Expert tips for dog owners these school holidays

Publish Date : 08 Apr 2022
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Photo credit: Bryan Lowe.

While it’s been a bumpy start to the year for us humans, our canine friends have perhaps been enjoying more walks and more time with their owners.

As the school holidays and Easter break approach, Auckland Council’s Animal Management team share some expert tips for looking after the dogs of Tāmaki Makaurau – and they’re not just for dog owners.

Who wants a walk?

With more people working from home than ever before, the family dog has been getting a lot more walks, with local parks a popular destination.

“As we make the most of the beautiful Autumn weather and explore Tāmaki Makaurau these school holidays, it’s important to plan ahead for outings with your dog,” says Animal Management Manager Elly Waitoa.

Visit Auckland Council’s website to find out where and when you can exercise your dog in parks, open spaces and beaches

Make sure you’ve got food and water with you if you’re away for a long period of time and don’t leave your pup in the car unattended

Observe rules on where dogs are allowed, prohibited and where they must be on a leash

Remember, while your dog might be well-behaved and obey your commands, you might encounter other dogs that aren’t so well-behaved or a situation that is outside of your control.

Keeping yourself, your whānau and your community safe

Whether you’re a dog owner or not, we often all share the same footpath or open space. School holidays often mean that our parks and beaches are in hot demand, and no one wants to ruin their holiday plans with a run-in with a dog.

“No one, we hope, sets out to cause havoc with their pet but sometimes tricky situations do arise.

“We’ve noticed that the lockdowns have changed dog behaviour a little with many pooches being over-stimulated or experiencing high human interaction.

“While in some ways this is good, and increases a dog’s patience around people, it can also push the boundaries of their tolerance.

“The most unacceptable behaviour from dogs is their aggression towards humans. Unfortunately, many people – young, old, owners or not – are bitten or harmed by dogs because they do something that triggers a dog to react,” says Elly.

Some tips to keep you safe around your own or other people’s dogs:

  • Plan your visit – some places are more popular for dog walking and exercising than others. If you have a dog, you might choose to stay away from popular general recreation locations. If you don’t have a dog, you might choose to stay away from popular dog parks or exercise areas.
  • Create space – give dog owners and their dogs a wide berth when walking past them or sharing the same space
  • Ask before you pat – always ask a dog owner if it is safe to touch or pat their dog and never touch the back of a dog’s neck unless you have to.
  • Show kids what not to do – teach children not to annoy dogs when they eat and not to pull a dog’s ear, hair or tail.
  • Dogs get annoyed too – supervise dogs around children and provide a safe space for your dog to retreat to when it has had enough.

“Just because someone tells you their dog is friendly or just because they are holding the dog or have it secured on their property, doesn’t always mean it is safe. Be careful, respectful of a dog’s space and stay vigilant,” says Elly.

Remember that dogs can be territorial

Dogs can be naturally territorial, keeping watch on their home turf or being possessive of their property. If you’re visiting a home or property with a dog:

  • Make your presence known by rattling your keys or calling out
  • Look out for signs of a dog, like toys, bowls or bones
  • Approach with caution and don’t assume there’s only one dog

And if a dog runs at you:

  • Remain calm and do not panic
  • Stand sideways to the dog and back away slowly towards your escape
  • Keep an object between you and the dog, like a bag, book or umbrella
  • Try stern commands, like “SIT!”, or “GO HOME!”
  • Call out calmly to the owner to call back their dog.

If you’re a dog owner welcoming friends or whānau onto your property, remember that you’re bringing people into your dog’s territory and your dog may feel protective. Keep an eye on your dog during the visit, especially around tamariki. Make sure your dog is comfortable and relaxed, and should they seem nervous or agitated, secure them somewhere safe on your property until your guests have left.

Elly says issues can also arise when dog owners allow their dog to roam beyond their property. The dog’s sense of its territory can expand to the surrounding area, increasing the likelihood of aggressive behaviour and attacks.

“We urge people to be responsible dog owners by keeping their dogs contained on their property and not allowing them to roam. This will go a long way towards keeping our communities safe.”

The council’s Animal Management team respond to many incidents where people, owners and non-owners alike, have been attacked by a dog, with the majority of these occurring either within the dog’s own property or just outside it.

“Unfortunately, the consequences for a dog that has attacked a person, or another animal aren’t very good – we have to enforce rules like uplifting an animal to ensure the safety of the public.

“If you’re under threat, remember, don’t turn your back on a dog; don’t run; don’t make direct eye contact and don’t scream or yell. This can excite the dog even more.

“If you’re attacked or bitten, don’t struggle or pull away. Curl into a ball if you’re knocked over and protect your face, chest, and throat. Get somewhere safe as calmly as you can and seek medical attention.

“And of course, call our Animal Management team on 09 301 0101,” she says.

A dog is furever

If you’re adding a pup to the whānau, make sure you’ve thought it through carefully says Elly.

“Dogs need a lot of attention so make sure you’ve thought about how long you can spend with your dog, how often it might be left alone, what training you’ll need to do and its grooming schedule.

“You’ll also need to factor in the size of your property and daily exercise, and make sure you’re aware of any potential health problems that particular breeds experience – often as they get older.

“Adding a dog to the family can also impact on your lifestyle – can you take your pet with you on holiday? And any young or older people that live with you or visit often who might not cope well with dogs.

“Lastly, and none of us like talking about money, but can you afford a new pet? Vet bills, annual registration and the right food can be costly. While you don’t have to have all the fancy accessories, it’s important that your dog is well looked after at all times,” says Elly.

Be a responsible dog owner

Being a responsible dog owner means:

  • Registering your dog
  • Caring for your dog
  • Controlling your dog
  • Preventing nuisance and harm.

“There are more than 125,000 dogs in Tāmaki Makaurau and ensuring control of your dog is the best tool for keeping our beloved pets & communities safe.

“Responsible dog ownership is paramount!

“Lastly, and by no means least, please please please pick up after your pup. No one likes dealing with or stepping in what your dog has left behind. Never forget to take a poo bag with you and pick up after your pup every single time,” says Elly.

Guidance information for dog owners can be found on the Auckland Council website here, and information about our Responsible Dog Owner Licence programme enabling cheaper registration can be found here.

To find out more about what we do, you can read our latest Animal Management Annual Report here.


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