Dog owners: seven simple steps to share the beach

Department of Conservation —  15/11/2018

By Laura Boren, dog owner and Marine Science Advisor.

The days will be starting to get longer, and more people will be hitting the beach. Following on from my series of blogs, me and my dog-buddy Mack are back to give dog owners some easy tips for managing dogs in coastal environments.

Mack and Laura at Mack’s first Rally-Obedience competition

New Zealand beaches are great places to roam with dogs and get close to nature. But uncontrolled dogs can disturb or cause harm to penguinsseals and even sea lions.

In some cases our native species will fight back and inflict injuries on your unsuspecting pooch too. To avoid this here are some simple steps dog owners can take to lead the way as ambassadors for our wildlife.

Seven Simple Steps to Share the Beach

1. Know before you go

Check your council or DOC websites for information on where dogs can visit.

2. A wildlife scan makes a good game plan

Scan the beach upon arrival for any wildlife so you can be prepared, and keep an eye out while your dog is having a sniff around, for any potential wildlife ahead. It’s our responsibility as pet parents to ensure our fur babies are safe when playing and exercising.

Yellow-eyed penguin returning from sea. Photo: Hannah Hendriks

3. A toy is a great decoy

Sea gulls are wildlife too! Take a ball or toy to the beach for your pup to chase instead. Also, if your dog is anything like Mack, a ball will mean you have their undivided attention if you need to keep them away from the appealing aroma of seal or penguin.

4. Walk on the wet sand first-hand

Many shorebirds or penguins like to use the dry sand areas with driftwood, sand dunes, or rocks and crevices. Walk with your pooch on the wet sand or stay on designated tracks to avoid the key areas where wildlife is more vulnerable.

Walk on the wet sand first-hand

5. ‘Feet on sand, lead in hand’

Remember it’s a legal requirement to have your lead with you when your dog is in public. Loose lead walking can make all the difference in your enjoyment of a walk, if your dog walks happily on lead then you never have to worry when you get to an area when you need to clip them on. Check in with your local dog club for some tips on how to get your dog to stop pulling.

6. Keep 20 metres from coastal creatures

Don’t let your dog go astray – keep them leashed 4 car lengths away! 4 car lengths is about 20 metres, a safe distance for both wildlife and pooch. If you spot wildlife be sure to call your dog back and place them on the lead and keep them under control. If your dog doesn’t recall when distractions are present keep them on lead.

New Zealand sea lion. Photo: Hannah Hendriks

7. ‘Help ‘em out and give a shout’

If you do see wildlife, let others know so everyone can be better prepared. We’re privileged in New Zealand to be able to see such diverse wildlife on our coasts, even around cities.

Have fun and be wildlife safe this summer with your canine friend. It’s easy to be a responsible dog owner as there is space for each, just share the beach!

7 responses to Dog owners: seven simple steps to share the beach


    Love this post! Beach and dogs go together like peanut butter and jelly.


    I feel there should be more sites on the coast that are dog free to give our shore birds a chance to nest and raise their chicks. The main Mount beach is very busy with people and events yet variable oystercatchers and NZ dotterel are nesting there happily as there are no dogs allowed. Some more areas should be set aside for shorebird nesting.

    Judy Sainsbury 23/11/2018 at 3:24 pm

    I hear what you say and it makes me think twice about some of my own habits. We let our Working Beardie have free rein on our 22 km long beach while I (80) drive slowly. He is very obedient and comes when called. He has a damaged heart, for which he has had open heart surgery, which causes overheating. I let him cool off in our huge lagoon where there are always black swans and sea gulls. He has lots of fun galloping through the shallow water barking at his shadow. The swans may retreat a bit but they are usually 200 metres away. I keep him out of the raupo and wetlands and areas where there may be nests. Sometimes we go no further than the lagoon. I think this is all right. Do you.


    Great advice and handy summary Laura, thank you!

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