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There are numerous causes for behavioural problems, but simply providing more stimulation and unpredictability in the dog's routine can help to reduce some unwanted behaviours. Confining the dog or tying it to restrict its annoying habits will tend to add to the stress and/or boredom the dog feels and will make matters worse in the long run.

There are marked individual differences in the stimulation and activity that a dog requires - some are happy to be lounge (or lap) lizards while others like to be on the go all day. Try as many of the following recommendations as possible and then select those activities that benefit your dog (and you) the most.

Ideas for owners short on time

Most dogs enjoy eating but will eat their meal very quickly.
Make eating more interesting and time consuming, e.g.:

  • Provide some of the meal ration stuffed inside a "Kong" (a sturdy, hollow rubber toy) or within a training treat ball (which the dog must roll around to allow pieces of food to drop out). Remember to put the Kong away when the dog has finished with it.

  • Provide raw bones to chew, e.g. shin, brisket. Small dogs may find ribflaps more manageable.

  • For very active dogs, partly split a tennis ball, place a dessertspoon of peanut butter or Vegemite inside, then put the tennis ball inside a rubber tyre swing. This is a real challenge!

  • Give several bones at a time to reduce the chance of the dog burying them (unless he has a digging pit - see below).

Many dogs can learn to entertain themselves with toys or acceptable activities:

  • Offer a different toy every day and rotate the toys over the period of a week or so.

  • Don't leave all the toys out all the time or they will become 'humdrum'.

  • Provide a couple of escape proof 'windows' at ground level in solid fences (forcing the dog to get down to ground level discourages barking at passers-by).

  • Put a flat roof on the dog kennel so the dog can see over the fence (but not jump it).

  • A birdbath, a secure aviary or caged bird, if you enjoy these, can provide added entertainment for the dog.

  • Provide a sand or dirt pit for dogs that like to dig. Let your dog see you bury favourite toys or bones (in loose soil and not too deeply to start with). Reward the dog when he digs in his pit. Most dogs soon work out that it is more fun to dig in this area than disturb the rest of the garden, which is much less interesting. Initially you will need to bury quite a few items but the need for this will diminish over time.

  • Monitor your pets if you have more than one to ensure bones and toys don't trigger aggression!

Activities to share with your dog


Even a short game of throw and retrieve can allow a substantial amount of aerobic activity in a small area. Ensure you control when the game starts by having your dog sit quietly first and control when the game ends by putting the toy away while your dog is still interested in playing. Different items can be chased:

  • Balls - hit with a tennis racket if you have a large area and athletic dog

  • Squeaky toys

  • Kongs

  • Frisbees which are specifically designed to be long lasting and easy for dogs to pick up (don't use normal frisbees as they may injure your dog's teeth).

  • Some dogs prefer to play soccer with a basketball and a little encouragement from you.


Making time to ensure your dog has regular walks can be difficult - but even 20 minutes a day can make a difference. Obviously, longer or more frequent sessions are even better. Your local council can advise you about where your dog is permitted to run off lead (see below). Consider the use of a head halter such as a 'gentle leader' or 'halti' if you have problems with your dog pulling or being unruly on a lead.


Many dogs enjoy swimming, and it is a particularly good for any individuals with joint disease such as arthritis. There are canine swimming pools in some areas or you may have access to a beach or lake where dogs are permitted.


Some owners consider getting another dog as a source of activity for their current dog. Unfortunately, there is a risk that your problems may be doubled by this approach. A better solution, if possible, is to have another dog visit or arrange to meet it on your outings together. Not all dogs will welcome the company of others but if they can be monitored closely during the initial stages they many well go on to become a great source of entertainment for one another.

Quality time with your dog

Stimulating your dog's mind is just as important as physical activity. Some basic obedience work, either at home or in a class situation, can assist you in having better control of your dog as well as giving him a mental workout. Always use positive reinforcement techniques and don't give attention to unwanted behaviours by punishing. Dog trainers use different methods so be sure to find one that uses a gentle positive reinforcement and reward approach. You may need to shop around for the trainer you like. Before selecting a training group, go to a class without your dog to see if you feel comfortable with the instructor and their methods. Dogs who love to run and play will often benefit from agility work. Some juvenile and adult dogs may find it difficult to learn obedience among the distractions of a group situation - these dogs need to be taught on their own.

Even after your dog has learnt some simple commands, it is useful to 'put him through his paces' every now and again to reinforce his learning and your authority.

The benefits

It takes considerable effort to put the above suggestions into practice. Some dogs' behaviour will deteriorate for the first few days then settle down to a much more acceptable level. Enriching your dog's environment will help to keep him contented by giving him the opportunity to direct his energies in a positive manner. This allows you to enjoy a much happier relationship with your pet and makes the time and effort all worthwhile.

Newcastle Off Leash Areas

Newcastle off leash areas allow your dog to be exercised off leash.

The following conditions apply when bringing our furry friends to the park:

  • Dogs are permitted off leash between sunrise and sunset only

  • Off leash activities will be permitted only on designated areas approved by Council.

  • All dogs using the areas are to be accompanied and supervised by a competent person.  

  • All dogs using the area must be able to be controlled without a leash, eg. return to handler on command.

  • Dogs declared dangerous dogs by Council, menacing and restricted breeds eg. Pitbull Terriers as indicated under the Companion Animals Act 1998 are not permitted to use any designated off leash areas.

  • It is the responsibility of the dog owner in each instance to remove all dog faeces.

  • The owner is liable if the dog attacks a person or animal.

  • Dogs must not be encouraged to attack.

NB: Dog owners are responsible for picking up after their dog.

Off Leash Locations

  • Acacia Avenue, New Lambton- Acacia St is the city's first fenced dog park where owners can legally let their dogs roam free inside their very own playground 

  • Ballast Ground, Stockton

  • Carrington Foreshore

  • Horseshoe Beach, Newcastle

  • King Edward Park, Newcastle  

  • Islington Park, Islington

  • Maryland Dr Reserve, Maryland

  • Michael St Reserve, Lambton

  • Pitt St Reserve (off King St), Stockton

  • Purdue Park (off Scholey St), Mayfield

  • Nesca Park, Newcastle

  • Tarro Recreation Area, Tarro

  • Upper Reserve, Wallsend

Time Restricted Off Leash Areas

  • Braye Park, Waratah: Sunrise to 9am, 5pm to sunset.

  • West End Park, Adamstown: Sunrise to 9am, 5pm to sunset.

  • Elermore Vale Park, Elermore Vale: Sunrise to 9am, 5pm to sunset.

  • Dixon Park Reserve, Merewether: Sunrise to 9am, 5pm to sunset.

Dogs are only allowed to be off-leash in leash free designated areas approved by Council.

 The following rules apply:

  • All dogs are to be accompanied and supervised

  • All dogs area must be able to be controlled without a leash

  • Dogs that are declared dangerous dogs by Council (such as aggressive and restricted breeds identified by the Companion animals Act 1998) are not allowed to use any designated off leash areas

  • Dog owners / controllers MUST remove all dog faeces that may be deposited by the dog under their control

  • Dogs MUST NOT be encouraged to attack. The dog owner is liable under legislation if the dog attacks a person or animal

  • Dogs are permitted off leash between sunrise and sunset only except in time restricted areas

  • Dogs are not permitted on the Memorial Walk

  • Within time restricted off leash areas, dogs are allowed off leash between sunrise and 9am and between 5pm and sunset.

These areas are patrolled. There are penalties for non compliance.

For Newcastle City Council pet enquiries, please call 4974 1300

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