PD and Department of Conservation Are Leading the Way


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As the climate crisis escalates, now is an important time to take proactive steps in safeguarding the environment and wildlife we share it with. To this end, the Department of Conservation and PD Insurance are taking the lead in an initiative to protect our coastal creatures and our dogs, with a program that guides us toward a better co-existence.

They say one should lead by example, and this is precisely what the Lead the Way Auckland program advocates. It highlights how dog behaviours, if unchecked, can have a harmful effect on coastal wildlife.

It also highlights how the coastline poses several dangerous and even life-threatening risks to dogs. Through a range of educational activities and events Lead the Way teaches people how to safeguard each.

Dogs on Auckland beach wear Department of Conservation leashes for the Lead the Way program

PD and Department of Conservation launch Lead the Way, Auckland

PD Insurance and the Department of Conservation launched Lead the Way Auckland with an inaugural event on 25 August 2022. Several key guests and speakers joined in person, including Healthy Pets New Zealand Chair Dr Cath Watson. They shared invaluable information and methodology for coastal conservation and best practice dog training.

“With Lead the Way Auckland, PD Insurance NZ and the Department of Conservation are urging dog owners to practice proactive management when outdoors, in protecting both native coastal species and each other.

Michelle Le Long, Chief Operating Officer – PD Insurance NZ

Importantly, dog owners’ participation will be necessary for the program to succeed. Participation can be achieved in several ways, including taking the Department of Conservation’s ‘Become Wildlife Wise’ quiz and getting a colour coded dog lead. We’ve listed them below, but first we’d like to thank everyone who attended the launch.

Thank you to Lead the Way guests and speakers

A big round of paws to the Department of Conservation for envisaging this concept and spearheading a safer coast for dogs and wildlife. The government entity is an earnest and collaborative partner we’re very much enjoying working with. We’d also like to thank all the key stakeholders for joining hands in this special program and to the media that attended the launch, the first of our Lead the Way Auckland events.

A special thanks goes to these experts for sharing their knowledge and expertise on the day:

  • Dr Laura Boren. Department of Conservation Science Advisor, Mountains to Sea Team
  • Michelle Le Long. PD Insurance NZ Chief Operating Officer
  • Tim Lovegrove. Auckland Council Senior Regional Fauna Advisor (aka the bird whisperer)
  • Dr Cath Watson. Healthy Pets New Zealand Chairperson and Veterinarian
  • Dr Sarah Alexander. Auckland Zoo Vet
  • Dr Lynn Miller. BirdCare Aotearoa General Manager
  • Maria Alomajan. Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant and Author

Following presentations and a panel session, Maria Alomajan – the only practicing Canine Emotional Detox trainer in New Zealand and one of the country’s few certified Fear Free Trainers – gave the guests a live demonstration of dog behaviour training with some four-legged friends who kindly volunteered to help.

The event was live-streamed and is now available to watch here:

Read about the latest PD and Department of Conservation event at Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE aquarium.

How can dog owners join hands with PD and Department of Conservation?

New Zealand is home to some of the most rare and unique animal species on the planet. Many only exist here and are on the verge of extinction. As members of the pet care industry, we can all help improve pet owners’ understanding of how dogs’ natural behaviours can be dangerous for these birds and marine mammals.

From vets, breeders, trainers and behaviourists to pet health insurance providers and beyond, we can help spread awareness among the pet owning public.

As Dr Cath Watson said during the Lead the Way panel discussion, it’s important to remember that Aotearoa was wildlife’s  home well before people arrived. Native animals in New Zealand evolved without dogs and therefore they have no defences or protective measures in place.

The prerogative to take safety measures and be mindful rests with people. And it’s up to us to moderate our dogs’ behaviours, keeping them on leads in sensitive coastal stretches and keeping up their training so we can quickly call them back or ask them to ‘leave it’ when needed.

Next up are five safeguards that everyone in the pet care industry can share with dog owners. Let’s help them join hands with PD and the Department of Conservation to protect our pups and our coastal habitat:

Department of Conservation protects animals like this New Zealand Yellow-eyed penguin or Hoiho

Five ways we can all Lead the Way together

(1)Take the 5-minute Lead the Way quiz (and share it with others)
(2)Get an exclusive Lead the Way dog lead
(3)Read the Department of Conservation guide to dog safety on beaches
(4)Read your local council’s dog rules
(5)Protect your pet with award winning pet insurance

Let’s all lead the way by the good example we set and by sharing these five simple steps with pet parents so they can safeguard dogs and the Kiwi coastline together.

Read more information on each step below.

#1. Take the Lead the Way quiz

The Department of Conservation has structured this quiz to test pet owners’ knowledge with 13 essential questions relating to being wildlife wise. It also shares the correct answers with participants after they’ve answered each question.

As a result, people find out if there are any gaps in their knowledge and are delivered information to fill these in. Each question tests the basic knowledge of how dogs and their owners can safely visit beaches and beyond. Some answers could save a dog’s life while others help dog owners keep within the law. All will help respondents keep coastal animals safer.

In addition to taking the quiz we’re hoping pet owners will share the quiz on social media with friends and family so they can lead the way too.

#2. Lead the Way traffic light dog leads

Not every dog wants the attention of other dogs when out walking. Some have a tendency to feel fear and be overwhelmed and others may have a tendency for aggression.

Usually we would need to approach the dog and its owner if we want to find out a dog’s temperament. To circumvent this, PD and the Department of Conservation are helping dog owners use a visual system. The concept uses colourful dog leads to share safety cues that are similar to a traffic light system, whereby their four colours represent four social moods.

Here’s how to interpret what the dog wearing the lead requires in terms of social interaction:

GreenI’m happy to be around other dogs and people – feel free to say “Hi!”.
OrangeI’m not always comfortable around other dogs and people so please be cautious.
RedI don’t feel comfortable socialising with unfamiliar dogs or people. Please give me my space.
YellowI am disabled and/or vulnerable in some way to interactions. Please give me space.

This incredible visual system helps reduce dangers that dogs and members of the public face, through limiting fearful and/or aggressive dog behaviour. Of course, it also has the potential to simply make dog walks that much more of a breeze. Help spread the word with your clients, customers and colleagues. Together we can Lead the Way via these doggy walking ‘traffic light’ cues.

Regardless whether a dog wears a green lead it's always good practice to ask the owner before approaching to pet or let your dog greet them. 
Get a Department of Conservation Lead the Way lead

#3. Department of Conservation guidelines for dogs on beaches

Another useful resource for the general public is dog beach safety guides. As a pet loving, nature loving nation, Kiwis can get involved and up their knowledge by reading these Deprtment of Conservation guides:

Another great shareable resource is the Lead the Way program’s seven steps to make our sensitive coastlines safer for wildlife, people and dogs.

As you would be aware, several common beach dangers can be fatal to dogs even on dog friendly beaches (e.g., swallowing a sea slug or sand impaction). Keeping a dog safe on the shoreline is a must. But what about the dangers our dogs may pose to other animals (or people)? Not every animal lover is aware of these. How often do you hear owners saying, “don’t worry he/she is friendly and won’t bite…”

However, as Dr Boren says:

“Even a playful and rambunctious dog simply getting his exercise may disturb sunbathing seals, scare penguins, or destroy the beach nests of birds such as dotterel, fairy terns, godwits, and oyster catchers.”

Far too many dog owners don’t realise this. In the case of wildlife, a dog attacking and biting is of course a hazard. But even inquisitive encounters like a dog sniffing around can scare a nesting parent away from hatched/unhatched chicks or disrupt a coastal creature’s habitat, forcing them to flee.

A playful nudge can damage a kiwi’s chest, which is structurally weak due to a lack of flight muscles. The mere presence of a dog can be enough to stress shorebirds, and they need to conserve their energy for survival tasks such as feeding chicks, recovering from migration and more.

Share this valuable info with dog owners to arm them with knowledge.

DOC shares how to protect fur seals like this pup from a Wellington colony

#4. Local council dog rules

In addition to the Department of Conservation guidelines for pet and wildlife safety, before heading out dog owners should read their local council’s dog rules (here are Auckland Council’s, for example). This should be done on a regular basis to keep up with any developments on where to go or not go and why, as well as changes to local regulations.

That way they and their dog can Lead the Way thanks to a mix of safety tips and legal requirements.

#5. A soft landing for pets and people

As pet care professionals we all bring our unique perspective, knowledge and service commitment to animal health and safety. Have you considered joining other industry members in becoming part of our pet care partner program?

It’s a great way to receive rewards that assist your business and the pet owners it supports. You’ll receive a range of benefits and your pet parent clients and customers receive pet insurance benefits too.  

PD Insurance is voted New Zealand’s best pet insurance provider by pet owners. Let’s work together to keep their pets healthy and happy. Find out more about joining the PD partner pet care program today.

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