Northland has a higher-than-average dog population compared to the rest of the country. Reporter Jenny Ling finds out what's on offer for our four-legged friends.
Northland is home to a high proportion of dog owners who cherish their relationships with man's best friend.
Many of our fur-kids are domestic pooches, while others are an array of hunting, farm and therapy dogs.
The Northern Advocate sought out the region's top spots to take your canine friend, including dog friendly cafes, parks, reserves and beaches, accommodation and events.
According to last year's Companion Animals New Zealand survey, nearly 40 per cent of Northland households have an average of 2.3 dogs per household.
That's compared to the national average of 33.5 per cent of New Zealand households that have an average of 1.4 dogs per household.
There are 8000 registered dogs in the Far North, 4500 in the Kaipara district, and 10,852 registered dogs in Whangārei.
Far North district councillor Kelly Stratford has owned dogs all her adult life, and her current canine companions are rottweilers Rosie and Rocky.
Stratford likes to take her pooches to Ti Bay and Te Haumi beach in Paihia, along with Roland's Wood in Kerikeri and reserves near Haruru.
Because Rocky can be reactive at times, it's "bombproof" Rosie who she prefers to take to the shops, markets and cafes.
Bay of Islands Farmers' Markets in Paihia and Kerikeri, and Bunnings in Kerikeri are particularly welcoming, she said.
"When we lived in Kawakawa I would take Rosie into town all the time and the cafes were really great.
"I just stick to the places that I can take her because it's good for our wellbeing to spend time with our dogs. It's relaxing.
"I engage with people that I otherwise wouldn't stop and talk to, and who wouldn't talk to me. It's like having a baby."
This is true.
When I meet Stratford and Rosie at Fishbone Cafe in Kerikeri recently, many customers and staff venture over to ask if they can pat the burly rottweiler.
One elderly woman tells us she used to own dogs and is thrilled when Rosie shows her affection by leaning into her legs.
However, there are some challenges when taking your dog out in public, Stratford said.
She believes more education is needed for adults and children to learn safety around dogs, including how to approach them the right way.
Another piece of advice for owners is respecting each other's space while out walking.
"If I'm walking my dog on a lead, you don't want dogs that are off-leash running up to you.
"All dog owners should understand when a dog is on-leash, it's on-leash for a reason, don't let your dog run up to it."
Shops and cafes
Dogs are welcome at Plant Zone Direct garden centre in Kerikeri, as long as owners keep them on a lead and pick up after them.
Manager Yuong Chaiyaklang said both customers and staff enjoy having four-legged friends around.
"It's easier for our customers to shop around, and it's better for the dogs if they're not left in cars," Chaiyaklang said.
"Other customers don't mind dogs on a leash, they all pat them."
Bunnings in Kerikeri is another place Stratford can be seen with Rosie in tow.
Fishbone Cafe is one of many dog-friendly cafes in Northland, which has water bowls at the outside seating area so they too can relax and have a drink.
Leonie Exel, from Bay of Islands Watchdogs group, said she finds some cafes in Northland to be dog friendly, though she would like to see more.
The Watchdogs would also like more areas for people to walk their dogs safely off-leash, particularly in towns that don't have close beach access.
"We'd love to see more dog-friendly cafes so that people get used to having well behaved dogs in and around town," Exel said.
"It's a pretty common sight across the ditch and also in Europe."
A feature event on the doggie calendar is Bark in the Park in the Far North.
Hundreds of dogs and their humans have turned up to previous events which raise funds for the Bay of Islands Animal Rescue group.
This year it's on February 14 at the United Kawakawa rugby club from 10am to 3pm.
The event features food and stalls and a range of entertainment such as dog competitions, police dog demonstrations and educational talks.
There are also numerous dog agility events and working dog shows around the region, including at Northland Field Days in Dargaville.
The Whangārei Dog Training Association is an active club offering training, from basic good manners, confidence building and care, through to competitive agility and obedience sports.
The Bay of Islands Canine Association hosts one champion dog showing event each year, most recently at the Kaikohe showgrounds.
Parks and reserves
Though there are many no-go areas for dogs to protect vulnerable wildlife such as flightless, ground-feeding and nesting birds, Northland still has many areas where dogs can run off-leash.
The Department of Conservation lists around 150 islands, forests, scenic and historic reserves, and coastal parks where residents can't take their dogs.
However, there are a few DoC tracks where dogs are welcome on a lead.
The Lake Ngatu track is a one-hour walk through a freshwater dune lake and recreation reserve in Kaitāia and there's the Tapeka Point track, a 1km jaunt near Russell.
Hongi Hika walk is a short, easy walk passing through regenerating native forest to Kororipo pā in Kerikeri.
Exel said the lack of access is a shame for responsible dog owners.
"It would be great to have access to some DoC lands, for responsible dog owners so that we can go for long walks on leads in the bush."
Exel said there are many other great spots to take dogs in the Far North, and she highly recommends the off-leash walk from Ōpua to Paihia.
Also in the Far North, there's Roland Wood, Waitotara Reserve, Sammaree Place Reserve, Kerikeri and Old Landfill at Lindvart Park in Kaikohe.
There are no less than 30 off-leash areas in Whangārei, including the well-frequented dog park at William Fraser Memorial Park on Pohe Island, where dogs can run free, play with other dogs and enjoy play equipment.
In Kaipara, dogs are banned from Kai Iwi lakes though they are allowed on-leash in many other parks and reserves.
They are allowed off-leash and under control at Mangawhai Community Park walking trails, Te Kopuru Domain and the Northern Wairoa Memorial Park, when the fields are not being used for sports or events.
Many Far North beaches allow dogs that are off-leash and under control, according to the district council's dog management policy.
Beaches that have outright bans include Waitangi beach, and parts of Taupo Bay and Te Haumi beach near Paihia.
But Cable Bay and Coopers Beach, and beaches in Paihia, Russell, Hihi and Mahinepua are all okay for off-leash dogs.
Though dogs are banned on some Whangārei beaches, including Ruakaka, One Tree Point, Waipū and Whananāki to protect wildlife, they are allowed on many others.
Bream Bay has two, year-round dog exercise beach areas, and there are year-round exercise areas at Ruakaka North and Uretiti beaches.
In Kaipara, dogs can be on-leash on parts of Bayleys beach, including Ripiro beach, and along the Dargaville waterfront.
Well-behaved pets are allowed at the Bay of Islands Holiday Apartments and Campervan Park in Paihia.
Owner Jan Gerritsenmolloy and her canine sidekick Oliver love having pets around.
They only ask owners to bring their own bedding, keep their pups off the furniture and never leave them alone on site or in vehicles.
"It's wonderful for New Zealanders to know they can bring a member of the family with them," Gerritsenmolloy said.
"I get a good amount of occupancy from being pet-friendly."
Gerritsenmolloy is also happy to recommend dog sitters in the area so if the owner wants to do a boat cruise for the day their pet is well looked after.
There are plenty of dog friendly restaurants in Paihia too, including Alfrescos, Tipsy Oyster and Bad Habits.
Some other campsites are pooch-friendly, such as Whangārei, Russell and Whatuwhiwhi Top 10 holiday parks, where they're allow all year round apart from December 20 to January 31.
Pets are welcome by prior negotiation with owners staying at Whananāki Holiday Park, though not from December 20 to February 10.
A pet-friendly area - nicknamed Baskerville - is set aside for campers and their four-legged friends at Houhora Heads holiday park 40km north of Kaitāia.
As long as dogs are up-to-date with their vaccinations, are kept on a leash and doggie-doo is cleaned up and disposed of, there should be happy campers all round.