We love our dogs in Whanganui.

We have almost 8000 of them, most of which are registered, and lately they've been behaving themselves.

Latest stats from council's animal control team show that council responded to 159 dog attacks last year, 27 per cent fewer than the previous year.

That's certainly welcome news. But 159 attacks is still an issue.

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Most attacks are from roaming, often unregistered dogs. Others are with their owners, but off-leash, and not properly under control.

If I were a dog I'd want to be off-leash too while out walking with my master. Freedom to sniff, cock legs and roll in something smelly makes a walk so much more fun. On leash, adventure is somewhat restricted.

So it is understandable people like to give their dogs a little freedom. But the rules say an owner needs to maintain control over their dog and this is where we are falling down.

Most mornings, along the Kowhai Park riverbank, dogs of all sizes stroll happily besides their masters, exploring the world and getting much needed exercise.

But too often, mostly due to the excitement, those off-leash will rush up to other dogs.

Mostly they will sniff each other's tails and bid each other good morning and move on.

Sometimes though it turns nasty.

Dogs are usually friendly happy-go-lucky types. That's why we enjoy their company. But they are also territorial and protective of both their patch and their people.

We need to remember this when deciding to let Rover off leash. Most rushing dog offenders seem to be the small yappy types whose owners appear to have little or no control.

Bigger dogs tend to be better controlled. But then their bite is far worse when things do go wrong.

Since stories about possible poisoning at Otamatea Reserve have come to light owners are looking for new, safer places to walk Rover.

With all of the above in mind it might be prudent to stay on leash in that case, at least initially. A new area will excite Rover while other dogs whose home patch it is, may not welcome new faces.

Let's have another good dog year.