Baking and eating for a good cause definitely qualifies as a guilt-free treat

Baking and eating for a good cause definitely qualifies as a guilt-free treat

February 29 is National Cupcake Day, a cross-country fundraiser for animals in need. You can register for free, then it’s time to make cupcakes, or pupcakes (cupcakes for dogs) and give them out to friends, family and coworkers in exchange for a donation. Proceeds go to your local SPCA or participating humane society to help neglected, abused or abandoned animals in our communities.

But after you and your pooch indulge, you may want to head out to a neighbourhood dog park to burn off those extra calories. No dog? No problem. Many dog-friendly spots are also an excellent source of free entertainment. Pay one a visit and you’ll see what I mean.

Click through for a few of my favourite dog parks in Vancouver and be sure to follow all posted signs for off-leash boundaries and times.

For more to register or for information on National Cupcake Day this February 29, go to www.nationalcupcakeday.ca.

Hadden Park, 1905 Ogden Avenue, at Chestnut

Hadden Park, 1905 Ogden Avenue, at Chestnut

While pups aren’t permitted on most of Vancouver’s beaches, there are a few select sandy stretches where they can run free. The dog beach at Hadden Park, near Vanier Park and the Maritime Museum, is one of my go-tos. Grab a coffee in Kits then make your way to this beautiful bay and take in the view of downtown from across the water. I like this off-leash beach because it’s relatively small and contained, which makes it that much easier to keep track of whose dog is whose.

Spanish Banks, 4900 NW Marine Drive

Spanish Banks, 4900 NW Marine Drive

Westside residents flock to this dog park and neighbouring beach at the west end of Spanish Banks. Summertime, the place is packed. While us humans may prefer the beach here at high tide, many dogs seem to enjoy rolling around on the somewhat muddy ocean floor found at low tide (super fun for them, not so great for your car ride home). Be sure to bring plenty of towels.

Emery Barnes Park, Davie and Richards

Emery Barnes Park, Davie and Richards

It doesn’t get much more urban than Emery Barnes Park, situated in the middle of busy and dense Yaletown. It may not be the prettiest of spaces (the dog area is pebble, not grass), but it is well-situated and fenced in, making perfect for “bolters.” This park is popular with the small dog set, whose humans reside in the many neighbouring condos. For both people and dog watching, it can’t be beat.

Musqueam Park, 4000 SW Marine Drive

Musqueam Park, 4000 SW Marine Drive

This L-shaped off-leash area runs along Crown Street off Southwest Marine Drive. Because it’s in a low-lying area, Musqueam Park can be quite swampy even if it hasn’t rained in a few days so I advise rubber boots. But it does have two important things going for it: squirrels and sticks. Need I say more? It’s also a nice spot to seek some solitude, as it can be deserted on weekdays.

Trout Lake (aka John Hendry) Park, 3300 Victoria Drive

Trout Lake (aka John Hendry) Park, 3300 Victoria Drive

I’ve always loved Trout Lake Park, not just because of the off-leash area (boundaries are the north end of the lake, the ball field on the west, the football field to the east and the lake to the south), but also because it’s so darn pretty to have a lovely lake in the middle of a busy residential area. It’s a great place to take a walk, have a picnic and let your dog have his day too.

Fraser River Dog Park, 8705 Angus Drive

Fraser River Dog Park, 8705 Angus Drive

At the foot of Angus Street, Fraser River Dog Park is situated with quiet 75th Avenue on one side and the Fraser River on the other. It truly has it all: free parking, wide open spaces with little vehicular traffic, well-laid pathways for walkers and runners and interesting vistas of the Fraser. I particularly like the wooden walkways over the marshlands.(Note: the walkways and some off the other parts of the park are on-leash.) It’s truly a great spot for dogs and people alike.