My First Experience Traveling Abroad with a Dog

 

Until now, I’ve been traveling without my other half: my dog.

Sunset over Toronto
Just look at that face!

Our small family has a tradition of traveling abroad over the 4th of July weekend. At first it was a coincidence, but then we realized the awesome streak we were on. It’s not an anti-American gesture, just something we’ve been doing for the past five years. Spain. Nicaragua. Belize. Mexico. And this year, Canada.

We recently moved to Michigan, and fortunately for us, Canada is only 10 minutes from our new home. Going to Toronto for the July 4th weekend was an easy option. We planned on driving to Toronto, and, seeing how our 8-pound, 12-year-old dog has extreme separation anxiety, we decided to take her with us (and post it on social media #AkiraGoesGlobal).

 

The biggest issue we encountered in Toronto was finding restaurants that allowed dogs. It makes total sense — what proprieter wants dog hair floating around their establishment? Prior to leaving for our vacation we found an article on pet-friendly restaurants in Toronto, but the recommendations were a bit outdated. Of the restaurants we tried (4), only about 50% were still valid suggestions.

After a few initial hardships, we were surprised to find that Toronto is actually a very dog-friendly city. In summer, many Toronto restaurants open their patios, and it would have been easiest to just walk around Toronto and ask these places if it is OK to sit outside with a dog. Every time we asked, they said “yes,” provided there were open tables.

Bar Wellington in downtown Toronto allowed dogs on the patio and even gave Akira a water bowl to drink from! The issue we found at Bar Wellington was that the railing was too wide and she kept coming through to the restaurant side. For food and drinks we chose chicken wings and beer, but they do have more sophisticated food (like prime rib) if that’s your style.

Bar Wellington

Kos in the Kensington Market district was a great breakfast option – the food was delicious, and the railing was better suited for Akira. The patio was a bit elevated and she was unable to slide through the fence. Kos also allowed small dogs to sit on the owner’s lap during the meal.

Breakfast at Kos
Akira eating breakfast with “Dad”

I prefer Couchsurfing but my husband likes staying at hotels. This time around we compromised and stayed at an Airbnb. It was relatively easy to find a host that allowed Akira to stay with us, since “pets allowed” is a checkbox on the search bar. Airbnb’s tend to be way cheaper than hotels, but we didn’t feel bad bringing Akira because we were paying for our accommodation (as opposed to Couchsurfing).

Traveling around the city in Toronto was a hassle – and it wasn’t even due to having a dog with us. We drove most places in the city, and the parking was horrendous. We spent more money on parking than we did on accommodation, if that tells you anything. Aside from driving, walking was not a bad option. But sometimes you need to get from one side of the city to the other, and 5-inch Yorkshire Terrier legs can’t walk all that far. However, Toronto’s public transit system allows dogs on board the metro and buses, as long they are in a dog carrier. So, this is how we managed:

Carrying Akira onto public transport.
We brought a bag with a flat bottom for easy carrying.

When we weren’t carrying her, she walked.

Mat and Akira in Niagara Falls
Mat and Akira in Niagara Falls

Even in a large city like Toronto, there were plenty of dog-friendly activities. Most of them included some form of a park or recreational area, but in nice weather, I welcome outdoor activities! We rode the ferry to Centre Island at sunset and saw great views of the Toronto skyline. Walking around the hip Kensington Market was a breeze, and some of the local stoners even came over to pet Akira. My favorite place to go in Toronto with a dog was the University of Toronto. Beautiful stone buildings covered in ivy with views of the CN Tower encircled a grassy courtyard where we could sit down, relax, and let the dog off her leash.

Akira at the University of Toronto
Akira at the University of Toronto

I would not recommend walking around with a dog in Chinatown. It is a bustling place with too many trams and people. One man came sprinting around a corner and accidentally kicked Akira.

Before heading into Toronto for the weekend, we stopped at Niagara Falls. It’s about an hour drive from Toronto, and is relatively easy to visit — even with a dog! The Falls had plenty of grassy, shaded areas to relax, and we sat in an outside biergarten for lunch.

I keep telling Akira how lucky she is to visit such a beautiful “Wonder of the World,” but I still don’t think she appreciates it enough. 

Family picture at Niagara Falls
Our family at Niagara Falls

Taking our dog on an airplane is the next task, and I’m excited to try it. Of course, I wish dogs were allowed in as many places as children are, like cafes and boutiques. But for now, this #dogmom will make do and travel with her furry child abiding by society’s rules.

If you’ve taken your pooch abroad, tell me how it went!

The Wayfaring Woman

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1 Comment

  1. Love the article and the pics! Sorry, I have no experiences of traveling with any of my pets abroad. I have taken children abroad, though, and there are some similarities in the experiences. 🙂

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