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Vancouver V.S. Amsterdam – which city is more dog-friendly?

Updated: Apr 13

 

In August of 2023, I packed my belongings, brought along my loyal companion Milton, and relocated to Vancouver after calling Amsterdam home for 14 years. After enduring a heart-wrenching breakup and a taxing work situation, I craved a change of scenery. When a job opportunity presented itself in Vancouver, I seized it without hesitation. However, after a mere seven months, I found myself back in Amsterdam with Milton in tow. While there were various reasons for my decision, including an imbalance between my professional and personal life, the high cost of living, and the bustling city atmosphere, what ultimately sealed the deal was the lifestyle afforded to dog owners in Vancouver. In this post, I hope to provide you with a detailed and comprehensive view of what it's truly like to live in Vancouver with a puppy by your side. Is Vancouver a dog-friendly city? Keep reading and find out. (Or jump to summary)


Seymour suspension bridge in Vancouver BC with dogs
Seymour suspension bridge

Before I begin, I must remind you, my dear readers, that I am a passionate dog mom. An extreme case, some may say. I get a kick out of spending time with Milton, and we live an active life together. We travel, dine, hike, and shop together whenever possible. I prioritize my dog's needs over anything else. If you were like me, you might resonate with what I am about to tell you. 


I did much research on the best neighbourhood for dogs in Vancouver before moving. My priority when looking for a rental was to be near off-leash trails. I came down to two neighbourhoods, the North Shore (North Van and West Van) and Kitsilano. I decided to live in North Vancouver for economic reasons and for the many trails it offers. I found a dog-friendly apartment between Mahon Park and Mosquitoes Creek, and both of them are leash optional with lots of doggies throughout the day. Mckay Creek is within a 15-minute walk and adds to our morning walkie options. These three city parks are beautiful with hilly forests, sufficient for a 30-45 mins walk, depending on your speed. I generally walk Milton 2 hours a day. So, we would drive to a trail in the afternoon for a longer walk. The trail options on the north shore are endless. If you had a car, you could walk a different trail every day of the week. The downside is, though, that will be all you do with your dog. Outside of the trails, dogs are forbidden nearly everywhere. 


Dog friendly hike Vancouver, Quarry Rock
Quarry Rock, Vancouver BC

I was surprised to learn that dogs are not allowed on public transportation in Vancouver, including buses and sky trains, the primary public transit systems in Metro Vancouver, and the gondolas that take you to the mountains. The only exception is the 15-minute sea bus that connects Downtown and North Vancouver, but even then, dogs must be placed in a crate during the ride. If you want to move around in the city with your dog, you must use a car; you'll need to drive if you want to take your dog to visit family, friends, a shop, a vet, or a groomer. However, given Vancouver's traffic, it's best to avoid driving too much. As a result, we ended up spending a great deal of time in the car.


Roadtrip to whistler


Another inconvenience is the restrictions for dogs in restaurants and cafes. Our canine friends are not allowed inside any place that serves food and drinks. This includes buying a takeout at Starbucks or any café. As a result, dog owners often have to leave their fur-baby outside while they order and wait for their coffee. I have seen dogs tied up outside a café, a parking meter, a fire hydrant, and a garbage bin. Seeing this breaks my heart. As I am single and mostly alone with Milton, I don't have anyone to watch him when I order a coffee. I love to pick up a cappuccino and a baked good after a long walk with Milton and take a break with him. We missed that simple joy in life very much in Vancouver. In Amsterdam, most café and restaurants allow you to bring your dog inside. Some exceptions are Asian restaurants and shops with open kitchens. Still, you have plenty of options where dogs are allowed inside. Some "dog-friendly restaurants" will let you have your dog on the outdoor patio in Vancouver. However, the rules are not clear. I experienced multiple times when I tried to dine on a terrace with Milton and was told that Milton must stay outside the fence. "But he can be next to you," – the staff said. I mean…. What? 



dog friendly snowshoeing in Whistler, BC.
Dog friendly snowshoeing

Certainly, Vancouver has some positive aspects to it. As I mentioned earlier, the trails are excellent for dogs, and what's more, poop bags are usually provided at the trailheads. There are signs all around to remind dog owners to pick up after their pets, and most people do so. Compared to Amsterdam, the trails and streets of Vancouver are significantly cleaner and less likely to have dog poop lying around. I was impressed by how tidy the trails were and how responsible the dog owners were. I considered travelling to more remote places in beautiful British Columbia with Milton, but we faced several challenges. It was difficult to venture out and enjoy all that BC has to offer with a dog. Many national parks, including the popular Grouse Grind hike, do not allow dogs, even on a leash. The stunning Garibaldi Park, which I was most eager to visit, also prohibits dogs. Several regions of Cypress National Park do not permit dogs either. Whistler Village, known for being dog-friendly, has limited dog-friendly trails in the winter. I wanted to take Milton to the top of Whistler Blackcomb, as we did at Zugspitze in Germany, but dogs are not permitted on gondolas. The outdoor lifestyle plan quickly fell apart. Few hotels allow dogs, and even if they did, it's not feasible to take them out for dinner with you, and most hotels do not allow you to leave your dog alone in the room (which I understand).


I need help explaining why a country with so much space would impose many dog restrictions. The only explanation is probably due to BC's extreme conditions and wilderness. After spending a couple of weeks on the North Shore, I quickly realized BC's wilderness is at a different level. There are stories about a man who died trying to save his dog at Cypress Creek, coyotes snatching small-sized dogs and cats, seals ganging up on a retriever retrieving a ball in the water, and so on. These incidents happened in the greater Vancouver area, not some remote backcountry places. I saw a black bear at Princess Park in North Vancouver, a busy park where people walk their dogs and kids. I saw cayotes in Richmond twice under broad daylight, roaming as if business as usual. Luckily, in all three incidents, Milton was close to me, and I had spotted the wildlife before he did. This explains why some trails are not advisable for dogs. Ultimately, I became tense whenever taking a walk in the mountains. 


Dog friendly hike, North Vancouver, BC.
Capilano river park, North Vancouver


On the other hand, there are many offers for dogs from the retail perspective. There are countless pet stores in Vancouver, and all offer an overwhelming number of choices in food, treats, toys, and wellness products. I liked the dog wash station the most (and something I'll miss in Amsterdam). Almost all pet stores offer a dog wash station at a very affordable price ($10-15 per wash). You can take as long as you like; they offer dog shampoo, drying towels, pet dryers and brushes free of charge. I did notice dogs in Vancouver are generally clean and look well-groomed. Speaking of retail, most of the clothing retailers allow dogs inside, but not in the mall. Dogs are not permitted in the shopping malls. Weird. 


I noticed other positive things about Vancouver compared to Amsterdam. For example, most dog owners respect each other. If a reactive dog is about to approach, its owner will signal to keep a distance or ask from afar to leash it. I also noticed that people tend to ask for permission before their dogs interact with other dogs. In Canada, most dogs are neutered or spayed, a controversial topic in the Netherlands. However, I think this makes the dogs' social scene more relaxed.


Dog wash station Paw street market
Dog wash station


Living with a dog in Vancouver or Amsterdam can have its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your lifestyle and what you want to do with your furry friend. Personally, I love taking my dog along with me wherever I go - be it a scenic mountain hike in the Alps, a weekend getaway to a quaint European village or just a leisurely stroll in my neighbourhood with a cup of coffee in hand. I have trained Milton to behave in different settings, and as his sole caretaker, the freedom to bring him along with me takes away much stress from my life.


Do you think Vancouver is a dog-friendly city? Or do you live in another city you think is more dog-friendly than Amsterdam? Please tell us!  



Here are some high-level comparisons of a dog's life in Vancouver and Amsterdam. 


Accommodations:  

Vancouver: It is difficult to find affordable rentals that allow dogs. Some strata (building management) forbid dogs entirely. 

Amsterdam – difficult to find accommodations, period. 


Transportation: 

Vancouver—Dogs are not allowed on buses, the Sky Train system, or gondolas. Dogs are allowed on sea buses but must be in crates during the ride. Small dogs under 10kg and fit in a carrier are permitted on the national railway. 

Amsterdam—Dogs are allowed on trams, metros, and buses free of charge. They are also allowed on the national railway, but a ticket must be purchased (3-5 euros). 


Eating out: 

Vancouver – Dogs are not permitted inside any restaurants and café. Some cafes and breweries have dog-friendly patios, and some keep their patios open throughout the winter. 

Amsterdam—Dogs are allowed in most restaurants, cafes, and bars. Some exceptions are restaurants with an open kitchen, and most Asian restaurants don't allow dogs. 


Walkies: 

Vancouver – the trail options on the north shore are endless. Some of our favourites are: Baden Powell Trail to Quarry Rock, Hyannis Trail, Inter River Park, Lynn Headwaters Park Regional Park, Capilano Regional Park, Mahon Park, and Mosquitoes Creek Park. These are leash-optional and can take hours to finish if you wish. The off-leash walk option becomes limited if you stay in the lower mainland. The best place in the lower mainland is probably Pacific Spirit Park. 

Amsterdam – The city is generally very walkable. Whether you are looking for an on or off-leash option, you should be able to find walking routes that suit your pup's needs. Our favourites are Amsterdamse Bos and Beatrix Park. 


Shopping: 

Vancouver—Dogs are generally welcomed in most non-food retail stores. However, they are not permitted inside a shopping mall. 

Amsterdam – Dogs are welcomed in most shops. Most shopping malls in the Netherlands allow dogs. 


Cleanliness: 

           Vancouver – You can often find poop bag dispensers at the trail heads, and most people pick up after their dogs. Dog wash stations are standard at pet stores. In general, dogs and streets are clean and poop-free. 

           Amsterdam – I still struggle with this daily, but many people don't clean up after their dogs in the city. 

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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