Riding with 4 paws: The essential guide to dog-friendly public transit options in Canada

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Ever thought about exploring Canada’s bustling cities like Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal with your furry best friend by your side? If you’re a dog owner, understanding the nuances of dog-friendly public transit is key to a hassle-free adventure. So, buckle up (and leash up!) as we dive into the ultimate guide for dog-friendly travel across Canadian transit systems.

Whether you’re a resident in Canada or a visitor with a pup, knowing the ins and outs of pet-friendly travel is crucial. Luckily, I’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to dog-friendly public transit options in Canada to make your next trip as smooth and stress-free as possible!

A service dog wearing a harness indicating its role accompanied by its handler inside a Canadian public transit setting like a bus or a train.

Service animals and public transit in Canada

In Canada, most public transit operators (including rideshare operators) allow service animals on board at any time.

Transit policies and accessibility

Typically, service animals can travel for free on most forms of public transit (buses, trains, subways, taxis, ferries, etc.).

Rideshares like Uber or Lyft also allow service animals on board.

Identifying a service animal on public transit

Service dogs can be identified through specific harnesses, vests, or tags indicating their role.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to ID in Canada. This means that while you might see service dogs sporting special harnesses or vests, others might be travelling incognito. But their rights remain unchanged.

Etiquette and awareness: sharing space with service animals

Remember, these furry heroes are on duty! I know, it’s so tempting to pet them, but always ask the handler first. After all, they’re working hard to keep their humans safe!

Dog restrictions and service animals

Since service dogs are an exception to most rules, this means that any dog restrictions listed in the guide below only apply to non-service dogs.

Which public transportation options are dog-friendly?

Sure, walking around with your dog from one location to another is a great form of exercise for both you and your pup, but when you need to cover longer distances in a short amount of time (and you don’t have a car), nothing beats the convenience of public transit.

Which begs the question, which public transportation options are dog-friendly in Canada?

Public transit optionDog-friendly guidelines
Buses and streetcarsPolicies vary by city. Generally, small dogs in carriers are allowed. Larger dogs? Check if it’s a non-peak hour and keep them leashed.
Trains and commuter rail servicesMore dog-friendly than buses. Small dogs in carriers are usually fine, and larger dogs might just get a ticket to ride, especially during quieter times.
SubwaysPolicies vary by city. Small, carrier-confined dogs are often allowed but check for specific time restrictions or designated areas.
Private transportation servicesTaxi and rideshare pet policies can differ. A heads-up call to your driver is always a good idea.
FerriesGenerally yes. But rules might vary for indoor spaces. Keep them leashed or in a carrier.
Air travelTricky terrain. Small dogs in carriers can sometimes fly in-cabin, but larger breeds often need to travel in cargo.

If you want your large dog to fly with you in cabin, consider looking at private airlines.

Regional variances: Know before you go

When it comes to public transit, big cities in Canada are usually more dog-friendly than smaller towns or rural areas. Always do your homework before you and your dog start travelling.

Keep Reading
Heading to Toronto? Don’t miss my detailed guide on navigating the Toronto transit systems with your dog.

Taking your dog on buses

If you’re looking to travel on local bus routes, then you might find more relaxed guidelines. But nationwide or long-distance buses might have more restrictive dog policies.

Local bus policies – most buses allow small dogs only

Policies for local buses can vary significantly between cities and provinces.

  • small dogs: allowed if they can fit in a carrier that can fit on your lap
  • large dogs: policies may vary

For larger dogs, the rules on local buses can be more restrictive. Some transit systems like the ones in Calgary, Alberta, Toronto, Ontario and Mississauga, Ontario allow larger dogs on board during off-peak hours, provided they are leashed and well-behaved. Some local buses may also need larger dogs to be leashed too.

Other guidelines to keep in mind:

  • most local buses do not allow dogs to sit on seats
  • small dogs that can fit on your lap will generally ride for free
  • you may need to pay transit fare for taking larger pets on board

In some cases, the bus drivers might also have discretionary powers that can limit how many dogs can be onboard at a time or may ask you and your dog to leave if they feel like your pet’s behaviour is too unruly.

Nationwide bus policies – a no-go

Cross-Canada bus lines, like Flixbus, Greyhound and the MegaBus have strict pet regulations and do not allow pets on the bus.

Is planning dog-friendly public transit stressing you out?

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Taking your dog on trains

Taking the train in and out of Toronto is my favourite public transit option! With more spacious seating, and wider aisles, traveling with your dog on a train in Canada can be a very enjoyable experience! Highly recommended.

Canadian train policies

Every train service in Canada has its own set of rules regarding dogs.

Some trains only allow dogs to travel with cargo. But this means that during the hot summer months when ventilation is poor – dogs are not allowed to travel by cargo. The sweltering heat and lack of A/C is fatal for our pets!

For commuter trains in Canada, the general dog policies are:

  • small dogs: in carriers are allowed on most trains
  • large dogs: policies can vary

VIA Rail Canada, for example, allows small pets in carriers on certain routes, but you need to check for specific policies before you plan to use any trains for your journey.

Keep Reading
Where dogs should sit in the car?

A realistic scene of a well-behaved corgi on a leash with its owner in a Canadian public transportation setting specifically inside a subway. The subway interior is lively, with food advertisements, adding a vibrant and interesting backdrop to the pet-friendly public transit atmosphere.

Taking your dog on subways

Using the subway with your dog in Canadian cities can be so convenient – if done properly! It can be less stressful and expensive than driving in heavy city traffic too.

But like the other public transit options listed, subways come with their own set of rules and best practices. And many subways won’t allow pets on during peak hours.

For Canadian subways, the general dog guidelines are:

  • small dogs: if they can fit comfortably in a carrier and placed on your lap, they’re allowed on the subway
  • large dogs: rules can vary, with some systems only allowing larger dogs to accompany passengers during off-peak hours or in designated cars

Taking your dog on taxis/rideshares

If you don’t own a car or you don’t want to rent a car, then using taxis or rideshares to get around town can be the next most convenient option.

However, unlike public transit, taxis and rideshares are privately owned. This means that pet policies can vary depending on the company and service you use.

While many are dog-friendly, confirm in advance with the service that you’re using.

Rideshare apps provide an option to indicate you’re travelling with a pet, but a quick call or message to the driver is always appreciated!

Tips for riding a taxi or rideshare with your pet

Keep your dog on a leash or in a carrier at all times.

Aim to have your dog sit on the floor of the vehicle to minimize distraction to the driver.

If your dog is allowed to sit on the chairs, BRING A TOWEL OR BLANKET. I promise you that if you’re mindful of cleanliness, and the condition of the taxi or rideshare car, it’ll be VERY MUCH appreciated.

Also, to minimize distraction to the driver, and to keep your dog from shedding everywhere, definitely consider donning your pup in a crash-tested and safety-rated CPS-certified safety harness.

I’d even go so far as to recommend a lint roller to clean up after the ride too!

Tipping etiquette

When using rideshare services, consider tipping your driver a little extra letting your pet on board!

A little appreciation goes a long way and this small gesture acknowledges their willingness to transport your four-legged friend. It’s my little secret for keeping my profile well-ranked amongst the drivers too!

Taking your dog on ferries

Travelling on ferries can be an exciting and scenic way to admire Canada’s Great Lakes and coastal regions and islands.

Canadian ferry services have specific guidelines for having pets onboard.

While most ferries allow dogs, some ferries might require your dog to remain in your car or in the designated pet areas. Others might allow them on passenger decks. You’ll need to check the policies of the ferry service you plan to use.

Tips for riding a ferry with a dog

Before boarding the ferry, make sure your dog has a chance to exercise and potty too.

When onboard, keep your dog leashed and under control at all times – and keep to the designated pet areas too.

Some ferry services might recommend or require a life jacket for your dog, especially when on outdoor decks, so make sure you have one ready for your dog too.

Taking your dog on airlines

Alright, let’s be plain and simple here. Air travel with a dog on Canadian airlines is never easy. You’ll need some careful planning and a solid understanding of airline policies if you don’t want to be denied boarding at the gate!

Each Canadian airline has its own set of rules for travelling with pets. Some airlines allow small dogs in the cabin if they’re in an airline-approved carrier, while others may only transport pets in the cargo hold.

TRIPLE CHECK the airline policies, and when in doubt, make sure to call the airline you’re flying with to double-check where your dog can be, the size, weight limits, and any additional fees.

Tips for flying with a dog

Before the flight

Socialize and make sure your dog is comfortable in the carrier they’ll be travelling in.

Make sure your dog is healthy for travel, has the latest vaccinations, health certificates, travel passports, and has a clean bill of health from the vet.

To minimize nausea and discomfort, feed your dog a light meal a few hours before the flight.

Choose direct flights to reduce your dog’s travel time and stress.

Avoid flying during extreme temperatures – especially if your dog is in the cargo hold. Cargo holds can get very hot or very cold.

Map out where the pet relief stations are in the airport and ensure your dog has plenty of chances to potty before your flight.

Find the closest veterinarian near your destination’s airport and any other locations you’re travelling to.

During the flight

Keep your dog’s carrier under the seat in front of you if they’re travelling in-cabin with you.

If your dog is in the cargo hold, mark the crate with your contact information and a “Live Animal” sticker.

Always attach a current photo of your dog to their crate in case they get lost and have photos ready on your phone too.

After the flight

Give your dog a chance to stretch, drink water, and relieve themselves as soon as possible.

Monitor your dog for any signs of stress or discomfort post-flight and give them time to adjust to the new environment.

Preparing your dog for travelling

Looking for some quick tips to prepare your dog for travelling on the bus, train, or ferry? Here’s a quick checklist that you can run through before you start your journey:

  • Have updated vaccinations
  • Have up-to-date dog identification tags and microchip details
  • Have a suitable leash and collar. If you plan on regularly commuting on public transit with your dog, get an adjustable dog leash that can shorten from 6 feet to 3.5 feet when you need to keep your pup close
  • Check to make sure your dog is comfortable in a crowded and moving environment

If your dog is prone to anxiety or motion sickness, I recommend consulting your vet for advice! Trust me – a nauseous doggo isn’t fun – imagine how much worse it’d be if they vomited on the bus! Oof.

Tips for during the journey

Practice and preparation are key to a smooth experience. Consider taking a few short rides during less busy times to get your dog used to the noises and smells before going on a longer journey.

While you’re on the bus, train, or ferry with your dog, make sure your dog is secure and under control.

I highly recommend keeping your dog on a short leash.

Stay out of the aisles to avoid getting in the way of other passengers.

If your dog is in a carrier, place it in a spot where it won’t trip others or block exits – like your lap.

Never allow your dog to occupy seats intended for passengers.

If you’re planning a longer journey, make sure to consider your dog’s needs and include any water, food, and bathroom breaks as needed.

And remember – not everyone is comfortable with dogs! Some can be afraid, or have allergies. Keep your dog close and try to choose a seat where your dog is as far away from others as possible.

Training for public transit

If you plan on travelling a lot with your dog to use public transit a lot, consider training them for these specific situations! This can include getting them used to the sounds and movements of the bus, ferry, or train.

You can also practice calm behaviour while in a crowded space.

Emergency situations

You never know what might happen! As a dog owner myself, I can never be *too* sure that a potty ‘accident’ won’t happen, or when my dog could cut her paws on something sharp while travelling.

Here are some things I’d recommend carrying so that you’re ready for anything:

If you’re planning a longer adventure, I’d also recommend knowing the locations of veterinary services along your route.


With some advanced planning, navigating the public transit system in Canada with your dog is very doable. From buses and trains to taxis, rideshares, and subways, Canadian cities offer many options to travel with our pups on public transit.

A vertical image depicting a dog looking over a ship railing overlooking water. Text on the image writes: "Pet Travel Guide", "Essential Guide to Dog-Friendly Public Transit in Canada"

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