Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Needles - Engadine

The Needles is a spot where there is a causeway across the Woronora River between Engadine and Barden Ridge. You can get to it from either the Barden Ridge side or the Engadine side. It is one of our favourite places to go with our dogs, because it's not far to walk, the road is sealed most of the way on the Engadine side, so it's pretty easy going aside from being a massive hill, and the river is lovely. Dogs should be on leash only, but one side of the causeway is deep and the other is shallow, so every dog can have the water how they like it. It also a popular swimming spot for people, so you can swim with your dog if that's how you roll.

If you're coming from the Engadine side, the most direct route is to park where Mt Carmel Pl comes off Woronora Rd. There is a gate here to prevent vehicle traffic. The orange dot on the map below is where you can park. If you're coming from the Barden Ridge side, you can park somewhere on Thomas Mitchell Dr and find your way to the fire trail. It's not as obvious where it is from this side, but you'll find it.

For a longer walk, you can come to it from Waterboard Rd, which follows the Woronora pipeline. Park in Kelton St in Woronora Heights where there is another gate and the road down is steep and sealed. I'm not sure where you can access Waterboard Rd from Engadine, as I think there are a few places.

The Needles is where the causeway crosses the Woronora River between Woronora Rd and Old Illawarra Rd.


It can be as short as about a 700m walk down from Woronora Rd to the causeway, or it can be a lengthy hike, depending on what you feel up to, as there are several fire trails and smaller walking trails in the area. The fire trails you can usually see on Google Maps or similar, but the smaller walking trails are harder to find and may take a bit of exploring. You may end up with wet feet, or a bit of bush bashing, or navigating a rock wall. That is the joy of this region!


It is bushy and so comes with all the usual related hazards. We have seen Brown Snakes on the side of the road, a python, and been warned about Red-bellied Black Snakes by the river. There may be ticks in the area, so make sure your dog has a tick collar and check them afterwards to be safe, particularly in spring and summer. There are also dirt bikes sometimes. The council appears to be trying to keep them out, but they often find a way. Most bikers only go as far as the causeway from the Barden Ridge side, then turn around and go back. The Engadine side is usually clear. 

Kivi and Erik sitting on the causeway after a paddle in the river.

Other dogs and owners

It is moderately common to see another dog on the road or down at The Needles, although sometimes you can have the place to yourselves. It is less common to see other dogs on the surrounding trails, but often those you do see are not entirely friendly and may be off leash. We have never had any particularly scary moments, but it pays to be alert. 

Further notes

There is a fair bit of wildlife around. Apart from the snakes, we have also seen a Lace Monitor, and turtles and water dragons down by the river. If you're into birds, this is a pretty good spot. It's not unusual to see Rock Warblers down at the river if it's quiet, and there are Lyrebirds in the gullies. Please be careful with your dogs and don't let them chase the wildlife. 

Rock Warblers can be found around the river. Image source.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Risk Aversion 3 - Training for persistence, resilience, confidence and optimism

This is the third in a series of posts about risk aversion, or pessimism, in dogs. The first instalment looks at general tendencies of risk averse dogs, and the second looks at how risk averse dogs behave in day-to-day life, whether we can treat risk aversion, and if we should. In this instalment I will talk about how to make risk averse dogs less risk averse. This is pretty experimental, but is based on literature. I can at least say that I did it with my risk averse dog and had phenomenal results. 

If we have decided that it is in our dog's (and our) best interests to reduce their risk aversion, we would do well to break risk aversion down into smaller pieces and treat each one. However, we will have trouble picking and choosing which pieces we want to work on and which we don't because they are all kind of related. Working on one will probably benefit others to a lesser extent as well.


As discussed in the first post, risk averse dogs lack persistence. Training persistence is simple, but not necessarily easy (to use a saying from Bob Bailey, godfather of modern animal training). Literature on persistence training reports on partial reinforcement procedures, in other words, instead of a reward after every time a dog performs a behaviour, you would reward after only some of the times. You might choose to do this randomly, or predictably. I suggest predictably, because it's easier! For example, count a set number of responses. Research shows that partial reinforcement leads to animals that persist longer in learning situations than animals that get continuous reinforcement (reward every time). However, starting with continuous reinforcement and then later moving to partial reinforcement is even better!

Another aspect of persistence is called "generalised industriousness". What this means is that you can teach a dog to put in more effort, to work harder, and for fewer rewards. It can be done with a variation on the persistence training outlined above. The dog needs to put in a little more effort each time before they get a reward. But don't just hold out for them to work harder. With a risk averse dog you will need to make sure whatever you ask them to do is easily achievable. Start very easy, then gradually make it harder either by counting a few seconds more before you reward, or ask for an extra behaviour or two before you reward, or make a well understood task slightly harder the next time. Our favourite industriousness game we call "up-up". We find an obstacle in the environment that is low and safe for our dogs to jump onto, point to it, and say "up-up". Dog jumps onto obstacle and gets a treat. Think of this like a video game. The dog just finished level 1. Level 2 might be a little higher, or the surface might be uneven, or smaller. Level 3 might have one very simple obstacle to jump on in order to get to the next obstacle where we are pointing. When we train a dog to be industrious, we are pairing the feeling of working hard whether that be physical or mental with rewards, improving self-control and contributing to teaching dogs that if they just try that little bit harder it will pay off. 

Persistent dogs tend to get more rewards. Image source.

More variety in training tasks also leads to increased effort. Get your dog learning a variety of skills. Pay them for trying, even if they are nowhere near the behaviour you want, or they make a mess of it. All you want them to do is give it a go, so make giving it a go rewarding. As they grow more confident, you may decide to hold off and wait for a 'better' try with more effort or conviction from your dog. Reward handsomely when they deliver, again, even if all they do is put in a little extra effort. 


I am not going to detail how to train this here because it is a little bit controversial and probably deserves its own dedicated discussion. Think of it this way: if you have a dog that starts to fall apart if faced with minor problems they don't know how to solve, what do we need to teach them? Why are they easily distressed and what would make them better able to cope with stressful situations? By my reckoning, we need to teach them how to problem solve on their own without needing much help from us. There is a body of literature on "mastery" and "resilience" or "inoculation", which refers to an individual's ability to learn to control something stressful and the positive effects of this in later stressful situations. See here for a nice review. Resilience may be trained using very careful exposure to low level stress that the dog can resolve on their own. This is something to be cautious about as a little too much stress or the wrong kind of stress is likely to backfire and make things worse. More about this in a later post.


This one really depends on the ways in which a dog is lacking confidence. My risk averse dog was quite clumsy and found things like balancing or moving his back feet with precision very challenging. I felt that this was probably holding him back, because when you fall or feel unbalanced a lot, it seems risky to try things with your body that you haven't done before. I did a lot of balance and body awareness training with him. I used logs at our local dog park to train him to balance better, and to move his back feet independently of his front feet. This is known as rear end awareness and is popular training for dogs in dog sports because it helps them be more agile and move with more precision and efficiency. Here is a video of Erik demonstrating 'log games' for rear end awareness and balance. 

Learning what he could do physically and making him feel more balanced and agile had a huge positive effect on his confidence. He went from standing in front of something the height of his chin and staring helplessly at it while we spent an age trying to coax him to jump over it or onto it, to going out of his way to find things to climb on. This opened up a whole new world for him where he could seek rewards. See him in the video below giving me heart palpitations negotiating rocks at some height on a rock platform at the beach. 

Body awareness and balance exercises are a good place to start for general confidence building, but it is worthwhile trying to identify where a dog lacks confidence the most and applying similar principles. Start small, keep it easy. For example, little Erik has a lot of confidence in general, but lacks confidence around water. We let him take it at his own pace but encourage him to challenge himself. He is much more confident about creek crossings, now, but still doesn't want to swim. That's okay. 


Optimism is basically the expectation that good things are going to happen. So when you are optimistic, you tend to feel pretty good, because at any moment probably something terrific will happen to you. This is associated with mental wellbeing, better outcomes in serious illness, and better physical health in humans. Learning to be optimistic is relatively simple for an otherwise healthy dog. If a dog has a lot of good things happen to them, they will expect more good things to happen to them. Training a dog to be optimistic doesn't just mean you throw a lot of rewards at them, though. It's important to note that in some situations, non-contingent reinforcement (reinforcement a dog can't control) can also interfere with learning in much the same way as learned helplessness. This is usually called "learned irrelevance". So for best results, offer opportunities for reinforcement in a large variety of situations. Make it easy to earn rewards often. Set them up sometimes to find their own way to success rather than have you show them or tell them what to do. This can take some skill. You want to make the path to success obvious enough that they won't have to try very hard, but just hard enough that they will have to think their way through it. The video of Kivi in the rocks is not a bad example. I move, so it is obvious to him he should follow me, but he has to find his own way through the rocks. The goal is getting access to rewards, whatever your dog loves. The game is for them to figure out how to get it. Again, think of video game levels. Getting them to use their nose and search for things is great. 

Final Word

These are all fairly general tips light on details. Treating risk aversion should be considered a broad thing with many components, because risk aversion itself is quite broad with a variety of components. It is quite easy to make things too hard for a risk averse dog. If you have a dog like this, above all remember to be patient and do one or two steps at a time and then just leave it for another day. Otherwise you risk making things worse by overdoing it. If they don't get success easily they will likely become stressed and give up. Let them find their own way as much as possible and set their own pace. You are there to encourage and guide (and provide lots of rewards). If you have a seriously risk averse dog that may have other fear related problems as well, get professional help from a behaviourist. Treating risk aversion doesn't treat specific fears or behaviour problems. 

Further reading

Nation, Jack R.; Cooney, John B.; Gartrell, Karen E., 1979. Durability and generalizability of persistence training. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol 88(2), 121-136

Eisenberger, Robert; Masterson, Fred A.; McDermitt, Maureen 1982. Effects of task variety on generalized effort. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 74(4),

Nation, J. R., & Boyajian, L. G. (1980). Continuous before partial reinforcement: Effect on persistence training and resistance to extinction in humansThe American Journal of Psychology, 697-710.

Martin E. P. SeligmanJane E. Gillham, 2000. The Science of Optimism and HopeResearch Essays in Honor of Martin E.P. SeligmanTempleton Foundation Press.

Job, R. F. S. 1988. Interference and facilitation produced by noncontingent reinforcement in the appetitive situationAnimal Learning & Behavior16(4), 451-460.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Risk Aversion in Dogs 2 - Spotting it and can/should we treat it?

This is the second in a series of posts about risk aversion, or pessimism, in dogs. This instalment deals with how to spot risk aversion in everyday life and whether we should treat it or accept it. 

In the previous instalment we looked at the general traits of risk averse dogs. They are low in persistence, creativity/spontaneity, and resilience, and they don't take many risks and are pessimistic (expect more bad things to happen and less good things).

How might we see risk aversion in dogs in day-to-day life? Think of a dog that stays close to their owner and doesn't run off. They seek safety and don't go out of their way to access rewards. As such, they are not very exploratory. They may sniff around the area, but probably won't go far or very fast. They are likely to react strongly to something bad happening to them, and be surprisingly distressed by quite minor problems they encounter, like a small obstacle they need to find their way around, or being unable to immediately access a reward they can see. They may be easily frustrated and respond by giving up. They may also seem poorly motivated, not willing to put in a lot of effort for rewards, and while it may be easy to teach them to stay still, it may be difficult to teach them to keep doing something without steady reinforcement (e.g. heeling). They may be reluctant to perform a behaviour on cue if they are not confident on how to respond. So we may see them failing to perform a cued behaviour, not because they are being difficult and refusing, but because they are unsure what they are being asked and don't want to risk doing the wrong thing.

Image source

The first question is, do we need to treat risk aversion in dogs? At this point, I think this question can only really be answered subjectively. As I suggested in the previous instalment, there are reasons why we might want a risk averse dog. Certainly there are dogs that are naturally risk averse, and this may make them highly suited to particular jobs or environments where a steady, quiet, predictable dog that only really does what it has learnt to be rewarding is required. On the other hand there are many aspects of being risk averse that may make a dog challenging to train in complex tasks, so if you are looking for a dog that will throw themselves into a task, be easy to train complex behaviours, and persist with low levels of reinforcement, you may want your dog to be less risk averse. Finally, we can and probably should consider this from a welfare perspective as well. Arguably, good wellbeing is characterised by an animal having positive experiences. The more positive experiences they have, the better their wellbeing. We also know that there are a couple of things that mammals generally enjoy. One is playing, another is getting resources like food, and another is exploration, because it's tied to finding resources. So we might wonder about the wellbeing of a dog that does not explore much or try very hard to access resources. Their accumulation of positive experiences may be a little low, and therefore they may be not as happy as they could be, although this is not the same as being unhappy. Furthermore, I think we should consider how they handle adversity. As much as we might like to, we can't create an environment for our dogs where there is no adversity, and nor should we, because there is evidence that a little adversity helps an individual become more resilient to stress later on, thus enhancing their wellbeing. Low level and intermittent stress also results in animals being less emotionally reactive so that they are better able to cope with new situations and are more curious and explore more. It also helps them adapt to changes and solve problems better than individuals who have not been exposed to low level stress. So if our dog is risk averse, they may have difficulties finding solutions to stressful situations and be hesitant to try new things, and in this way their ability to adapt to and cope with stress may be compromised.

The second question is can we treat it? Risk aversion, like much in behaviour, can be considered to be a product of both nature and nurture. Dogs can be born more or less risk averse by nature, and then that potential for risk aversion can be further modified by learning and experience. We can assume that we may be able to adjust a dog's current risk aversion if it falls within their genetic potential. When faced with a dog it may not be clear if they are already as optimistic as their genetic potential allows while still being overall pretty risk averse. So in conclusion, we may be able to treat it, or we may not, and if we can, the extent to which we can may be a lot or a little. The graphic below illustrates this, but be aware it's grossly simplified. This stuff is complicated! In fact, it's argued by academics that optimism and pessimism don't even belong on the same scale.

Imagine a risk aversion/optimism scale. A dog may be born with the potential to fall anywhere in a particular range on that scale (blue line), and their experiences will narrow that range to where they actually fall on the scale.

So if there are arguments for treating risk aversion in dogs, and we probably can treat it at least to some extent, should we go ahead and try? If we are seeing a dog that becomes quite distressed out of proportion to the problem they are facing, or cannot solve problems on their own, or becomes distressed if they can't use a solution they have used before, or even who is emotionally reactive and has difficulty regulating their arousal, I think as humane trainers and owners we should think very hard about whether this is okay. For me, I think if the dog is a pet and in a competent home, there are good arguments for trying to reduce their risk aversion. If the dog is a working dog, or in a home where the owners may not have the skills to adapt to a dog that may be a little more adventurous and possibly naughty, then I think it is at the discretion of the dog's trainers. Just be aware that optimistic dogs have their own problems, and once you have a reward-seeking dog, it becomes necessary to harness that sudden enthusiasm for exploration and finding rewards and use it for the forces of good rather than evil, and that may mean more training.

In the next instalment in this series, we will talk about how to reduce risk aversion through training.

Further reading

  1. . Paul 2010. 
  2. An integrative and functional framework for the study of animal emotion and mood. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 

Seery, Mark D.; Holman, E. Alison; Silver, Roxane Cohen 2010. Whatever does not kill us: Cumulative lifetime adversity, vulnerability, and resilience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 99(6).

D. Lyons,  K. Parker, M. Katz and A. Schatzberg, 2009. Developmental cascades linking stress inoculation, arousal regulation, and resilience. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 3.

Lyons, David M., Parker, Karen J., Schatzberg, Alan F, 2010. Animal models of early life stress: Implications for understanding resilience. Developmental Psychobiology 52(7)

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Risk Aversion or Pessimism in Dogs 1 - General tendencies

This is the first in a series of posts about risk aversion or pessimism in dogs, welfare and training implications, and what can be done about it. To be absolutely clear and up front, this is the 'fuzzy' side of my research. At this stage, the observations and interpretations I bring up here are not supported by data. This is the 'experience' side of spending 3 1/2 years watching different dogs in the same situation over and over. I will update this series as more information comes to light. 

Dogs, like people, can also see the
glass as half empty or half full.
I did my PhD on optimism and pessimism in dogs. I was looking at how they interpret signals and whether they tend to think good things or bad things are going to happen to them. The assumption is that pessimism is associated with a negative emotional state and optimism with a positive emotional state. By the time I finished my data collection, I'd had some 50 dogs go through the study and had a pretty good idea of how a wildly optimistic or a profoundly pessimistic dog tended to behave. The balanced dogs weren't so easy to typify. In this post, I'm going to ignore the wild optimists, given we assume that they are probably happy dogs, and concentrate on the pessimists.

I'll start by saying I don't really like "pessimistic" to describe these dogs. I prefer "risk averse", because I'm not so sure they expect bad things to happen to them so much as they don't like to find out if they don't have to. They would rather not take chances. We see their risk aversion in a variety of ways. They are usually not very persistent. If they try something that has worked in the past a couple of times, and it doesn't work, they are liable to give up. This tendency has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it is dead easy to discourage unwanted behaviour. If it's not immediately and consistently rewarding they will give up on it. On the downside, it is difficult to shape these dogs using successive approximations of a behaviour because they give up so easily. They may need a lot of help and encouragement to keep them engaged.

Risk averse dogs are easily discouraged. Image source

Risk averse dogs are also not very creative or spontaneous. They are reluctant to try new things. Not necessarily because they have been punished a lot, although this could be implicated in risk aversion, but because they are comfortable. They don't want to risk upsetting anything by trying something new. Basically, if it's not broke, don't fix it is their motto. Again, this is good if we want a dog that is not likely to come up with new ways to perplex us. If we want a steady dog who just does what they have been taught to do and not much else, we would probably do well with a naturally risk averse dog. However, if we want a dog that is easy to shape because they come up with lots of new behaviours to try out and are happy to throw them at us just in case they work, then a risk averse dog may try our patience and test our own training creativity as we try to find ways to get them doing new behaviours.

Risk averse dogs are also not particularly resilient. If they feel like they have got something wrong, they will take this quite hard. I used to think descriptions of dogs as being "hard on themselves" were weird and meaningless, but it's actually a good way to describe how the risk averse dog behaves in a training scenario. They are quite sensitive to signals that they may have done the 'wrong' thing - as in, they won't get rewarded. They may respond by whining or pacing or with lots of displacement behaviour like yawning or looking away or licking their lips. You may see them sniff the ground as if to say "Well, anyway, I was just going over here to do something really important." It may be difficult to coax them into giving it another go. There is some evidence from rat literature that individuals in a negative emotional state are very sensitive to reward loss. So in some cases sensitivity in training may suggest a negative emotional state, which is in turn associated with pessimism.
This dog is looking away and lip licking, a displacement
behaviour signalling stress.

And finally, these dogs are pessimistic. They seem to expect more negative outcomes and fewer positive outcomes. We assume that their unwillingness to take risks is at least in part because they are more inclined to expect it will go poorly for them. In contrast, the wildly optimistic dogs seem to think anything is worth a shot. If it doesn't turn out great after all, they are not very bothered, whereas a risk averse dog is very bothered. There is plenty of literature (latest here) that suggests this could mean risk averse dogs are experiencing a negative emotional state.

Tune in for the next instalment discussing how risk aversion may appear in everyday life, how it may impact welfare, and whether we should do anything about it.

Further reading

Sensitivity to reward loss as an indicator of animal emotion and welfare

O. Burman, R. Parker, E. Paul, and M. Mendl, 2008. Sensitivity to reward loss as an indicator of animal emotion and welfare. Biology Letters 4(4). 

  • A. Destrez,
  • V. Deiss, 
  • F. Lévy, L.
  •  Calandreau, 
  • C. Lee, 
  • E. Chaillou-Sagon, 
  • A. Boissy, 2013. Chronic stress induces pessimistic-like judgment and learning deficits in sheep. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 148(1-2).
  • Friday, 3 January 2014

    Upper Burnum Burnum Sanctuary - Sutherland

    Burnum Burnum Sanctuary is a small bush reserve on the edges of Sutherland and Bonnet Bay in the Sutherland Shire. It has some very lovely trails and dogs are allowed as long as they are on leash.

    The trails all inter-connect and there are several access points, shown in the map as blue dots. One from Coolgardie Pl, one at Tyler Pl (not on map), one off Tudor Rd, and one from the southern end of the playground and picnic areas of Burnum Burnum Reserve in Bonnet Bay. The trail starting in Bonnet Bay goes up to the ridge and is quite steep in places. It is also very difficult to see from the top, so if attempting this one for the first time, I suggest you start at the bottom.

    Blue dots show access points, blue line shows tracks that skirt the ridge perimeter.

    The upper part of the reserve accessed from Sutherland or Tyler Pl in Bonnet Bay is set on a ridge top. Starting at Coolgardie Pl or Tudor Rd, you can walk around the perimeter of the ridge on the paths marked in blue. The eastern side is known as the Cliff Track. It skirts along a rocky outcrop that in parts has a 4m+ sheer drop into bushland below. This is a small, single file trail that joins the main, centre trail at both ends. At the Tudor St end, you can then walk up the main trail for a little ways and turn west onto another single file trail that is called the Eagle Rock trail. It is hard to spot, so look for a lot of small rocks on the ground leading into the bush. This track also skirts along a rocky outcrop that in parts has a 4m+ drop into bushland below, and also affords some great views of Bonnet Bay below. This track then widens out as it heads up the hill alongside the powerlines.

    Kivi admiring the view from the Eagle Rock track.


    The full loop takes around 35 minutes, but you can shorten it by only doing one of the rocky trails and going down the centre main trail instead of right around to the other rocky trail. If you are looking for a longer walk, you can start from Tyler Pl. This track is lower on the slope than the Eagle Rock track and joins up to the track that goes to the Woronora River in Bonnet Bay about halfway up. If you head up that track and then head left when you get to the top of the ridge, this trail will join up to the tail end of the Eagle Rock track. If you then turn right onto this track, then left onto the centre main trail a little ways up, you can walk back to Tudor Rd and along this road back to Tyler Pl. This walk takes about an hour. Starting from the bottom in Bonnet Bay and climbing the river track up to the ridge takes about 10 minutes one way if you challenge yourself, and maybe about 20 minutes if you walk more slowly.


    There are some big drop offs on the rocky trails skirting the upper sanctuary. If a dog fell off they would likely be injured. Keep your dog close on leash. There are also Brown Snakes in the reserve. Be careful, especially in spring. I have only seen one snake in there and it was in July, so be aware they could be around any time of year. 

    Other Dogs and Owners

    This place is usually quiet and it is uncommon to see another soul. Occasionally you may meet other dog walkers, and the dogs may be on leash or off leash. It can be difficult to see them coming on the bushy trails and if passing them on small trails it can be tight and a little tense. 

    Further Notes

    It is quite a lovely place with some good habitat for wild animals. If you like birds, there are sometimes red robins, mistletoe birds, and Scarlet Honeyeaters. There are no wallabies or kangaroos, but there is fox activity in the reserve. The views down to the Woronora River in Bonnet Bay are impressive and there are rocks you can sit on to take it in. Particularly lovely around sunset. 

    Woronora River from Eagle Rock track. 

    Greenhills Dog Beach

    Greenhills beach is by far the best dog beach in Sydney. It is not a dedicated dog beach and access for dogs is limited to before 10am and after 4pm, but it is much, much bigger than Bayview in Sydney's north. There is a lot of sand to run on, surf for the more adventurous dogs, and it is far from other hazards like traffic.

    Greenhills beach, Cronulla, late afternoon on a still day.


    The dog section of Greenhills beach starts at Gate 5 and extends to the 4WD area, which is just over 2km of beach. Enough beach to allow even the most energetic of dogs to stretch their legs and go for a good gallop. It is easy to spend an hour or more walking the length of the dog section and back if you play or train with your dog on the way. 


    The beach car park ends some distance from where the dog off leash area starts. Behind the beach are extensive sand dunes (which dogs are not allowed in), but no roads in the vicinity. The 4WD section of the beach starts where the dog section ends, so there is very little risk of dogs coming into contact with cars. 

    Small numbers of fishermen are common on the beach, but they are generally very considerate and responsible. Stray fish hooks or lures or even fishing line are not a problem. It is polite to put your dog on leash or keep them close as you pass fishermen so that your dog doesn't go looking for bait or getting in the way. 

    Occasionally, dead pufferfish can be found on the beach. These are spiny and avoided by most dogs, but they are HIGHLY TOXIC. If your dog eats one, you need to get them to the vet immediately. Even a fish a couple of weeks dead can be toxic enough to kill a dog in less than an hour. If you find one, dig a deep hole (to your elbow at least) and bury it so other dogs will be safe as well. 

    Pufferfish are deadly if eaten by dogs. Image source
    The beach is not patrolled and it is open, so currents and rips may be present. It drops off gently, so if the dogs can withstand the waves, they can have a swim without a very strong undertow. Some days it can be very calm and some days very rough.

    Other Dogs and Owners

    Greenhills beach was briefly trialled with 24 hour access for dogs in 2013. This lasted only a few days before the trial was aborted due to some dangerous behaviour from dogs on the beach. It is a great pity, as usually the other dogs encountered on the beach are no trouble. As with any off leash dog area, some dogs do not wish to be approached by other dogs, and you may meet the odd dog that is overly friendly or retaliates when approached. If you see a dog on leash, keep your dogs clear of it, as it may just be trying to enjoy the beach without interacting with other dogs. The beach is usually large enough that you can steer clear of other dogs if you wish, but when the tides are very high, there are sections of the beach that can be quite narrow. Think carefully before visiting on public holidays or warm weekend days in the summer, as the beach can be very busy with lots of dogs that don't normally go to the beach. During the winter months it can be hard to fit a walk in before sunset, but if it's cold or windy or a little wet, you will have the place to yourself. 

    Drinking water is available for dogs at Gate 5 on the grass, and on the hill immediately north of the car park. There is a dish that owners rinse and refill regularly. If another dog is drinking, allow them to finish before you let your dog approach the water. 

    Further Notes

    The beach is quite lovely to walk along, and at sunset you can get some beautiful lighting for photos. Sometimes dolphins can be seen riding waves just off the beach. The beach is usually clean, but sometimes there are dead seabirds, like at many beaches. Usually they are not very stinky. If your dog gets into the dunes, there are foxes, and a dog that has eaten or rolled in fox scat stinks to high heaven. Cronulla CBD is a short drive or a moderate walk away where there are many options for food and drink. Cronulla mall is moderately dog friendly. 

    Nice afternoon lighting makes for great photos.

    Getting There

    Greenhills beach is at the northern end of Cronulla. Access to the car park is off Mitchell Rd/Murdock St. Drive past the playground and exercise equipment to park at the northern end of the car park. Walk diagonally (E) down the hill across the grass to Gate 5, which is the last access point to the beach before the scrub on the edge of the sand dunes. The dog section extends north from this gate. 
    Park where blue dot is, walk dogs on leash along blue path, and red section is off leash. 
    For more information, see the Sutherland Shire Council website.