One of the best parts about exploring Grey County with dogs is, there’s no shortage of stunning places to help them get their zoomies out. We have rail trails, wooded hikes, escarpment loops, beaches, Bruce Trail side loops, lakeside ridges, dog parks, and downtowns.
Showing our corner of Ontario to people from other parts of the world has become one of my favourite ways to get out and explore the region myself. During one such opportunity, traversing the south shore of Colpoy’s Bay, I found myself in the car with a British gent who told me something I’ll never forget. “Everyone in Canada seems to either have a beard or a big dog,” he laughed. This was particularly funny because I have a beard and we had three big dogs packed into the back of a Volkswagen Golf.
One of the gifts that big dogs give their owners is the need to walk. Not the desire to walk,but the undying, unrelenting requirement to walk, run, and bulldoze their way through the bush, the trail, or just the neighbourhood. If you have a dog, you walk. You get your 10k steps. One of the best parts about exploring Grey County with dogs is, there’s no shortage of stunning places to help them get their zoomies out. We have rail trails, wooded hikes, escarpment loops, beaches, Bruce Trail side loops, lakeside ridges, dog parks, and downtowns.
Whether you’re an advocate of on-leash or off-leash walks, there’s an endless number of locales that will make your dog happy and introduce you to a new trail, a new view, or a new area in your own backyard. New to planning adventures with your pooch in Grey County? Here’s a few things to know. Let’s get into it:
Keep Your Pup Hydrated
If your dogs never stop running like mine, do them a favour and bring some water for extended hikes in the forest. When you get back to the car after 5 or 10k, they’ll thank you. A 4L jug of water from any old department store makes for a great reusable, sealable vessel to transport enough water to keep them hydrated after a hot summer hike. Collapsable, food-safe silicone bowls make mid-hike breaks easy, too - you can pick these up from any local pet shop or online from retailers like MEC.
Poop and Scoop
Poop bags, yep - you’ll need these. Not only is it courteous to pick up after your dog, but it’s also the law. There are biodegradable options available from any pet shop (try the Canadian Pet Connection, new to Meaford) that help reduce the environmental impact on the planet. If you’re new to shopping for doggie bags, opt for the scented variety if you’re not doing a looped hike and have to carry it with you. You’re welcome.
Not the funnest thing to do after each adventure off-the-beaten-path, but a necessary one. Ticks suck - literally - and can carry diseases with them that can make your pooch very ill. They’re common in wooded areas with tall grass, so always check your four-legged friends for evidence of ticks after each walk and ensure they’re protected with their recommended annual tick and flea treatments. Looking for more tick info? Give the folks at Gordon Pet Services in Meaford a call, they’re new to the county and specialize in holistic pet care.
On & Off-Leash Etiquette
The elephant in the room is, dogs like to run. Sometimes that can mean your backyard can’t satisfy that itch to really turn on the jets. Luckily, there are many local off-leash dog park options including the Owen Sound dog park near the harbour (stop by nearby Mudtown Station for a post outing pint on their dog-friendly patio). Down country, try out Hanover’s Rotary Dog Park. In the Blue Mountains, check out Thornbury’s Moreau Park and Craigleith’s Heritage Park. After your play, there’s a brand new pup n patio menu at Copper Blues that caters specifically to our four-legged friends, offering beef liver chews, a beef bowl, and even frozen cake with sweet potato.
There are many local trails that accommodate dogs running both on and off-leash - and also a few sections of trails that don’t allow dogs at all. The Bruce Trail has a few dog-free sections as well and a great website to help you find them before you decide to head out.
Beautiful Joe Park
Beautiful Joe Park in Meaford is an absolute gem, offering an 8.5-acre space with trails for dog walking and the iconic Bighead River running directly through it. The park is named after Beautiful Joe, a dog who lived in Meaford many years ago who was the inspiration for a book titled in his name. It's a pet-friendly environment and throughout the park there are monuments and memorials to commemorate special pets. Nearby Memorial Park boasts an off-leash dog beach for those hot days, and allows off-leash dogs on the trails in the park from November until April.
Anyone who’s tried to rent a cottage knows it can be tough to find pet-friendly accommodations. Luckily, the aging perspective that your dog is a menace to society is wearing off, and local accommodation providers are making visiting the area with your pets easier and more enjoyable.
The Irish Mountain Bed & Breakfast, The Meaford Inn, and Blue Mountain Resort Lodging, Westin Trillium House, and Tyrolean Village Resorts are a few such pet-friendly destinations that come to mind if you’re looking to enjoy a top-tier staycation in the region.
Tails of the Mountain 2022
If you end up laying your heads at Blue this August 6-7, you should definitely be checking out Tails of the Mountain 2022 - a premier pet festival in South Georgian Bay situated on 100 acres of prime Niagara Escarpment at the Farmer’s House Vacation Rental. Trails, vendors, dock jumping, an off-leash play zone - and $10 from each entry fee goes to support the Georgian Triangle Humane Society.
Insider tip: the BringFido app is a great resource for anyone looking to explore the area away from the usual hotspots. The app is all about helping people learn which restaurants, accommodations, activities, and experiences are dog-friendly.
What’s better is, 2022 is the year of the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit - a personal income tax credit for eligible Ontario residents to claim up to 20% of qualified accommodation expenses for 2022 vacations in Ontario, Any staycation up to a max of $1,000 for an individual and $2,000 for a family; that means saving $200 or $400, not too shabby.
With pets being accommodated in the region more than ever, this is the season to bring them with you, explore that beach, hike that trail, enjoy that dog-friendly patio meal, and stay at that B&B. See you out there!
Guest Writer: Nelson Phillips
Nelson Philips is a Grey County-based writer, creative director, photographer, and publisher. He's one half of local culture company and magazine, Rrampt. You can find him exploring backroads with his family, swimming in Georgian Bay in the offseason, and drinking too many coffees at Highfive Cowork & Social in the Owen Sound River District.