A dog staring down a soft toy penguin. Text reads: "My dog wouldn't hurt a penguin"
Image: Crystal Brindle | DOC


Lead the Way encourages Dunedin and Canterbury dog owners to become wildlife certified so they can be better prepared when interacting with coastal wildlife.


Our beaches are home to some special species, including endangered New Zealand sea lions/rāpoka and yellow-eyed penguins/hoiho. They're also a great place for humans and dogs alike to get out and enjoy nature.

However, our pups can in fact pose a risk to native wildlife, as they have been known to disturb sunbathing sea lions or sniff out vulnerable penguins. These interactions can be harmful to not only coastal wildlife, but our dogs as well.

Pete the soft toy penguin was not harmed in this photoshoot.


Be better prepared for our beaches


We are renowned for our scenic coastlines and protected wildlife, but species such as the yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho have been recorded with lower numbers than ever before.

Dogs are a primary threat for sea lion pups. Becoming a wildlife certified dog owner helps to keep our wildlife, and your furry friends, safe on the beach. This programme empowers dog owners to be better prepared for interacting with our spectacular coastal wildlife.

How you can get involved

Take a quiz to become wildlife certified and you’ll gain access to the exclusive “traffic light” Lead the Way dog leads.

Using this lead lets your fellow dog walkers know whether your pup is:

  • friendly (green)
  • cautious with interaction (orange)
  • would prefer to keep to themselves (red)
  • blind or deaf (yellow).

With each lead purchased you'll also be donating to Dunedin’s Wildlife Hospital to help wildlife that is injured or distressed.



What to do:

Step 1: Complete the quiz to become a wildlife certified dog owner.

Step 2: You will then receive an email allowing you to purchase the exclusive Lead the Way dog lead. This will let beach users know you are wildlife certified.

Step 3: Use your lead when out and about to help promote responsible dog ownership on our beaches.

About Lead the Way

Lead the Way is a DOC-led initiative that focuses on public engagement to minimise the impact of dogs on coastal wildlife.

The initiative aims to encourage behaviour change so that dog owners feel empowered and act responsibly, reducing pressure on already vulnerable coastal species. This is important, as limiting dog interactions with wildlife means we are reducing a threat that is within our control.

Project partners are the Wildlife Hospital and Traffic Light Bandana. The initiative is also supported by the Dunedin City Council.

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