Sea dogs sharing the beach with our coastal taonga

Department of Conservation —  05/03/2019

At 7pm, the evening of the 16th of February, dogs and their humans were lining up at the entrance to Titahi Bay beach for an evening of socialising and learning.

The event was held to promote DOCs Lead the Way campaign and Seven Simple Steps to share the beach with coastal wildlife, as well as to test new material for a social media campaign being launched during SeaWeek. It was a collaboration between national and local DOC offices, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Titahi Bay Canine Obedience Club with additional help from Pet Essentials Porirua (for yummy samples for the pups) and Victoria University Marine Conservation student.

Some might ask, ‘Why start at 7pm on a Saturday?’ The answer was simple. Several of our beaches have seasonal restrictions on dog access, generally allowing them on the beach in the morning (before 10am) and the evenings (after 7pm) to avoid the summer crowds. This was a sneaky way of reinforcing what some of the local dog rules are, while enjoying a gorgeous west coast sunset. Maps of dog friendly walks in the area were also on hand for people to take away.

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Dogs and their handlers participate in a game of “guess and fetch” as the sun goes down – the owners guess 20m for the dogs to fetch – the distance to keep leashed around wildlife. 📷: Kurt Sharpe


With several dogs eager to see what the excitement that night was all about, games quickly got underway. Students from WPI ran a game “guess and fetch” to help reinforce two of our ‘Seven Simple Steps’:

Dog owners threw a ‘stick’ what they thought was 20 m – ‘Keep 20 m from coastal creatures’ and then the dog got to fetch it and bring it back – ‘A toy is a great decoy’. Those closest to a 20m throw got a prize and participants all got treats for their dogs.

Promoting the Lead the Way campaign, dog owners could also take a simple 10 question quiz to become wildlife qualified and purchase a colour coded lead denoting their dogs behaviour. This work was launched in Dunedin and Wellington in November last year and overwhelming feedback was for the leads and wildlife certification to be available nationwide.

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A four-legged attendee of the event checks out the different colour options for the “lead the way” leads. 📷: Kurt Sharpe


Some of the Seven Simple Steps focus on dog and owner pairs working well together and having a few key skills in their tool box. These are ‘loose lead walking’, the ‘recall’ and ‘leave it’ command. To help some dog owners out with some easy-as exercises they can practice at home, instructors from the Titahi Bay Canine Obedience club were on hand with helpful advice.

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WPI student, Hayden Furcolo, filming an educational video for DOCs social media channels.
📷: Emily Proctor


To top it off, the student team were keen to get advice on aspects of a social media campaign they are preparing for SeaWeek, which included a series of short videos to help easily convey key messages and reach a wider audience. They were showing one of the promo videos to get the public’s perspectives on images and messaging that might make the campaign more successful. They received constructive feedback and revised some of their videos as a result.





Thanks to a collaborative effort, we were able to get some good messages out, raise awareness and get some dogs out socialising and most importantly, safely sharing the beach, because there is space for each.

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One of a series posters developed for raising awareness about the issue, targeting different dog owner motivations to convey the same end result.
Credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute