Just when I thought there were no more dog-friendly surprises close to home, I discover one more in Brantford, Ontario. Yes, Brantford, not everyone’s (or anyone’s, really) weekend vacation hotspot.
However, for dogs and their people, the city of Brantford has three things going for it: the Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant outdoor sculpture park and garden, a rail-trail hiking trail, and an expanding leash-free dog park.
At least, that’s what my dog thinks. Welcome to our dog-friendly Brantford, Ontario guide.
Dog-friendly Brantford Art Park
First stop: the Glenhyrst Art Gallery (20 Ava Road, Branford). I’ve taken my previous dog here, but during the winter to see the trees decked out for holiday cheer. (Check it out). Exploring the 16-acre grounds in warmer weather has been on my list for a while. Finding this converted historical property is a little challenging, so GPS the address, but when you do it’s like a little piece of serene green space in an otherwise concrete town.
Few art galleries are dog-friendly (though whichever would like to be the first, please let me know), so I’ve been compiling a list of outdoor art parks you and your dog can explore. In the meantime, we took a stroll around the Glenhyrst grounds, which are equal parts garden and art.
The piece de resistance of the nine-piece sculpture park is “Meg’s Pause” by David Hind. Two metal hands rise from the ground cradling a single pebble. The piece is dramatic, but if you ask my dog, the allure of the art is found in the smells around its base. But that’s her analysis of all the art.
Just when I was about to leave, I discovered something I should have known but didn’t. I followed a small sign that read ‘gardens’ to the lower parking level.
Dog-friendly Brant County Rail Trail
Second stop: access to the Brant County Rail Trail. Directly behind the Glenhyrst Gallery is ‘Brant’s Crossing’ – the hub of a 70-kilometer trail system that radiates in three different directions along the Grand River. Why I hadn’t discovered this before, I have no idea, but the gravel paths are a favourite among cyclists and dog walkers.
If you’re ambitious, follow the approximately four-hour route General Isaac took from Hamilton through Brantford to Port Dover during the War of 1812. Or, if you’re less ambitious like us, walk a kilometer or two along the water’s edge, just long enough to get a good view of the river and kayakers below. Dogs on leash is a requirement.
Brantford Off-leash Dog Park
Third stop: Dogford Park, Brantford’s off-leash dog park (189 Gilkison Street, Brantford). We’ve been coming to this community park for a while and have been watching it evolve. The park is a joint effort between the municipality and a group of dedicated volunteers determined to maintain both the physical standards of the park and the rules.
Recently, a second double gate was added, along with a separate small dog run. But most dogs burn off steam in the larger park, well-treed and dotted with benches for people. It’s not uncommon to see groups of people, particularly seniors, in a lawn chair circle spending the better part of an afternoon socializing themselves and their dogs.
Poop bags, bins and clearly posted signage outlining rules and educating about dog play and body language attempt to make this experience positive for all. Note that the grittier nature of Brantford invites a higher-than-average number of large sturdy breeds to the park – at least that’s been my experience. Weekday and earlier morning visits tend to be quieter times. Bring your own water.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for 30 years and travel writer for the last 20. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America, and travels almost weekly with her canine companion.