Lisa Cahill was sitting in Heathrow Airport, flying high after installing her ‘rising sun’ glass…
Whether your dog is outgoing or shy, wild or well-trained, friendly or behaviourally-challenged, there is a perfect off-leash place in Canberra to suit them.
We often get asked by dog owners where they can take their dog for some safe off leash time so they can stretch their legs and have some fun. Canberra’s fenced dog parks provide great facilities but don’t suit every dog. Canberra is also blessed with extensive lush ovals where dogs are allowed off leash when not being used for sports, but not all dogs can be let loose off leash, or with other dogs.
The good news is Canberra has a range of safe and attractive off-leash alternatives for every type of dog. Here are our top picks to help you find just the right place, starting from those that suit anxious or anti-social dogs, to a range of spaces for more easy-going and friendly dogs.
RUN AND PLAY DATES
Canberra Region Greyhound Connections offers supervised Run and Play Dates that are perfect for dogs that enjoy the opportunity to have a good run, but can’t be let loose with other dogs or can’t be risked off leash for other reasons.
Although the sessions were originally organised to meet the needs of retired and re-homed greyhounds, all dogs of any shape or size are very welcome.
Greyhound Connections member, Martina Taliano, with the generous support of the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club, coordinates the free sessions every Saturday morning at the Racing Club grounds on the corner of Narrabundah Lane and Jerrabomberra Avenue, Symonston.
Several 100 metre long, straight and fully-fenced greyhound training ‘runs’ allow each dog to have their own individual space and run to their full potential. The runs are beautifully surfaced and very inviting.
When we visited to research this article, our whippets and their fox terrier cross bestie revelled in the freedom to let fly for such a long distance. They startled several greyhounds with their sprinting speed!
Of course, Martina herself is the proud owner of two retired greyhounds and volunteers with Canberra Region Greyhound Connections to help find new homes for local retiring greyhounds.
The Run and Play Dates are just one way that Greyhound Connections helps support greyhound owners transition their new pets to a domestic life. It’s a wonderful sight to see these pet greyhounds stretch out at full speed as they were bred.
The Canberra Greyhound Racing Club has also constructed a fully fenced ‘socialisation yard’ (just like a dog park) which is open to the public and accessible any time. The yard is next to the main entrance on the edge of the club grounds. The socialisation yard is also the meeting point for the Run and Play Dates.
DOG TRAINING CLUBS
Three not-for-profit dog training clubs in Canberra, run by enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers, offer their members fully fenced off-leash areas within their club grounds.
The ACT Companion Dog Club in Symonston is the oldest – established 60 years ago. The club boasts four large, separate, fully-fenced off leash grassy areas that are available to club members whenever they are not being used for training classes.
Club rules require that members ask before entering an off-leash area with their dog if it is already being used by someone else. This means dogs that need their own space have the opportunity to enjoy themselves safely. Of course, if you have an outgoing, friendly dog then he/she has a high chance of meeting other like-minded pooches wanting to play.
The best thing about joining these clubs is that your membership includes access to a range of supportive and friendly training classes for dogs (and humans) of all ages and levels.
If you have a dog with behavioural problems or other issues they are happy to provide practical help and advice.
You can find out more information about each of Canberra’s not-for-profit dog training clubs, their locations and contact details at Canberra Dog Walks dog training blog.
FENCED DOG PARKS
Canberra, Queanbeyan and Yass are well catered for with fully-fenced dog parks that provide safe, off-leash areas for dogs to exercise and socialise. Most dog parks have a separate area for large and/or confident dogs and another for small, very young or older dogs that need quieter interactions. Most parks also provide fresh water, shade trees and bins (but make sure you bring your own poo bags).
Our favourites are the Yarralumla and Tuggeranong dog parks. Both feature mature shady trees, beautiful vistas and lots of space for dogs to find their own niche. There is easy parking and nearby off leash walking and swimming areas.
Dog parks can provide an excellent opportunity to teach your dog good socialisation skills but it’s important to closely supervise them to make sure interactions are safe and fun for all dogs. Many dogs enjoy them immensely, but bear in mind that dog parks don’t suit every dog; for example, our outgoing whippet loves them while our timid whippet finds them too overwhelming, particularly when the parks get busy.
The ACT Government’s website provides a detailed explanation of dog park etiquette, do’s and don’ts. Each park also has a summary of rules posted on the entry gate.
There are six dog parks in Canberra with another under construction in Duffy, one in nearby Queanbeyan and one in Yass. We’ve provided a summary of each park’s features, facilities and location at Canberra Dog Walks dog park blog.
PLAYING FIELDS AND OVALS
Most people don’t know that all of Canberra’s unfenced playing fields and ovals are off-leash areas when not being used for sports.
Dog walkers in the know meet up here, usually around late afternoon, to chat while their dogs play together, chase balls, socialise and sniff. It’s a great way to meet other dog owners informally while your dogs have fun.
These areas generally ‘self-select’ for experienced, friendly owners and well-socialized dogs. It’s a great opportunity to introduce a young dog to off leash, unfenced situations. If you or your dog find dog parks a bit too intense, and your dog doesn’t have behavioural problems, we can highly recommend trying these as alternatives.
It’s important of course to be respectful of other users and follow some basic etiquette in these shared public spaces, e.g. don’t let your dog chase children, steal soccer balls, or otherwise interfere with other people’s enjoyment!
Just like dog parks, you’ll need to monitor your dog’s interactions with other dogs. Be cautious with dogs on leash who might not appreciate a strange, loose dog rushing up. You might need to begin with your dog on leash until he/she is a bit more settled and/or learns to come reliably when called.
We’ve selected five especially safe and attractive off-leash playing fields spread throughout Canberra that you might like to try.
These spaces are well contained and insulated from roads by fences, drains, creeks and large banks. While a very determined off-leash dog could still run out of control across a road, the barriers around these playing fields cut down the risk appreciably.
All have easy off street parking for those who don’t live within walking distance, pretty shade trees, bins for those poo bags, and, most importantly, the regulars are really lovely people with very friendly dogs.
» Giralang – Giralang Ovals via Gari Place or Tucana Street
The enormous verdant Giralang Ovals are made up of the Giralang Soccer Grounds, the Giralang AFL Grounds and a whole lot of extra off-leash space in between and all around. If you head to the middle area in between the two main ‘grounds’, you’ll be surrounded by green space on two sides, a large stormwater drain on another side, and the fenced Giralang Primary School on the fourth side. Parking is available on Gari Place or Tuca Street.
» Gordon – Gordon Neighbourhood Oval via Midge Street
A lovely open space with beautiful mountain views, the oval is bordered by large banks on two sides, a deep creek channel on another, and a second large oval on the fourth side. A small access road from Midge Street provides free parking and bisects the two ovals. Choose the oval on your left, as you drive in.
» Narrabundah – Errol Kavanagh Memorial Oval, Kyeema Street
This glorious hidden green space is bordered on three sides by poplar-lined creeks and on the fourth side by high fencing. Dogs have extensive safe running space and fascinating smells to explore in the creeks. Kyeema Street is the access road to the oval and includes plenty of parking.
» O’Connor – O’Connor Neighbourhood Oval via Pedder Street
Another extensive beautiful green space, the oval is bordered by a creek and stormwater drains on three sides and a fenced and open playing field on the fourth side. The best and safest part of the oval is accessed by a separate parking area off Pedder Street.
» Yarralumla – Forestry Oval, Wilf Crane Crescent
Totally hidden from casual sight from Banks Street, this sublime green space is bordered by beautiful mature deciduous trees and is usually – and amazingly – deserted. The oval is surrounded on three sides by steep banks rising to Will Crane Crescent (which is only an access road for CSIRO staff) and on the fourth side by an impenetrable thicket of spiky bushes and trees.
You can find more information about these and other recommended off-leash areas at the Canberra Dog Walks off leash meeting places blog as well as a google map marking all their locations.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT DOG-FRIENDLY CANBERRA?
We also organise regular social group dog walks all over Canberra. If you’d like to join in, check Canberra Dog Walks meetup for information on upcoming walks.