When Kathryn Sidwell moved to Toronto from England four years ago, she immediately started adventuring. “I’m always planning day trips and looking for new places in our wonderful province to explore,” the retail sales manager says. Eager to take a pup along, Sidwell signed up to foster an animal in 2021. She started with a young bulldog mix named Charger, who ended up moving in with her for good. “I couldn’t be happier as a dog mom,” Sidwell says. “One of the ways it has improved my life is it gets me outdoors on regular walks, which is great exercise.”

(Read about some social-media-famous pets such as how a husky named Akira became IG famous and Scooter, Tiktok’s feline sensation.)

She was also eager to continue her tour of Ontario. “I wanted to be able to bring Charger along with me,” Sidwell says, but she was struggling to find hangouts open to canine companions. She decided to launch an Instagram project, @houndtario, dedicated to celebrating the province’s pro-pup businesses. Sidwell scours dog-friendly hashtags and follows a lot of dog accounts to compile the best places. “I try to feature a wide range of businesses,” she says, “from patios in Toronto and wineries in the Niagara region to craft breweries in Guelph and cottages in Muskoka.”

Charger at the Stone Lion Pub in the Beach.

Some of Sidwell’s favorite Houndtario discoveries include Lock Street Brewing in Port Dalhousie, which offers a barkcuterie board in the beer garden, and Niagara’s 13th Street Winery, where you can walk your dog through the sculpture garden, glass of wine in hand. The village of St. Jacobs is another standout, according to Sidwell: “The whole village is one of the most dog-friendly places I have been. The Spoil the Dog Bakery and Block 3 Brewing Company are but two places to bring your pup in town.”

In Toronto, Sidwell recommends Riverdale Perk Café. “It has a great dog-friendly patio,” she says. “This local spot is a few blocks down from Withrow Park, which is home to the city’s first official off-leash dog park, so it’s a must-visit.”

Kathryn Sidwell and Charger at Banjo Cider in Uxbridge.

Sidwell plans to use Houndtario to spotlight rescue organizations as well, and a Houndtario website is in the works, complete with dog-friendly city guides and staycation recommendations. Dog-friendly spots are more in demand than ever, Sidwell says, and she’s happy to help others find them with less hassle. “Dog ownership has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and I’ve heard from lots of first-timers who are looking for places to go and things to do,” she says. “At the same time, a lot of small-business owners have reached out to thank me. Bringing the two communities together has been really rewarding and enjoyable.”

Charger, however, may be the one who benefits most of all. She was spoiled on her recent visit to Henderson Brewing on Sterling Road, where dogs are allowed inside during non-patio times. “Not only were the local ales on tap for me,” Sidwell says, “but so were endless treats and cuddles from the staff for her.”


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