Both this man and woman walking a dog on a beach can say they are a responsible pet parent

How to be a Responsible Dog Parent this December


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Summer is on our doorstep and if you’re anything like us you’re just jumping for joy at the idea of taking your dog on holiday with you. Outdoors and pups go together like peanut butter and jelly, and travelling with pets has become more popular than ever before. But do you know what responsible dog ownership on holiday entails?

From taking part in responsible pet activities to choosing walking tracks, visiting national parks, and need-to-knows about boating, toileting and lead etiquette, we look at being the best parent you can be this summer!

Speaking of holiday season, have you checked out these 5 pet friendly NZ Airbnbs and these luxury pet vacation spots? Perhaps you want to swing by during your travels.

P.s. Would you really like to get on your pet’s good side? Here’s your chance to win the favorite pet parent of the year award by reading this ‘17 Ways To Be A Rocking Pet Parent‘ article.

Responsible dog ownership with summer activities

Much as you may want to take your pup to your favourite lake or beach – not all outdoor activities are pet-friendly. There are two reasons for this.

a dog chasing birds on the beach, this isn't responsible dog ownership when taking dog on holiday

Consider where pets really belong

New Zealand has some of the rarest animals and most delicate ecosystems in the word. NZ dotterel/tūturiwhatu, little penguins/kororā, red-billed gulls/tarāpunga, and many others are declining in number. Unfortunately, these are put at risk by pet owners who let their dogs run free in places where there’s wildlife.

Others such as fur seals/kekeno are increasing in number and moving into urban areas, meaning you may spot them in areas where they weren’t before.

Though a dog chasing a flock of birds may appear harmless at first, it actually isn’t! During the summer, many birds are busy foraging or nesting – and they need every bit of energy they have. Off-leash pups can chase birds and disrupt them during these crucial periods.

Dogs, with their innate drive to stalk, chase, and pounce, can scare off seals, penguins and other animals. They can even maim or kill them. It’s not a pup’s fault for doing what their instinct tells them – it’s YOUR responsibility not to let them!

Consider the risks they face

Another reason not to let pets engage in all outdoors activities is that it puts THEM in danger, too. Beaches, lakes and the wilderness are filled with poisonous plants, creatures and hazards that can harm your pet if they’re left to their own devices.

Check out our guide on keeping your pet safe at the beach or lake, as well as our roundup of toxic things that can poison your pet.

Choosing a walking track

Another responsible dog ownership rule is to ensure you’re walking Fido where they’re allowed to be walked.

New Zealand has strict rules around using dog leads and where you can or can’t take your pup. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has a mandate to protect the whenua (land) and the taonga (treasured species) through legislation such as the Conservation Act, Wildlife Act and Marine Mammals Protection Act.

With that said, there are plenty of walking tracks that you can take your dog on this summer! Use the Department of Conservation’s handy ‘dogs allowed’ tick box function when searching your walking track to see if dogs are allowed.

Other areas are managed by councils or private landowners. The AllTrails website and app lets you filter for dog-friendly walks, or check the local council website.

No-go areas when taking your dog on holiday

There are plenty of areas that prohibit dogs, but two of the most prominent are our National Parks (all) and offshore islands (many).

DOC stipulates that you can’t take your dog to a controlled dog area, national park, or nature reserve. This includes when you’re boating. Keep a close eye out for signposts that will notify you you’ve arrived in a restricted location. You may not stop on the foreshore of any such island or piece of land – meaning the entire beach area down to the low tide level.

And no dogs in national parks means no dogs at all – not even in the car. So please don’t believe you can leave them waiting in the carpark while you go for an adventure. Plus, leaving dogs in hot cars can make them very ill or worse.

New Zealand has more than 100 pest-free islands, including many in the delicate and beautiful Hauraki Gulf. These are home to threatened native species including takahē, Coromandel brown kiwi, tīeke/saddleback, pōpokotea/whitehead, tūturuata/shore plover and pāteke/brown teal.

Predator free islands are vital translocation sites for some of these vulnerable species and require our help to ensure they are safe homes for these manu/birds.

For tūturuatu, any predator larger than a mouse is lethal! A single rat has decimated populations. In the Hauraki Gulf, DOC is currently trying to establish a population on one of the offshore islands. The population there is incredibly small, so losing even one to a dog that’s not under control would be devastating.

Get a Department of Conservation Lead the Way lead. It's part of responsible dog ownership when taking dog on holiday

Responsible dog ownership = responsible toileting

DOC is specific in its rules that dogs aren’t permitted on offshore islands or national parks, even just to use the toilet. This helps dog owners resist thinking “but Fido really needs to wee; he’ll only be a minute!”, but most importantly it’s because dog poop takes a while to break down and carries lots of nasties.

Under the Dog Control Act, dog owners are meant to pick up after their dogs. Also remember, only stopping to toilet your dog still doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be under control. For example, a dog sniffing around can easily break the eggs in a NZ dotterel nest — which are incredibly camouflaged!

Check out this photo below, supplied by DOC’s Aparima River Restoration Project. There are three banded dotterel chicks hidden in the image below. Can you spot them? We’ll post the answer at the end of this article.

A group of rocks and plants with arrows pointing to them, perfect for responsible dog owners.

Lead etiquette

Practicing proper lead etiquette is part and parcel of responsible dog ownership when taking your dog on holiday. When enjoying the outdoors, you should do your best to keep your dog on a lead unless the area is clearly stipulated as an off-leash park. Even better is to use a colour-coded lead.

PD recently partnered with DOC on the Auckland Lead the Way project.

Part of the project is studying up on wildlife conservation rules and then taking our Wildlife Wise Quiz. Once completed, the quiz unlocks the option to purchase a high-quality, colour-coded dog lead. The lead acts as a traffic light to tell other dog parents what your pup’s temperament is like:

  • Green – means your dog is happy to be around other dogs and people.
  • Orange – means your dog isn’t always comfortable around other dogs and people.
  • Red – means your dog doesn’t like socialising with unfamiliar dogs or people.
  • Yellow – means your dog is disabled or vulnerable to interactions in some way.
a dog on a leash at the beach, this is responsible dog ownership when taking dog on holiday

Responsible dog ownership = avoid fines and worse

Part of responsible dog ownership is knowing that breaking the rules could lead to fines.

Dogs can cause a considerable amount of damage in a short period of time if given access to an offshore island like those mentioned above. This is a serious offence; they’re prohibited from island reserves under the Reserves Act. Anyone caught could face an infringement fine from $200 to $800, or a court prosecution, depending on the nature of the offence.

In one of the worst cases documented by DOC, three dogs were put down and two owners fined after the worst spate of kiwi killings in the Bay of Islands in almost 30 years. The deaths sparked an extensive investigation by DOC and Far North District Council animal control officers. This included matching dog saliva found on dead kiwi with DNA samples taken from dogs in the area.

Read more about the DOC’s enforcement tools here.

Ensure you have insurance

Taking your dog on holiday? One of the most responsible dog ownership acts is to cover them with pet insurance so you can afford help quickly wherever you are. You never know when your pup can get into an accident or come down with an illness. Having to choose between your pocket and your dog’s medical care is something no pet parent wants to do.

PD Insurance is an award-winning brand that offers value rich, month to month dog insurance for your pup. Why not get a quote now?

Dotterel chick answer: There were three! How many did you find?

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