Big Dogs, Small Condos

May 25, 2019

Dogs are a growing part of downtown condo living. Builders and city planners are providing paws-itive input

By Alex Newman

Special to the Star

Fri., April 12, 2019​




Until three years ago, Maggi Burtt lived happily in a 450-square-foot bachelor suite with her 70-plus-pound, shepherd/malinois mix Shebang, two cats and the occasional boarding dog.


Now she lives in a 750-sq.-ft. space in the same downtown Toronto building, with the same menagerie. “I rarely see a conflict with having a big dog in a small apartment, because people in apartments tend to take their large dogs out more.”

Breed is a factor in energy levels and exercise needs, adds Burtt, a certified dog trainer with her own company, Tailspin Networx. “Pointers are all go-go. And so are border collies. Whereas greyhounds, everyone thinks they run like crazy, and they do — for 20 minutes. And then they’re done.”


Like Burtt, Rachel Siegel and her husband didn’t let a smaller living space stop them from sharing their lives with a dog. Even when the pound puppy they fell for — a sweet 60-pound bulldog — grew to 110 pounds, thanks to his great Dane DNA.

Their 690-sq.-ft. CityPlace condo in Toronto’s Fort York neighbourhood, says Siegel, “never really was a problem. We lived near several parks, and knew we’d be able to make sure he got lots of exercise. We also trained him to run alongside the bike, which meant even more exercise.”


Siegel says, “there was minor concern in the beginning about keeping him from barking inside, but with training, he learned to be quiet.”


The CityPlace condo neighbourhood, and its dogs, was the focus of Waterloo architecture student Sarah Gertler’s thesis in 2017. The paper concluded that more public space was needed to create a better outdoor balance between people and canines. “ ... blame is often given to the dogs which are perceived as the problem. Considering the estimated number of 2,900 dogs within CityPlace and adjacent areas, this problem is a very large one.”


A growing dog population — there’s an estimated 230,000 canines in the 2.8-million-person GTA — has the attention of both condo developers and city planners. Newer condos, where it’s estimated there are three to four dogs per floor, have swapped pools and party rooms for dog runs, pet spas and washing stations. Many condo corporations have restrictions on pets relating to size, or number, while some ban pets altogether except for special needs requirements (the Ontario Human Rights Code trumps condominium rules). Ironically, renters are protected since Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act does not permit landlords to include “no pet” clauses in rental agreements.



Off-leash areas in the city are on the rise, with 66 now compared to 37 off-leash zones in 2010. But some neighbourhoods, like the downtown Financial District, have no available green space while other areas have limited resources. A recent divide in Liberty Village pitted parents of young children against dog owners for the use of local parks and led to the city being petitioned for a new, dog-only area in Lamport Park West, beside the stadium.