Just like you, your four-legged friend enjoys escaping the daily grind — that is, running laps of the backyard (or your apartment). They need to have adventures, feel the earth under their paws and happily frolic, roll and chase after balls, seagulls and unassuming strangers. They need to experience new surrounds and — if they're lucky — socialise with other dogs.
But where can one's pooch experience this kind of freedom only an off-leash area can provide? Luckily, there are a plethora of dog parks (and beaches!) in Melbourne that will welcome you and your fur-baby with open arms. And if you're merely an unashamed, dog-less puppy pervert, that's okay too. These spots are prime for pup-watching — and you might even get to snuggle a couple if it's okay with the poochies and their owners. Or, you could simply borrow a pup for the day.
A favourite off-leash area among Bayside dog owners, this patch of beach between Elwood and Middle Brighton Baths is the perfect combination of surf, sand and pure, unadulterated delight for your doggie. Exploring opportunities include climbing over sand dunes, smelling shrubs and running up a frenzy in the water. The dog owner doesn't lose out either — it's a lovely stroll along the marina and you get a very nice view of the CBD skyline from a distance.
As well as having all the necessary park amenities and perks for us humans — such as BBQs, tennis courts and a playground which may have one of the longest slides in Melbourne — Caulfield Park also has a well-maintained lush ground suitable for dogs to roam off-leash at their leisure. There is also a great walking track to observe the birdlife or watch the ducks, although you'll need to put Fido back on his lead when you leave the designated off-leash area.
Who let the dogs out? Apparently all of the dog owners in Richmond — and they've let them run wild at the large fenced football oval just off Bridge Road. When the oval isn't being used by footballers for training or a weekend match, it is promptly taken over by a mass of furry creatures interpreting the turf as dog heaven. If you're having a sucky day, a visit here is sure to cheer you up.
SIR ZELMAN COWEN PARK, KOOYONG
With a five-paw rating, Sir Zelman Cowen Park (formerly Kooyong Park) has everything to please your four-legged friend. The park not only has sprawling manicured green grounds and Gardiner's Creek running through it (as well as the Monash Freeway, unfortunately), but your doggo gets off-leash freedom and even some handy doggy drinking taps. As an owner you'll enjoy green bag dispensers for your dog's smelly gifts and free parking. It's win-win.
North of the Yarra River off Homestead Road in Eltham, this large off-leash park is the perfect place for some R&R out of the big smoke for you and your dog. Breathe in the fresh grass and native wildflowers and have a real run-around — this is a nice big off-leash space. It's open all year-round except when sport training is on.
While not technically an off-leash area, Jells Park in the Dandenong Creek Valley welcomes responsible dog owners and their pawed pals to explore the 127-hectare park. With nine kilometres of paths and trails, it's a relaxing adventure with a variety of interesting sights, smells and sounds. You can even make a day of it — pack a picnic and enjoy it at one of the many green patches along he ways. Don't forget the dog bikkies (and read their dog owner guidelines before you go).
After a successful year-long trial in 2015 for a 24-hour off-leash dog zone, the 450-metre sandy stretch between Charman and Plumer Roads is now officially a dog beach. While it can get busy during peak times, it's a popular spot for catching up with other dogs and chasing seagulls. Just remember to keep your dog on a leash until you hit the sand.
For inner-city Melbourne folk on the north side of town, Clayton Reserve is a small but welcoming, fenced-in area suitable for your furry friends to run, play and socialise to their heart's content. With a strong community feel, other dog owners are also usually friendly and happy to chat. Other bonus features include a dog fountain, poo bags and plenty of seats for tired humans.
If you frequent the east side of the bay for your wet pup frolicking times, you may not be familiar with the west side's brilliant offering. Altona's dog beach is a magical land for dogs local to the area. At low tide there's heaps of space for any number of dogs to run around freely, splash around in the shallows and smell each others' butts.
Why go to an ordinary dog park when you can take your pooch to a dog-damn activity centre? What exactly is a dog activity centre, you ask? Well, at Donvale's Aranga Reserve there are three areas dedicated to your pet: a general park, a training area and a space with dog agility equipment. The dog agility equipment includes an adorable doggie obstacle course so you can train your lil bestie to weave, dodge, climb, crawl and jump over hurdles.
Don't have a pooch to take to one of these parks? Borrow one.