly Places to Live in Ontario

Dog Friendly Cities

How dog friendly is YOUR community??

I travel a lot and of course, I take my dog Nala with me! Each place we have visited has had different degree of how dog friendly and welcoming they are.

I started to notice little things, such as a pet friendly restaurant sign when visiting Ancaster’s Corporal Nathan Cirillo dog park. I also noticed the Town of Gananoque web page listing all the local establishments that welcome dogs, just to start with a few!

City Dog Park sign with other dog friendly signs next to it.

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about the number of pets a person may own. Looking at licensing by-laws, I realized that different municipalities have very different rules when it comes to pet ownership.

What happens if you and your six dogs who live in Kingston (where there is no limit on the number of pets on can own) have to move to another location?!?!

I never really thought about how many pets I can own. But when I looked into it, most municipalities limit the number of pets that can live in your home. If you wanted to move from Kingston to a city that restricts the amount of dogs you can own, you would have to give up a canine family member, or you would have to choose not to move.

It had me thinking…..where is the most pet friendly place in Ontario?

How would one even formulate a comparison, what would have to be evaluated? Well….the engineer in me realized that I had to remove my personal opinions of my favorite locations and stick to quantifiable facts. The three criteria that I evaluated were:

  • Cost of a pet license;
  • Municipal limits on the number of pets; and
  • Number of dog parks or off leash areas per capita

I realize there is a vast variation on populations around the province. In addition, most people have a personal preference on living in urban or a rural locations. Therefore, each criteria needs to be separated for populations over 100,000 and for under 100,000.

First, I had to determine the largest cities and towns in Ontario and their respective populations. I searched Statistics Canada and chose 65 locations with the greatest populations that I could find the required pet information.

I reviewed each municipal web page and took note of the cost of each pet license. These costs vary depending on whether it is a cat or a dog; whether it is spayed/neutered, microchip or no microchip. Some locations offer senior discounts and different license fees depending on how many pets you own. I had to compare equivalent circumstances for each location. I considered an adult (age 18-64) with a dog who is neutered, microchipped, and non-aggressive. In addition, the cost of a license at the start of the year. I also had to make the assumption that the average lifespan of this dog is 10 years, as some locations offer a one time lifetime fee and other places require an annual license payment.

Based on the annual cost of a dog license in 2023, the top locations in Ontario are:

Costs of Dog Licenses

Yes, you read that correctly, both Woodstock and St. Thomas no longer charge pet owners for dog tags. In addition, six locations that have a one time lifetime fee. When spread over about 10 years, the cost is quite minimal. Furthermore, some of these locations offered senior discounts for even lower annual license fees. On the extreme end, if your dog is considered “potentially dangerous”, Hamilton’s fee is a whopping $360 per year!!

But there is way more to consider on what makes a dog friendly city than simply how much you have to pay per year to license your dog. Let’s consider the simple fact of how many dogs can you own? Now this is where it got interesting. Some municipalities only limit the number of dogs you can own, and therefore you could also own as many cats, rabbits, ferrets as you like. Other locations were specific about how many dogs, cats or pets in total a single residence could have. The most surprising to me was that some locations limit the total number of pets on a property, including pets sitting for others!

As much as I love cats, considering all types of pets made this very complicated. Therefore, for this rating, first I considered the total number of dogs allowed. Then, limitations on other pets / total pets afterwards in urban locations.

The Ontario municipalities that allow the most dogs per residence are:

Dog Allowance in each home within each Community

According to the information I found, there were seven locations that do not limit the number of pets you can own.

My final thought on rating dog friendly cities was what are the options for off leash areas to bring your dog. Simply looking at the number of parks in a community is unfair. For example, Toronto has 70 off leash parks, but they are spread over a huge area. Looking at the number of off leash locations relative to their population was an easier way to take this into consideration.

As I researched the off leash parks around the province I was the most impressed with Ottawa!! Although there are only a few fully fenced off leash parks, Ottawa has over 130 allowable off leash areas. Let me explain; there are over 130 public parks, soccer fields and ball diamonds that if no one else is there, your dog is allowed to be off leash!! I LOVE this!!! So many places to play fetch with your dog!!

I need to keep my personal preference of urban versus rural living out of this analysis. Therefore, I will consider each situation separately.

The most off-leash dog areas relative to their population in Ontario are:

For populations over 100,000

Off Leash Dog Parks per capita

For populations under 100,000

Off Leash Dog Parks per capita

To get an overall rating of the top dog friendly cities, I considered all three criteria of license fee, number of dogs allowed and parks relative to population. I scored the top 65 locations in each category. So the top rank received 65 points down to 1 point per criteria. Therefore each location received a score out of a possible 195 points.

Similar to the number of dog parks per population, the overall top friendly municipalities are also separated between over 100,000 residents and under 100,000.

The top dog friendly cities in Ontario are:

For populations over 100,000

Top Dog Friendly Communities

For populations under 100,000

Top Dog Friendly Communities

Topping it off, dog friendly cities with a population under 100,000, the picturesque town of Gananoque, at the heart of the thousand islands! With no limit on the number of pets, only $15 pet license fee (as long as you purchase it before March) and a wonderful off leash dog park down by the river. They have many local businesses that welcome dogs, have water bowls and offer treats to pets. I can’t wait to visit again and check out a few of their pet friendly local businesses!

I’m absolutely sure Suzanne would have bumped Huntsville, from the number two location, up to the top of the list. It is one of her all time favourite places to visit with her dogs. Not only does it offer a lifetime license fee, no limit on the number of pets, and a dog park. Huntsville also has several pet friendly local businesses. They are a stones throw away from both Arrowhead and Algonquin provincial parks, both of which have dog beaches. We all went camping at Cannisbay in Algonquin Park, and Maze had a great time swimming with the kids. The Huntsville Comfort Inn is also dog friendly, and if you want more information on Huntsville, click here for the blog!

Rounding out the top three is Meaford, nestled on the south shore of Georgian Bay. Meaford not only offers a $15 annual licence fee, and 3 dog limit. It also has both a leash free dog park and leash free beach at their Memorial Park. Not to mention is the home to Canada’s most famous dog, Beautiful Joe! In addition, all the pet friendly businesses. No surprise that Meaford rounds out the top three list for smaller communities.

For dog friendly cities with a population over 100,000 our top three were Thunder Bay, Greater Sudbury and Ajax. I’ll be up to Thunder Bay a few more times this year, and will post about their off leash dog locations soon. Check out the Durham Region summary to ready about the Ajax dog parks.

Although not in the top three, we have lots of information on several of the top 10 locations

– Click the South Eastern Ontario blog to ready about Kingston.

– Click the Durham Region blog to ready about Clarington.

– Cobourg, Port Hope and Prince Edward County are in Central Ontario, to be available soon!

Karen Callery
Karen Callery


  1. July 27, 2023 / 5:50 am

    I wanted to express my heartfelt thanks for the incredible effort you’ve put into creating and maintaining this website. It has been an invaluable resource, and I’m deeply grateful for your dedication and expertise. I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon this valuable resource. Thank you for all that you do! Great ! Thanks! ID : CMT-4Q62EZXLWHAOO9YLBF

    • July 28, 2023 / 12:29 am

      Thank you so much the kind words! We have had a lot of fun doing this! I am glad it is helping you ❤️ – Suzanne

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