The City of Newcastle has delivered its first fenced off-leash area, with pooches and their owners turning out for the official opening of the 1.5-hectare exercise area in Acacia Avenue Reserve in North Lambton on Sunday.
Senior Ranger Lauren Whitmore said it was the first enclosed dog park in the Hunter to have two separate areas for small dogs and big dogs.
"There's an area for small and less active dogs and a larger enclosure for more active or bigger dogs," Ms Whitmore said. "That is to reduce the number of dog attacks and incidents. A lot of large dogs don't like small dogs, or the other way round."
For some pups, like silky terrier cross Gizmo and chihuahua Buddy, Sunday was the first time they had been let off their lead in public. Gizmo and Buddy's owner Julie Hall, of Glendale, said the creation of an enclosure for small dogs "should have happened years ago".
"I usually go to parks when there's no other people [with dogs] around because I have heard of small dogs being bitten," she said. "They were a bit frightened at first coming here but as they got to know the other dogs they began playing.
"We will definitely be back," she said.
North Lambton's Sarah Hanna was grateful to have a fenced-in park near her home for her two whippets, Lola and Poppy, to enjoy. She had previously taken them to the enclosed area in Speers Point Park.
"They run so fast it's dangerous letting them off without fences," Ms Hanna said.
Deputy lord mayor Declan Clausen said council had committed to creating a fenced, off-leash area in teh city's four wards with a new one to be created each year "or there about". He said the need for enclosed areas for pups first came up in 2017.
"We had petitions coming to council, I took a notice of motion. The Lambton Residents Group was very active in advocating for a park," he said. "The Dogs in Open Spaces Strategy was widely exhibited and had more than 1000 submissions, that's more than I've seen on any council document.
"The need for two different spaces was something that came from the community and this demonstrates we've listened."
Parks and Recreation manager Lynn Duffy said the next fenced-in dog area to be built would most likely be in Adamstown's O'Connell Park. She said "hopefully" it would be commenced in 2020, pending the results of investigations on the site. Council was currently looking at areas in Maryland and Lambton for future enclosures, she said.
A fenced dog park has also been proposed in the Carrington Greenspace Masterplan. The plan will be presented at Tuesday's council meeting.
The pre-existing off-leash area in Acacia Avenue Reserve will be retained as overflow for the new, fenced section, which is situated near Alnwick Road. The area has two shelters and tables, two dog bubblers, bins and bag dispensers.
If your dog becomes used to being set up in one spot it can become territorial. Bringing a ball is a great idea to get them to use the entire areaSenior ranger Lauren Whitmore
Ms Whitmore, council's senior ranger, said owners had a responsibility to keep control of their dogs when they were not on their lead.
"You need to be able to control your dog by voice, so for it to come back to you when you call it, and you need to follow where it goes," she said.
Ms Whitmore recommended that owners encourage their dog to move around the enclosure.
"Don't settle down in one space. If your dog becomes used to being set up in one spot it can become territorial. Bringing a ball is a great idea to get them to use the entire area," she said.