Top places for walking the dog

By Danielle Wright

As spring approaches and the great outdoors beckon, Danielle Wright finds plenty on offer around town for the family dog.

Blake Laanbroek with Buddy take a walk at a Waggin Waitakeres event.
Blake Laanbroek with Buddy take a walk at a Waggin Waitakeres event.

Marilyn Monroe famously said: "Dogs never bit me. Just humans." Reward your dog's loyalty with a new adventure around town, stay in style at a new breed of dog-friendly accommodation options, spoil them with pupcakes and mutt muffins, treat them to brunch at a dog-friendly cafe and entertain them at one of the dog events on in the city.

Here are our picks for doggie's day out:

Short walkies

Auckland dog owner Christina Wedgwood says when she took home her SPCA rescue dog Jazz, she had no idea it would open her world up to new people and places in a city she thought she knew well already.

"I found pockets of this city that I didn't know existed," says Christina, who likens having a dog to having a child.

"Having Jazz has meant we have to go out in any weather, we can't just sit on the window seat and look out on it all. I now have a pair of gumboots - something I haven't owned since I was about five years old."

One of her favourite places to walk her dog is Big King Reserve off Mount Eden Rd, which is a large off-leash park with a water tower. Arrive around 5.30pm for an unofficial kind of doggie coffee group.

"Dog parks are great, you stand around and talk to other 'dog parents' and get to know people by their dogs," says Christina, who admits to feeling a little bit looked down upon because her dog doesn't attend her local doggie daycare Barkley Manor, which even has its own set of doggie school photos and report cards.

"The other 'dog parents' don't see me doing a drop-off and pick-up so I do get a little looked down on when we're all at the dog park, but I'm not ready to commit to that just yet."

She says she has also become more aware of her personal safety and wishes there were more lights in the dog parks for people who want to walk their pets in the winter months before or after work.

While you may think your dog is cute running and jumping up on people, it can be terrifying for children and it's dangerous for old people, who might be knocked over.

The Auckland Botanic Gardens, where it's magnolia time right now, is popular in the south.

Staff member Mitch at the gardens tells me, "It's starting to smell beautiful."

Both off-leash and on-leash areas are available in the park, but dogs must be under control and be on leads within the visitor centre, library and Cafe Miko. The off-leash area is at the northern end of the gardens, near the Everglade Drive entrance.

If you're taking the kids, pick up an adventure trail activity guide booklet at the visitor centre - you can collect a free pack of seeds when you complete the Agent Ani trail booklet.

Other doggy favourites

On the North Shore, the beaches are the place to head with your four-legged friends.

The walk from Milford to Takapuna is always filled with people walking their dogs around the scoria rocks and throwing tennis balls to their pups over the sand.

There are some all-day off-leash beach: Churchill Reserve Beach (Rothesay Bay), St Leonards Beach (Takapuna) or J.F. Kennedy Park Beach (below the cliffs in Castor Bay -- entrance is behind the gun emplacements through the bush) .

Remember that dogs are prohibited on any playground at all times. During summer (Labour Day weekend until March 1) dogs are prohibited on beaches and all parts of a park within 20m of the beach between 10am - 6.30pm.

Also try Meola Reef Dog Park in Western Springs where you can let the dogs run around off-leash, Kakamatua Inlet for native bush and a sheltered bush walk, loop tracks in Ranui at Paremuka Lakeside Reserve or the large off-leash area near the main entrance at Sanders Reserve in Paremoremo.

Sites such as fetchmag.co.nz and dogwalks.co.nz have more ideas on places to walk the dog.

For more information on dog exercising areas in your region, check the Auckland Council website.

Long walkies

Dog owner and founder of Bark NZ, Heather Laarnbroek, has been hard at work visiting more than 80 tracks in the Waitakeres to find the best dog walks around a three or four-hour duration.

Her efforts are being put to use in the new Wagg in the Waitakeres group walks through the ranges.

"We've been looking for tracks that are suitable for dogs with wide enough paths yet still providing a Having Jazz has meant we have to go out in any weather, we can't just sit on the window seat and look out on it all. I now have a pair of gumboots - something I haven't owned since I was about 5 years old.Christina Wedgwood bit of a challenge for a good day out," says Heather.

"It's $10 for each dog and owners get to borrow a 3m-long lead, as well as hi-vis vests."

She says to take dogs to tracks where they can't walk over any kauri roots as you can't spray the kauri-dieback disinfectant onto your dog's feet (as you must do to human's footwear). If you're going out without the support of a group and a guide, Heather recommends visiting the Arataki Visitor Centre to check on the best tracks for dogs suited to the conditions on the day.

Find more on and off-leash dog parks at doogle.co.nz.

You can also find a "dog walking buddy" on the site, as well as view all lost and found dogs. And if you don't own a dog and can't commit to the costs or time involved, ask a friend if you can borrow theirs once in a while and take it on a walk with your family. They might like a day off once in a while and the kids will love having a family dog, even if it is just for an hour.

Dog-friendly cafes

After a walk along the 4km Hobsonville Point coastal walkway - full of historic sights - or a mid-morning weekend browse through the dog-friendly farmers market, stop in at Catalina Cafe (Buckley Ave). Staff will offer your furry friend a water container and you're welcome to sit with your dog in the courtyard. There's even a covered porch area, so this cafe is also suitable as an escape from the rain.

Near the off-leash park Big King Reserve is Mt Eden's Orvieto Cafe, which Christina Wedgwood says always has plenty of dogs on the pavement enjoying bowls of water as their owners have eggs benedict and sip lattes.

Recently upgraded Eden Garden Cafe (now managed by Eden Garden Society) is set in the dog-friendly (on-lead) Eden Garden, 2.2ha of award-winning gardens on the side of Mt Eden. Nibble high tea while your pampered pooch pants under the table in one of three function rooms or the covered area outside. The first weekend of September (6/7) is Eden Garden's Tulip Festival with 17,000 tulips.

In October, it's the Eden Garden's 50th birthday celebrations. Adults $8, seniors $6, children under 12 free.

For days when a bottle of craft beer or glass of chilled chardonnay sound better than coffee and a muffin, try the dog-friendly Hallertau Brewery in Riverhead. They're also very kid-friendly if you're thinking of taking the whole family with you. hallertau.co.nz

Dog outings

Bark NZ will be holding a walk from the Arataki Visitor's Centre to the Little Huia Beach on November 30. Heather Laarnbroek from Bark NZ says it's under five hours and there will be family fun day activities set up at the end.

Hobsonville Point, renowned as a dog-friendly neighbourhood, hosts a special Doggy Day Out on November 15-16, with exhibitors, demonstations and competitions. The Great Adoption Drive lets you meet rescue dogs who need new homes.

Pack a picnic for your pooch and buy some nutritious K9-Doggy-Deli goods from the farmer's market, such as superboost beef tripe or blueberry delight dog biscuits in bone shapes, a wheat-free pupcake (a cupcake for puppies) made with chicken & parsley and frosted with sweet potato and silverbeet juice or a pink and white muttmuffin made with free range eggs and organic honey..

The Auckland Council is putting on the Out and About - Doggy Days Out. Meet at either Rooseville Park, Pukekohe, Macleans Park in Howick, Totara Park in Manurewa or Kiwi Esplanade in Mangere Bridge. The fortnightly events have been running since May, with the next ones on August 25, September 8 and 22 at 5.15pm. Email chris.earl@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz for more information.

Other events include the Auckland Pet Expo at the Auckland Showgrounds (October 11-12) and the Eukanuba National Dog Show at Manukau's Vodafone Events Centre (October 3-5).

Dog-friendly digs

Air New Zealand flights allow pet dogs to travel as checked-in baggage on domestic services, but for international destinations you'll need to go through an approved pet transporter.

Dog-friendly is no longer cheap and cheerful. Across the ditch, the Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast has a "Palazzo Pooch Package" for the Very Important Pooch including Versace crystal food and water bowls and pet-friendly futon bedding, as well as room service and gift menu specifically designed for pups.

In Sydney, the Langham has long been a dog-friendly place to stay and has a special Pampered Pets Programme, with a special room service menu, Langham plush bed, custom Langham food and water bowls, as well as gourmet treats upon check-in.

Closer to home Vanessa Owen, owner of Kerikeri's Driftwood Central manages to keep an immaculate operation and welcome dogs.

"Pet owners are our biggest winter market," says Vanessa.

"Guests who look for pet-friendly accommodation now also want to stay somewhere lovely. We find the owners very respectful because they know it's a privilege to take their pets somewhere like Driftwood."

Driftwood Central also has a pet-walking service, homemade doggie treats in the pantry and great local information about the best dog walks in the area. They'll also point you towards a dog-friendly cafe.

If you want a night out on the town without your precious pet, keep them in mind by booking into Dog at The Basement Theatre, starring Shavaughn Ruakere, Mick Innes and Gareth Williams. On until August 30.

More dog-friendly accommodation can be found at the NZ Kennel Club website.

- Herald on Sunday

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