By Laura Boren, dog owner and Marine Science Advisor.
As Conservation Week approaches, the days lengthen, and more people hit the beach. Me and my dog-buddy, Mack, are here to give dog owners easy tips for managing dogs in coastal environments. Following on from my blog earlier in the year, Mack and I thought we’d touch base and pop a few tools in your toolbox.
New Zealand beaches are great places to roam with dogs and get close to nature. But uncontrolled dogs can disturb or cause harm to local penguins, seals and even sea lions. In some cases, they’ll fight back and inflict injuries on your unsuspecting pooch too.
Fur seals can be aggressive. Photo: Andrew Walmsley (andrewwalmsleyphotography.com)
Little penguin. Photo: Janice McKenna
Last month, rangers were called to a suspected dog attack on a rare leopard seal. The seal was left bloodied and injured. The fate of the dog is unknown, but we suspect it would have been in bad shape. This kind of tragedy is avoidable.
Article on dog attack in Porirua during August 2018. Screenshot from Stuff.co.nz.
1. Know before you go
Mack at the beach. Photo: Laura Boren (DOC)
Check your Council and DOC websites for information on where dogs can visit. Sometimes signs at beaches might be out of date if a change was recently made. These sorts of changes usually get mailed out to you with your dog registration too.
2. Keep an eye out for wildlife
While your dog is sniffing the nearest log, scan the beach and high tide areas for seals. You may also be near penguin habitat if there are tunnels near flax bushes or poop near rocky crevasses.
3. Keep an eye on your dog
We’re all there to interact and have fun together. It’s our responsibility as pet parents to ensure our fur babies are safe when playing and exercising.
Mack is trained to “leave it”. Photo: Laura Boren (DOC)
Mack practicing recall. Photo: Laura Boren (DOC)
How to keep your dog under control
Keeping your dog under control is important. There are the three tools every dog owner should add to their toolbox to keep dogs safe and under control. Your local dog club will also have advice.
Laura and Mack training.
It’s a legal requirement to have a lead with you when your dog is in public. Loose lead walking or heeling can make all the difference to your enjoyment of a walk. If your dog is happy walking on a loose lead, you’ll never have to worry about visiting areas where leads are needed.
If your dog is off a lead, make sure you can recall it when there’s a distraction. This could be a seal, a large bird like a spoonbill, or even other dogs and people. If you can’t recall your dog when there’s distractions, don’t let them off lead.
“Leave it” Command
This is a handy command to teach your dog to keep safe when it’s interest is peaked. It also works when you don’t want them to chase an endangered gull or nose around into a penguin’s nest.
All year, korora /little penguins use burrows near the coast to roost overnight and breed. At some times of year they stay ashore for weeks at a time to molt. During this time they lose and regrow their feathers and are especially vulnerable.
The smell of a penguin’s nest is irresistible to dogs. A feisty, grumpy penguin can take a dog’s eye out with one well-placed peck!
New Zealand is pretty special for having awesome wildlife. It’s amazing that we can see unique wading birds, penguins, and even marine mammals so close to our big cities. Keeping our dogs under control means we’ll be able to enjoy our wildlife long into the future.
For more resources on responsible dog ownership and where dogs are allowed on conservation land, visit our website. You can also download our pamphlet or a rhyme cardon how to keep our wildlife safe around your dog.