K9 Koala Program protects koalas from dog attacks

Dog trainer Steve Austin (right) gives Kate McKinnon and Jimmy the golden retriever the thumbs up in their final assessment.
Dog trainer Steve Austin (right) gives Kate McKinnon and Jimmy the golden retriever the thumbs up in their final assessment.

Dog owners and their pooches have been put through their paces in a final assessment as part of a pilot program.

The program, which is the first of its kind, aims to reduce dog attacks on koalas through specialist training.

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council engaged renowned dog trainer Steve Austin to share his knowledge and teach local dog trainers.

Nineteen dog owners and their pooches have participated in the pilot program.

The owners and their dogs went through a set program in a final assessment at Town Beach Reserve on November 10.

More owners and their dogs will be assessed on November 11.

Mr Austin said training dogs was critically important and so too was ensuring people were responsible for their dogs.

“I think the most important thing is to make people aware that dogs and koalas don’t mix,” he said.

“It’s our job to make sure that all owners of dogs understand that and be responsible with their dogs around koala habitat.”

The program encourages pet ownership behaviours including keeping dogs on leads in public reserves, tying up dogs in yards at night and desensitising dogs from koalas.

Council’s acting director Dan Croft said the pilot program was important for the council because of our significant koala population.

“One of the main threats to koalas is dog attacks,” he said.

Mr Croft said the program also raised awareness about responsible pet ownership.

Port Macquarie’s Kate McKinnon and her golden retriever, Jimmy, passed the final assessment.

Miss McKinnon said she really enjoyed the training, which gave her a stronger relationship with Jimmy.

She said it would be great if the program became more widely available.

The K9 Koala Program is an initiative organised by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council in partnership with Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and Port Macquarie-Hastings Kennel and Obedience Club.

For more information on future koala dog training programs contact the council’s environmental services staff on 6581 8111 or to report a koala attack incident call the 24-hour Port Macquarie Koala Hospital rescue line on 6584 1522.