Dog Friendly KW is an emerging Instagram account dedicated to showcasing the dog-friendly establishments around the Waterloo Region and surrounding areas.
The account was started and run by two co-founders and dog lovers Justine Sparling and Mackenzie Drinkwater. Both Sparling and Drinkwater met in Muskoka, ON and have been friends for 18 years — they run the account as a side hobby.
“My day job is at a medical device company, we don’t do this full time, we do this because we love our dogs and other people’s dogs, and we really wanted to showcase [dog-friendly spaces] in the area,” Drinkwater said.
Sparling has one full-time job as a social worker for the Region of Waterloo and another side hustle running a KW-based vegan Instagram account called @plantiful.
“While running the @plantiful account I found that there is a huge interest in niche content in Kitchener-Waterloo, which also sparked fascination of why there should be a dog-friendly resource for the region,” Sparling said.
Dog Friendly KW was inspired by Sparling’s fur baby, Marshall, who was recently rescued from Manitoba. Sparling struggled to find dog-friendly places where she could bring her new rescue, and Drinkwater had similar concerns with her two Italian greyhounds Willa and Alydar, who are also retired show dogs.
“I have two dogs that I take absolutely everywhere with me, and what we [realized] was that there were dog accounts in KW, but none of the accounts focused on what you can do with your dog. We wanted to showcase what activities you can do in the Region with your dog,” Drinkwater said.
There are many restaurants, pubs, stores and establishments that allow for dogs, and Dog Friendly KW allows for an easy to use resource for people to explore their options when it comes to dog-friendly facilities.
“There’s food around and lots of other people, so going to a patio is a great opportunity to socialize your animal,” Sparling said.
Drinkwater referenced St.Jacobs, where many of the establishments have a dog-friendly sticker on the window of the store to indicate if the store accepts dogs or not. Both Sparling and Drinkwater believe that this should be standard practice in order to foster a sense of dog inclusivity in the region.
The bylaws about dogs in public places are confusing and ultimately are up to the discretion of the owner of the said establishment. Yet the overarching bylaw states that all dogs must be kept on a leash unless in a specified “off-leash zone” such as a dog park or on private property.
“… mostly it’s about having a well-behaved dog, having your dog on a leash and [communicating with restaurant staff throughout the visit],” Drinkwater said.
Sparling and Drinkwater shared their top favourite dog-friendly places in the region — their top choices are not set in stone, and ultimately can change with new establishments opening or adjusting their rules around dog-friendliness:
“Justine and I go to Old Marina all the time, I would say that come winter The Round Table [Board Game Cafe] will be a fan favourite because you can bring your dog inside and play board games and have beer. And that’s super fun … Marbles has a really nice set up for dogs,” Sparling said
“Score Pizza, uptown Waterloo — it’s right on the King Street strip. You can just pop in and grab a pizza and sit on the patio with your dog. Abe Erb Kitchener at The Tannery is a great patio location as well,” Drinkwater said.