How to Lead the Way on International Dog Day and Beyond


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The beach and surrounding areas are wonderful spots for dogs and their humans to get some fresh air-fuelled exercise. But did you know dogs can endanger Auckland’s sensitive coastal wildlife while doing so? That’s why we’ve partnered with the Department of Conservation (DOC) to launch the Lead the Way Auckland programme for International Dog Day.

As a vocal advocate for animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, PD Insurance NZ knows it’s important to educate pet parents about being wildlife wise. Lead the Way Auckland’s primary goal is to do this over an extended period of time, so we all work together to protect our precious local native fauna, as well as our dogs and other people who enjoy the coastline.

Held on 25 August 2022, the programme’s launch event (see video here) took media and other key stakeholders through just how we intend to do that.

Our COO Michelle Le Long says, “As a pet insurance provider, we know almost all dog owners are respectful, responsible and have positive intentions when heading out. Lead the Way Auckland aims to build their understanding of how dogs and wildlife can happily experience the coast in an even safer way for all involved.”

DOC Science Advisor Mountains to Sea Team, Laura Boren, say, “Lead the Way Auckland focuses on reducing the impact of dogs on our wildlife through effective public engagement and education. We’re lucky enough to share our shoreline with a host of diverse wildlife, but unfortunately they’re also under threat.

“It’s possible for dogs and wildlife to happily co-exist, and it’s all about pet owners doing their part.”

Two fur seals on the beach. Lead The Way Auckland focuses on reducing the impact of dogs on animals like these. he programme launched ahead of international Dog Day
Two fur seals/kekeno

At the event Boren explained how many pet parents are unaware of the effect their pup’s enthusiasm can have on natural wildlife. Their natural tendency to be curious about and run after wildlife – even if they’re just playing – can adversely impact species in a myriad of ways.

“A happy pup simply enjoying the beach and getting some exercise can unwittingly disturb sunbathing seals, scare penguins, or destroy the beach nests of birds such as dotterel, fairy terns, godwits, and oyster catchers.” she says.

Watch and share this video with Dr Cath Watson on the benefits of the Lead the Way Auckland programme:

The ‘lead’ in Lead the Way Auckland

Le Long spoke about how off-lead dogs can sometimes pose a threat to other dogs too. Pet parents will know the emotional and physical issues that can result from their dog either being charged down or charging down someone else’s dog. Some dogs are even bothered by calm, happy dogs approaching them.

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

Tips include scanning for wildlife, bringing a toy for distracting your pup, advising others if you spot wildlife, and gaining a good understanding of where on the beach is the best place for human and canine activity.

Always having a lead on you is crucial too, so you can bring your dog under absolute control when it’s needed. You never know when it might keep your dog safe from harm or keep it from accidentally causing damage. Plus, it’s a legal requirement to have a lead on your person when out with your dog.

This is why a key aspect to this awareness-raising effort is a quiz that educates and then tests people on their knowledge of our coastline animals, the risks that face them and the risks that also face dogs along the coast. The Lead the Way Quiz takes three minutes to complete and, once finished, unlocks the ability to purchase a Lead the Way leash for your dog.

These high-quality, locally-made leashes are either green, orange, yellow or red to indicate your dog’s temperament to other pet parents. You’ll also be very clearly demonstrating your support for the protection of our precious wildlife, which hopefully encourages others to do so too!

And for a cherry on top, a donation is given to BirdCare Aotearoa with every purchase.

A cocker spaniel on the beach wearing a Lead the Way Auckland leash. The programme launched ahead of international Dog Day

Dog management is key

After the launch event’s key addresses by Le Long and Boren, Auckland Council senior regional fauna advisor and bird whisperer Tim Lovegrove explained how wildlife can be just under your nose – even in the CBD.

He showed a video of a seriously threatened colony of red-billed gulls that have made a home mere minutes away from the Lead the Way Auckland launch venue in Wynyard Quarter.

This is a species we often encounter along the coast, but unfortunately their numbers are on the decline. Other animals under threat include seals/kekeno, little penguins/kororā, dotterels/tūturiwhatu and many more.

After Tim’s enlightening presentation, Le Long introduced a seated panel discussion to introduce key influencers relevant to the cause including Auckland Zoo Vet Dr Sarah Alexander, Healthy Pets New Zealand Chairperson and Veterinarian Dr Cath Watson, BirdCare Aotearoa General Manager Lynn Miller, and Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant and author Maria Alomajan.

After a post-panel question and answer session with media and other influencers, Alomajan took attendees through a dog behaviour training session. She reiterated why responsible pet ownership and management, with dog training at its core, holds the key to dogs and wildlife enjoying the coastline together in harmony.

A tūturiwhatu/NZ dotterel Picture credit: DOC

Find out more

Want to read more about the programme, the steps to being more wildife wise and how to buy a Lead the Way lead? Visit our Lead the Way Auckland resources webpage and DOC’s national programme page for further details. Or you can read our media release about it here.

Becoming a part of the collaboration is the perfect way to celebrate International Dog Day.

Just want to go straight to the quiz? Follow this link.

Taking your dog out and want to do it mindfully? Read the DOC guidelines here and Auckland Council’s dog rules here

Together, we can make the coast a safer place for all. We love dogs and want them to live long and happy lives; we want the same for our native wildlife. It takes a village to raise a family and we must be that village for all of New Zealand’s animals. Help us Lead the Way this International Dog Day and beyond!

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