Travel Guelph, Ontario: Hanlon Dog Park Controversy

two dogs in dogpark, Guelph, Ontario

Victor making a new friend

A city park where dogs can run free along grassy fields, a gravel path and moving water, sounds like a great thing – if you own a dog.

If you live nearby, you might write letters to the newspaper complaining about the park’s popularity and amount of doggie doo doo in the area you take your kids.

That’s some of the issues the park off Kortright Avenue and parallel to Highway #6 in Guelph, Ontario faced when it first opened. Known as the Hanlon Dog Park to locals and those who use this facility, there’s been a few changes. First, it’s really not a great place to take kids. Second, the city installed garbage cans at the gate and along the path, which appears to have helped the poo problem.

two dogs in dog park, Guelph, Ontario

A new buddy on the way!

Guelph, a university town (my former university town) is notably dog friendly hosting many parks with leash-free zones within their boundaries. Oddly, few are completely fenced in – which brings us to the Hanlon Dog Park. It’s fenced only on one side – separating the long gravel path from the highway – flanked by wooded area on the other, which is the Hanlon Trails that snake along  a stream.

Once you turn off the gravel path, the leash free zone ends and the trails begin. However, you wouldn’t know it. Few people put their dogs back on a leash at this point and frankly, nor should they (in my opinion). This is the area the dogs find most interesting, running in the water and leaving the gravel, which my dog Victor finds rough on his paws.

According to the city website, bylaw officers patrol the area regularly, but I’ve not met up with any. In fact, I didn’t know the trail area wasn’t part of the leash free zone until I researched this article.

This brings me to two questions: First, there are that many people using the park – and the nearby trails- with their dogs, doesn’t that mean there’s a demand for that service? In this or any city?

Second, what is an aggressive dog?

people and dogs in dog park, Guelph, Ontario

A lot of activity at the park

I’ve heard people (usually non-dog people) complain about aggressive dogs and I’ve heard there are dog bites in dog parks, though I’ve not actually witnessed either. What I do see are dogs running, often fast, often in circles and often barking much like Victor and his friend Sasha do when they get going. That’s exuberance, not aggression and a release of this energy is why we’re at the leash free in the first place. (I’ve heard of dog bites in dog parks, but fortunately haven’t seen any).

Dogs need to run, often fast, and they need to socialize – both reduce stress and build a physically and psychologically healthier dog.

So, if there’s a lot of dog (or leash) related bylaw infractions in town, that likely means there’s a demand for more services, such as trails and fenced parks.

Nonetheless, if you’re in Guelph, Ontario to check out the art gallery, or the university, pull off Highway 6 (The Hanlon) at Kortright Ave and drop by the Hanlon Dog Park … but only if you’ve got Fido in the car. Without a dog, there’s really no reason to be there.

Interested in other dog park rants? Check out this one about my hometown of Caledonia.

I also love finding new sources of advice and even the auto association is getting into the game: Check out the latest version of Travelling with your Pet – the AAA Pet Book here.

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