In our ever-growing cities, competition for space and open parkland means overlapping uses and behaviours can cause conflict when it comes to dog walking.
The Darebin Parklands in Melbourne’s North East offers a beautiful designated off-lead area for dogs, but for others to enjoy the park, dog walkers need to keep their dogs on the leash.
While most dog walkers were helpful and genuinely keen to help, it was clear that tensions exist between perceived positive and negative outcomes of keeping ‘Fido’ on or off the lead.
Dog walkers recognise that keeping their dogs on the lead benefits other park users and wildlife, but they also want their dogs to exercise, play and explore.
To better understand why dog walkers do or don’t stick to the rules, the Darebin City Council engaged BehaviourWorks Australia to interview dog walkers in the on-lead area of the park at peak dog-walking times; weekdays in the evenings and weekends in the mornings.
Dog walkers who let their dogs off the lead in the on-lead area shared two common beliefs:
Lead researcher, Lena Jungbluth, also collected some formative insights about whether dog walkers who let their dogs off the lead in on-lead areas did so without thinking (like a habit).
This didn’t appear to be the case, as they typically “scoped the situation” before letting their dog off the lead, suggesting that there is an opportunity to intervene on-site to influence decision-making.
Possible interventions included:
With more people moving into the area, there is also an opportunity to provide new residents at this ‘teachable moment’ (i.e., moving house) with critical information about dog walking areas in the vicinity to encourage appropriate habits that reduce potential conflict among park users.
Lena also provided some formative insights (based on research carried out in other public spaces) on how changes to the physical environment (e.g., the use of different colour schemes) can provide important visual cues to tell park users what is appropriate in particular areas.
The data also gives interested parties a starting point to discuss which course of action to take.
As any dog walker will tell you, obedience training takes time and patience, especially when it comes to humans.
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