Traveling with my dog in Canada

Canada is the country where Cocaí and I spent more time traveling together. Dog and human being. A total of 9 months in which we alternated “settled lifestyle” and trips throughout different provinces of the territory. The provinces in which we spent more time and therefore more doglike tips I have are: British Columbia, the Yukon, Labrador and Newfoundland. But I also have information about the Northwest Territories, Alberta or Quebec.

JOURNEY

We started in Victoria, Vancouver Island. From there we traveled to Port Renfrew, where I worked for almost three months. Then we went to Vancouver, where my family arrived. We took a family trip through the Rocky Mountains, Vancouver Island (back to the island), and ended up with a ferry that runs along the coast of BC to Prince Rupert. My parents left, and Coqui and I continued alone towards the Yukon, climbing on the map until we hit the Arctic in Inuvik. Then we settled for a month and a half in Dawson City, to work. We went south to Kamloops, from where we headed east. We crossed, literally, the entire country (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario) to Montreal. Cocaí stayed in the great metropolis of Quebec while I was going to New York for a few days (exams). Then we visited Quebec province: Quebec City, some places on the coast and, finally, inland. Thus, we made it to Labrador, and cross to the coast along the Trans-Labrador Highway. We took a ferry to Newfoundland and toured the island from north to south. We settled in St Johns for more than two months. After several trips around the island we left, taking the ferry from Port Aux Basques to Nova Scotia. We crossed all this province and New Brunswick before crossing the border to USA (Houlton, Maine).

Victoria – Sooke – Port Renfrew – Juan de Fuca Trail – Nanaimo – Vancouver – Whistler – Wells Gray Provincial Park – Jasper National Park (Jasper, Pocahontas) – Banff National Park (Lake Louis, Banff) – Field – Yoho National Park – Glacier National Park – Revelstoke – Mt Revelstoke National Park – Back to Vancouver – Back to Vancouver Island – Victoria – Sooke – Port Renfrew – Cowichan Valley – Nanaimo – Cathedral Grove – Tofino – Ucluelet – Port Hardy – Marble River Provincial Park – Port Alice – Port Hardy de nuevo – Prince Rupert – Terrace – Kitimat – Lava Lake – Gitwinksihlkw – Back to Prince Rupert – Kitwanga – Meziadin Junction – Watson Lake – Whitehorse – Kluane National Park and Reserve – Back to Whitehorse – Carmacks – Eagle Plains – Inuvik – Tombstone Provincial Park – Dawson City – Whitehorse again – Kamloops – Montreal – (NY) – Quebec – La Malbaie – Tadoussac – Parc National du Fjord du Saguenay – Forest Ville – Station Uapishka and Les Monts Groulx – Labrador City/Wabush – Charlottetown – Blanc-Sablon – Saint Barbe – Flowers Cove – Raleigh – L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site – Flowers Cove again – Saint Pauls – Gros Morne National Park (Westernbrook Pond) – Rocky Harbour – Deer Lake – St Johns – Signal Hill National Historic Site – Cape Spear National Historic Site – Bay Bulls – Trinity – Bonavista – The Dungeon – Terra Nova National Park – Globertown – Twillingate/Crow Head – Back to Gros Morne National Park – Argentia – Cape St Mary’s Ecological Reserve – Back to St Johns – East Coast Trail – Stephenville – Port Aux Basques – North Sydney – Woodstock – Houlton (Maine, USA)

LENGHT OF THE TRIP

9 months.

TRANSPORTATION

Hitchhiking. We did much of the trip by lifting our thumb. It was pretty good in almost all the places that we dare to travel in the purest beggar style. There are several reasons why hitchhike in Canada is effective: 1) Canadians are confident, 2) they love dogs, 3) there are few people. The psychological principle called the bystander effect says that to the observation that someone is in danger, or is not having a good time, the more people present (viewers/spectators) the lower the probability that the needy get help. This is because viewers delegate responsibility to others, and therefore no one is responsible for the event.

  • On Vancouver Island it was easy to travel like this between Port Renfrew, Sooke and Victoria (I used to come back to these cities to visit friends, get things or do errands).

  • The journey from Prince Rupert to the Yukon. The section between Prince Rupert and Kitwanga is quite complicated to hitchhike, since in the 90s there was a series of cases of missing women and that is still in the memory of the locals.

But there is always someone who picks you up

  • The Yukon. Our experience was very good. Their remote lands are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you will not see many cars, but on the other hand, the few that travel the roads will probably help you out. As there are hardly any populations, they will take you for hundreds of kilometers. The Dempster Highway is amazing for hitchhikers.

With amazing Lisa and her dog Alice, we traveled all the way from Inuvik to Dawson City in her little motorhome

  • Kamloops to Golden. All good.

  • Quebec. We did from Quebec City to Tadoussac, then north (Labrador direction) on the route 389. This last route is lonely and remote, but it is very likely that you get a ride from the first car.

A ride to Labrador, please!

  • Trans Labrador Highway. Likewise, it may take you a while to see a car, but you will get help sooner rather than later. Also, as there are hardly any cities in between, the rides are going to be long. We made the whole highway with a truck driver. My dear Andy.

What a great man Andy

  • Newfoundland. It is also very easy to ask for a ride on the island. People are very warm and crazy about dogs. I traveled around the island a lot, meeting many good samaritans. Andy came back to the rescue!

  • Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Coqui and I crossed these two provinces (about 750 km) with the same truck driver (night included in the truck): good old Dave. I do not have more references than that, but it seems easy.

Coming soon: traveling by hitchhiking in Canada.

Cars of friends. From Dawson City to Whitehorse with Marta. From Whitehorse to Kamloops (two-day trip) with Sarah, Nancy and Amanda.

Rental cars. The trip with my parents. We rented one in Vancouver to get around the Rocky Mountains and Vancouver Island (we left the car in Port Hardy), and another in Prince Rupert to explore its surroundings (Terrace, Kitimat, Lava Lake). With María in Newfoundland. With Alberto in Newfoundland.

The car came in handy to travel with a dog... And with a lame!

Carpooling. Although there are no shared car websites like Blablacar (there are some, but they do not work well), it is popular to use Facebook groups of shared cars or trips. We crossed the whole country from Golden (British Columbia) to Montreal with a boy named Vincent. We also did Montreal to Quebec (you can easily find in Facebook groups many rides between these two cities).

Cedric took us to Quebec City and welcomed us into his house a couple of nights. He will always be in our hearts

Ferry. There were five in total: from Nanaimo to Vancouver, from Vancouver to Sydney/Victoria, from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert (the longest one), from Blanc-Sablon to Saint Barbe, and from Port Aux Basques to North Sydney. I did not like that dogs had to travel in a kennel (cage), in a specific room (unless traveling by car), although there were differences between journeys. In the first one I was able to stay with Cocaí during the whole trip, and she was out of the cage all the time. In the second one, having a car, Coqui did not even have to enter the kennel area. In the trip from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, which lasted about 16 hours, I did not have to put her in the cage, but she was "free" in the pet area. They allowed me to visit her every two or three hours (and take her to the beach when we made a stop on an island). The worst was the ship from Blanc-Sablon to Saint Barbe, because the dog cages were in the noisiest part of the whole boat, and I was forced to put her in one of them. Cocaí arrived safely on all occasions.

Note. Usually, the cages are run by the ferry company itself and you do not have to pay any fees for using them, but take a look just in case on the ferry website... There may be a change in the regulations for whatever reason. That is what happened recently on the Port Aux Basques - North Sydney route. Fortunately, they let us get on the boat, paying a fee for using one of theirs. Unlike the rest, this ferry company does not allow dogs to enter the terminal building either, so you will have to wait for the ferry to arrive in the garden outside.

Typical kennel room on Canadian ferries

We seized the stop at Bella Bella Island to stretch our legs and take a dip

Recommendations

There is no Blablacar, but Facebook groups are used a lot to travel from one place to another. These are some of the most used groups:

  • Rideshare Canada Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver Banff, Winnipeg, SaintJohn etc. Its own name says it all, it is more useful for those who are looking to go east or west, either to cross the whole country or to do just a part.

  • Canada RideShare. A bit of everything, especially between large cities and between large cities and surrounding areas (for example from Vancouver to Prince George).

  • Canada RideShare Backpackers. Same as the previous one, but the group is quite smaller.

  • Dawson City Rideshare. To travel between the Yukon "big" cities: Whitehorse and Dawson City. People make trips from time to time to other Yukon places and even to the south of the country, somewhere in British Columbia.

  • Covoiturage Québec/Montréal (groupe sécurisé). To get around the Montreal/Quebec area and surroundings. You may also find in this group other more or less nearby destinations such as Halifax, Toronto, Otawa...

  • Rideshare New York - Montreal Co-voiturage. Specific group to travel between Montreal and New York.

Also, if you are going to be traveling between the areas of Montreal/Quebec and Toronto/Otawa, there is a very popular car-sharing application called Amigos Express: https://www.amigoexpress.com/

With this app you can travel through the state of Quebec and surroundings. The downside is that you have to pay a fee to register. Finally, you can take a look at the rideshare communities of Kijiji or Craiglist. I do not like them much though.

Buy a car (and sell it once the trip is over). If you come for a long time, for example, with the Working Holiday Visa, or because you have a long vacation of several months, it might be a good idea. Of course, everything has its pros and cons. The best thing is that it would allow you to travel more comfortably and save on accommodation (the idea is that you use the car as a bed). I know people who have bought a car to travel through Canada. I did not do it, but I did look at prices and I informed myself. There are many second-hand websites, such as Kijiji or Craiglist, as well as buy and sell Facebook groups. These cars are usually cheap, and owners usually tell you why they are selling them, if they have any mechanical problems etc. Even so, there is always the doubt that they may be scamming you... On the other hand, even if you get a good deal, insurances are always expensive. It depends a lot on the province you buy and register the car, but here I cannot help you anymore (I do not have the information). Last but no least, if you are going to drive after three months of entering the country, you will need to get an international driving license. It is not a driving test as such, you just need to pay

In the same vein, many people who come to travel to Canada rent, or even buy, a motorhome. Obviously, this would only work for a trip with friends or family. The advantages are clear: zero worries when traveling with your dog, zero accommodation expenses. You also save on food, since you can cook whenever you want. In addition, you can make more elaborate dishes than with the camping stove. On the other hand, you have all the expenses (own vehicle, insurance, gas, possible breakdowns), and - this is my personal opinion – joy and emotion are lost a bit. For a (dog) backpacker trip like this I mean. It is cool to travel by car or caravan, but not all the time.

Many people travel the country in these motor homes

ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation in Canada is easy to get for a dog traveler. There are many campsites and almost all hotels accept dogs, paying a fee (normally between 10 and 20 Canadian dollars). The bad thing is that they usually charge per room, so the independent traveler is screwed. In very touristy places like the Rocky Mountains, not many hotels and cabins do dogs. Below I indicate where we stayed (there are many campsites anyway). The idea of the hostel is popular, much more than in its neighbor USA. Not only in big cities (Vancouver, Montreal, etc), you can also find hostels in more rural places. For example, in Port Renfrew they are doing one (I contributed my bit to it!). However, I am not sure if they would let you in with your dog in hostels (I have never stayed in a hostel in Canada).

On the other hand, as I said, the country is full of campsites and you also have full freedom to set up the tent where you please, within public land (which is almost everything). The official campsites vary a lot in prices, ranging from quite cheap (or free) to very expensive. They usually charge per plot, but sometimes it is per person (or per tent). Let's see how we used the different accommodation options:

Free camping. We did "wild" camping at: Port Renfrew, Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, Yoho National Park, Kitwanga, Kluane National Park, Dawson City, Tadoussac, Forest Ville, somewhere on the 389 road, Les Monts Groulx (note: free shelter – La Lyre – at the beginning of the route), Blanc-Sablon, Flowers Cove, Raleigh, Gros Morne National Park, Trinity, Grand Falls-Windsor.

Camping with my family near the Kootenay NP, Rocky Mountains

Real campsites: Nanaimo, Wells Gray Provincial Park, Jasper National Park, Watson Lake, Whitehorse, Carmacks, Eagle Plains, Inuvik, Dawson City (one month), Golden, Station Uapishka, St Johns, Newfoundland National Park, Argentia.

Sunbathing in St John´s

Couchsurfing: Vancouver. En Quebec conseguí host, pero me acabé quedando con un amigo que hice por el camino.

Spontaneous Couchsurfing: Sooke with John and Shawn. Quebec with Cedric. Labrador City/Wabush with Kelly. Stephenville with Hector, Herica and Sofia. Four great experiences.

We stayed fifteen days at John and Shawn’s. I felt like a squatter!

And Cocaí made a friend that will always carry in her heart, gentle Jaxe

You keep traveling if you want, I'll stay with Kelly

Friends Houses: Sooke with John and Shawn (I went back with my parents). Dawson City with Amanda and Nancy. Kamloops with Sarah. Montreal with Sam

Lighthouse: Port Renfrew. I was offered this temporary accommodation when I arrived in the town asking for work. It was no longer in use, in fact it was about to become a hostel. In the ended up spending three months here.

Our most peculiar home

That's how it looked like when we arrived...

... And little by little we equipped it! As my cousin says, everything tends to entropy…

Hotel/motel. There are many accommodations of this type that allow pets. These are the ones we stayed in: Whistler (Aava Whistler), Jasper National Park (Pocahontas Cabins, this is the address if anyone wants to indulge in these beautiful cabins: Junction Highway 16 at Miette Hot Springs Road), Lake Louise (I do not mention it because it was an expensive hotel without charm), Revelstoke (Mustang B & B), road between Kelowna and Vancouver (Bridal Falls Motel, they do not accept dogs but there is a campgrounde next door, where Coqui and I stayed), Port Alberni (a roadside motel run by a Chinese family), Port Hardy (Bear Cove Cottages, amazing cabins in front of the sea: http://www.bearcovecottages.ca/), Prince Rupert (Pacific Inn) , Terrace (Mumfords Lodge).

At Pocahontas Cabins we were happy (especially my mother).

The room in the Munstag B & B (Revelstoke) was, to say the least, interesting

Cabins in which we stayed in Port Hardy

Sweet dreams!

Car, truck or ferry. In a car: journey from Whitehorse to Kamloops (BC) with Sarah, Nancy and Amanda; Journey from Golden (BC) to Montreal with Vincent. In a truck: journey along the Trans Labrador Highway with Andy; St Johns with Andy; Woodstock with Dave. On a ferry: journey from Port Aux Basques to North Sydney.

I traveled many kilometers with Andy and spent several nights in his truck

Rented room: St John´s.

At Wally and Darrell's house, two awesome guys

Some recommendations

Travel with your tent and enjoy the wild and abundant nature (all the country!) of Canada. You can camp almost anywhere. Also, as I will explain later, dogs are welcome everywhere, including National Parks (there are exceptions such as some Flora and Fauna Reserves, but dogs are usually allowed). In short, Canada is ideal for hiking through the woods and the mountains with your dog and camping under the stars.

Try Couchsurfing if you go to big cities. It is a good way to meet local people and more in Canada, where accommodation is quite expensive! I only did it in Vancouver.

FOOD LOCALS AND OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS

In the facilities where food is served, whether restaurants, supermarkets/groceries, food stores or bakeries, dogs are not usually allowed. They are very strict when it comes to allowing dogs to enter places that involve food. There may be specific places where they do allow, though. Among those who do not, some will let you leave your dog tied outside. If the restaurant has a terrace they will probably let you pass in that part. Anyway, I rarely ate in a restaurant, neither when I was alone nor when my parents came. Most of the time I cooked with the stove and ordered food to take away.

Eating at Fisherman's wharf

Anyway, why eat in a restaurant when you can go picnic everywhere?

In the rest of establishments, you will almost certainly have free access. We entered the bank, gift shops, technology stores, Parks Visitor/Interpretation Centers, laundries, etc. We also entered into some other church.

As for shopping centers, I am not sure. I guess in some they are ok with dogs.

NATURAL AREAS AND OTHERS

Access to nature areas is usually quite permissive for dogs, including National Parks (except in the state of Quebec: chien interdit). We visited without any problems the following National Parks: Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Glacier, Mt Revelstoke, Kluane, Gros Morne, Terra Nova. We also went to some National Monuments. This category of Parks/Monuments usually specifies that dogs must be kept on a leash. This may be to avoid disturbing other visitors or in order to protect the wildlife of the territory (or not endanger your own buddy). I almost never put Cocaí on a leash, because she is very well-behaved and always listens to me. I only did it in the most touristy areas, but not for a long hike. I cannot imagine what it is like hiking with your dog on a leash for three days...

On the other hand, there are some places where dogs are not allowed. Here are some examples that I know firsthand. At Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland, they did not let my dog enter the Reserve. It makes sense because it is a colony of birds. Within the Gros Morne National Park, you can do each and every one of the trails except climbing Gros Morne Mountain. You cannot hike the West Coast Trail, on Vancouver Island, with your dog. However, you can do the Juan de Fuca Trail, which is similar and starts from Port Renfrew as well. In the Rocky Mountains I know there are some non-dog-friendly treks, but I do not remember which ones. Anyway, there are many, so no worries, you will have many miles to walk with your dog. If you do not believe me, take a look at the following pictures.

The Juan de Fuca Trail (35-40 km) goes through amazing beaches and rain forests, and best of all: dogs are welcome!

Hiking through Kluane NP (Cottowood Trail, 85 km)

The East Coast Trail is a 300-km-hike of coastline passing through cliffs, meadows and forests

My friend Meryjane and Coqui in the Tablelands, Gros Morne NP

Lake Minnewanka, Banff NP

With regard to beaches, all we have visited allowed dogs (except in Vancouver). We were at beaches of:

  • Vancouver. Not all beaches are dog-friendly (in fact, I saw posters on some beaches with 2000 bucks fines for those who violated the rules). I was in two in the city with Coqui, but as I am not an expert in the field, here is a link that explains what the dog beaches in Vancouver are: http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2014/08/bow-wow-best-dog-beaches-vancouver/

  • Vancouver Island: Sooke, Port Renfrew, Nanaimo, Tofino, Port Alice, Port Hardy. Great to go to the beach with your dog, except in Long Beach, Tofino, where they are very strict, probably because there is more tourism...

  • Quebec: I just went to Tadoussac and some other nearby beaches. Zero problems.

  • Newfoundland: Flowers Cove, Raleigh, The Arches, Rocky Harbor. Here we have also been to many coastal areas (apart from beaches), like cliffs with lots of birds, and we were never told anything. For example, in Signal Hill, Cape Spear, the East Coast Trail, Cape Bonavista, Crow Head...

Sunset Beach, in Vancouver, is a beach made for dogs

And they have lots of fun!

Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island

As for other excursions and guided tours, I do not have much information, because I hardly did any (apart from hiking we did not do many other activities). You will likely not have any problems outside the city. For example, I rented a kayak and toured the Klondike River, in the Yukon. Cocaí and I were only rowing one day, but I met people who did a canoe trip with their dogs for several weeks. A very popular route in this regard is the one that goes from Whitehorse to Dawson City, and I knew people who did it with their dogs. About the tours for wildlife watching (whales, birds, or even icebergs in Newfoundland), I do not think they would let your dog get on board, but surely the staff of the agency would be happy to take care of him/her.

Doggy adventure through the Klondike. Photo by Kevin Ferrero

Cocaí also came to a guided tour in the old Viking settlement of L'Anse Aux Meadows.

They did not let us enter the Citadelle of Quebec.

A little bit of Viking culture!

DOG DOCUMENTATION

When crossing the border from the United States, they only asked if she had the rabies vaccine. I answered “yes”, and they believed me (I did not even have to show them her passport). We entered with the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria (Vancouver Island). If you enter by land (or boat) from the States, you will be only asked for the rabies shot. However, arriving by plane, remember that you must have in order the following paperwork: veterinary health certificate issued in the week prior to entering the country, rabies vaccine in force (that is, in the last 12 months; if it is a puppy, it must be at least one month in advance), external antiparasitic treatment in the previous days before crossing, and electronic chip.

There is no risk of rabies or other diseases for your dog in the country.

ASSESSMENT

Canada is a difficult country to travel with your dog if you do not have a car. But it is an adventure! The two basics of a backpacking trip, transport and accommodation, are complicated for different reasons. For the first you must be ready to travel hitchhiking, as it is the only way in many cases. But no worries guys, Canadians love dogs and it will probably not be hard for you to get quick rides. In addition, although there is no Blablacar or other carpooling applications, you can make use of different Facebook groups on travels or car-sharing to travel between big cities or touristy places. Also, if you are traveling around Quebec area, the AmigosExpress app works well.

As for accommodation, if you are one of those who likes nature and camping, you are in luck my friend. There are campsites everywhere and there is full freedom to camp (almost) anywhere (wild camping). On the other hand, there are many dog-friendly options among the hotels and cabins. They are far from the backpacker budget, but you can treat yourself a whim from time to time (especially in winter). Another option that you can try, mainly in large cities, is Couchsurfing.

In short, the pros and cons:

  • Pros: Doggy culture, your dog will feel like a queen/king with so many smiles, pampering and treats everywhere. Easy to travel with your thumb (under my experience). Great freedom to camp. Many hotels that allow pets.

  • Cons: It is expensive. Lack of a popular carpooling application like Blablacar. Hard conditions to travel in winter, especially if you have no car and travel by hitchhiking and camping...

  • Degree of difficulty to travel: 5.

These girls, who were attending a wedding, asked me to have a picture with Cocaí. “The dog in the middle!”

Note

In Canada there is a generalized rule of walking the dogs on a leash, no matter the place and time. Everyone has them on a leash, even in parks, and Canadians can give you a disapprovingly look or even get mad at you if you skip that “law”. It is common for owners to be very protective of their own dogs and can get alarmed if your free dog, gets close to his. All in all, it is kind of hard to find dog friends with whom your dog can play. Perhaps, the best way to socialize your dog is to take her/him to dog fenced parks where they can play off-leash (I am not a fan of these parks, though).

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