Pack walks to enhance your pup’s social skills

Happy Trails Pack Walks event co-organiser Darren Grimmett (left) with pet labrador Jacko, 3, ...
Happy Trails Pack Walks event co-organiser Darren Grimmett (left) with pet labrador Jacko, 3,  Floortje Grimmett and Dr Dog trainer Matt Gunn with avalanche dog Wizzid, 7. PHOTO: MARJORIE COOK
A new adventure-based event has been devised for Wānaka, but this time the activity is for dogs.

Outside Sports manager Darren Grimmett and Dr Dog trainer Matt Gunn are hosting free monthly Happy Trails Pack Walks in Albert Town in February, March and April, as a fundraiser for Search and Rescue Dogs NZ and as a way to enhance doggy social activities and skills.

The hikes are for all dogs and owners. 

Mr Gunn said he would be taking his collie Wizzid, 7, who works as an avalanche search dog. 

He would also be offering tips during the hike about the perils of rabbit-chasing.

Dogs were not that helpful in controlling rabbit numbers and chasing came at a risk of injury to themselves, Mr Gunn said.

"One of the things I help with is curbing a dog’s enthusiasm to chase rabbits. This is often allowed and then all of a sudden, a dog will jump a two-metre high fence and go chase rabbits for three days in a row. You are dreaming if you are thinking you are keeping rabbit counts down. It is really risky.

"Farmers shoot rabbits and there are many small dogs getting stuck down rabbit holes. That causes a lot of stress for families. And dogs can break legs running around rabbit terrain. 

"So I will be talking about that on the day — how to be sexier than a rabbit, how to compete with that level of excitement, because a dog will look at a rabbit, look at you, think yeah-nah, I’m gone."

Mr Grimmett said his pet labrador, Jacko, 3, occasionally went hunting with him but was primarily a family pet who enjoyed swimming.

"I think [the dog community] is a beautiful community and really, for us, pack walking is about community. And we are seeing social events like this for dog walkers growing in popularity in other regions," Mr Grimmett said.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council’s most recent annual report, for the July 2022-June 2023 financial year, reveals there are 6099 registered dogs in the Queenstown Lakes district, a 2.24% increase in the number of registered dogs from 5962 in 2021/22. 

The first Happy Trails Pack Walk is on Thursday, February 29, meeting 5.30pm at the Albert Town Campground swing bridge over the Hāwea River.

The QLDC will also host a social dog walk at Wānaka Station Park from 10am on Sunday.

QLDC regulatory manager Anthony Hall said dog walks were about building strong, connected communities. 

"Animals have the fantastic ability of bringing people together, as the camaraderie shared among pet lovers often creates lasting bonds," Mr Hall said.

Spot prizes will be available at both events.

Dog leads and doggie-do bags are required.