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It’s a paradise for the pooches

A short drive from Masterton, on Norfolk Rd, is a piece of canine paradise.

At Wagspot Private Dog Park, dogs of varying shapes and sizes have a fully-fenced, 1700 sqm space to stretch their legs: clambering over tyre obstacle courses, clearing agility hurdles, or simply dashing back and forth after a ball. Once tuckered out, they can stop for a break at one of the water stations, while their humans can rest at the picnic table – complete with a sunshade for hot days.

It could be any dog exercise area – but the customers that frequent Wagspot are slightly different. These pooches energy to burn: But struggle in shared public spaces, due to aggression, anxiety, poor socialisation or past trauma. At Wagspot, they can let off steam in their “own little safe space” – without risk to their wellbeing, or to other dogs and walkers.

Wagspot was the brainchild of Featherston local Sandra Selak – inspired by her seven-year-old Pitbull-cross, Bubbles, who developed severe anxiety and would become hostile around unknown dogs while in public.

Wanting to create a “stress-free” sanctuary for Bubbles and other nervous canines, Selak devised a dog park with a booking system: Where each household can set aside time to exercise their dogs in relative privacy.

After a year of planning and “chipping away slowly”, Selak opened Wagspot on January 14 – and has had regular bookings from happy patrons – two and four-legged – ever since.

“The first weekend we opened, all these people shared photos of their dogs at the park on Facebook, looking happy and having a great time in their own little safe space. I started tearing up – it was amazing.

“Some people whose dogs are friendly might not understand the need for a place like this. But if you’ve got a more aggressive or reactive dog, it can be really stressful. I wanted to accommodate those dogs who don’t have that typical happy-go-lucky temperament, but still need to get out and about.

“People love knowing there’s a safe place where their dogs can relax, they’re free to run around, and they have their own space to be themselves. I just wanted a small chunk of land for lots of happy dogs. It’s great to see that come to life.”

Selak said her dog Bubbles was “very social” in her youth and enjoyed her daily walks – but became apprehensive after some “bad experiences” with off-leash and roaming dogs. She also became fearful of new people, which increased after having surgery on her back legs. Eventually, public outings became traumatic for both dog and owner.

“It got to the point where I’d be looking down people’s driveways, worried that a dog would come out and approach us. My anxiety levels were crazy, which Bubbles would pick up on. I ended up resenting other dogs, which was awful.”

Early last year, Selak set up a Facebook group to discuss the possibility of a private dog park with fellow Wairarapa dog lovers – and was staggered by the response.

“I thought, ‘there’s got to be other people in the same boat.’ I set up the group, and about 900 members joined. There was obviously a real need.”

Selak was later able to secure some land on a family-owned property on Norfolk Rd, and began “scouting around” for play equipment and outdoor furniture. Most items were sourced from TradeMe or Facebook Marketplace – including agility jumps and seesaws, dog waste bins, water stations, and toys.

She and her partner also constructed a small play area, comprised of old tyres, wooden spools, plywood planks, and a small bridge.

“Some people we knew were throwing away their old tyres, so they were happy to give them to us. We did all the landscaping ourselves, and a lot of DIY – lots of screwing plywood together.”

More challenging to organise was fencing around the perimeter – due to companies facing high workloads and supply chain issues following covid-19. “It was slow-going, but we got there eventually.”

Selak said the park has been visited by “a wide range” of dogs so far.

“We’ve had some dogs that are usually friendly, but feel more secure in a quieter space. Some dogs are more likely to run off if they’re not in a fenced area. Others have some behavioural issues from abuse in their past.

“We get all types – little fluffy dogs, Rottweilers, huskies, the works.”

To book a space at Wagspot Private Dog Park, go to wagspot.co.nz. Entry is $15 for 30 minutes, or $25 for an hour. Visitors receive a code for the gate after booking. More information is also available on the park’s Facebook page. I started tearing up – it was amazing.

“Some people whose dogs are friendly might not understand the need for a place like this. But if you’ve got a more aggressive or reactive dog, it can be really stressful. I wanted to accommodate those dogs who don’t have that typical happy-go-lucky temperament, but still need to get out and about.

“People love knowing there’s a safe place where their dogs can relax, they’re free to run around, and they have their own space to be themselves. I just wanted a small chunk of land for lots of happy dogs. It’s great to see that come to life.”

Selak said her dog Bubbles was “very social” in her youth and enjoyed her daily walks – but became apprehensive after some “bad experiences” with off-leash and roaming dogs. She also became fearful of new people, which increased after having surgery on her back legs. Eventually, public outings became traumatic for both dog and owner.

“It got to the point where I’d be looking down people’s driveways, worried that a dog would come out and approach us. My anxiety levels were crazy, which Bubbles would pick up on. I ended up resenting other dogs, which was awful.”

Early last year, Selak set up a Facebook group to discuss the possibility of a private dog park with fellow Wairarapa dog lovers – and was staggered by the response.

“I thought, ‘there’s got to be other people in the same boat.’ I set up the group, and about 900 members joined. There was obviously a real need.”

Selak was later able to secure some land on a family-owned property on Norfolk Rd, and began “scouting around” for play equipment and outdoor furniture. Most items were sourced from TradeMe or Facebook Marketplace – including agility jumps and seesaws, dog waste bins, water stations, and toys.

She and her partner also constructed a small play area, comprised of old tyres, wooden spools, plywood planks, and a small bridge.

“Some people we knew were throwing away their old tyres, so they were happy to give them to us. We did all the landscaping ourselves, and a lot of DIY – lots of screwing plywood together.”

More challenging to organise was fencing around the perimeter – due to companies facing high workloads and supply chain issues following covid-19. “It was slow-going, but we got there eventually.”

Selak said the park has been visited by “a wide range” of dogs so far.

“We’ve had some dogs that are usually friendly, but feel more secure in a quieter space. Some dogs are more likely to run off if they’re not in a fenced area. Others have some behavioural issues from abuse in their past.

“We get all types – little fluffy dogs, Rottweilers, huskies, the works.”

To book a space at Wagspot Private Dog Park, go to wagspot.co.nz. Entry is $15 for 30 minutes, or $25 for an hour. Visitors receive a code for the gate after booking. More information is also available on the park’s Facebook page. A short drive from Masterton, on Norfolk Rd, is a piece of canine paradise.

At Wagspot Private Dog Park, dogs of varying shapes and sizes have a fully-fenced, 1700 sqm space to stretch their legs: clambering over tyre obstacle courses, clearing agility hurdles, or simply dashing back and forth after a ball. Once tuckered out, they can stop for a break at one of the water stations, while their humans can rest at the picnic table – complete with a sunshade for hot days.

It could be any dog exercise area – but the customers that frequent Wagspot are slightly different. These pooches energy to burn: But struggle in shared public spaces, due to aggression, anxiety, poor socialisation or past trauma. At Wagspot, they can let off steam in their “own little safe space” – without risk to their wellbeing, or to other dogs and walkers.

Wagspot was the brainchild of Featherston local Sandra Selak – inspired by her seven-year-old Pitbull-cross, Bubbles, who developed severe anxiety and would become hostile around unknown dogs while in public.

Wanting to create a “stress-free” sanctuary for Bubbles and other nervous canines, Selak devised a dog park with a booking system: Where each household can set aside time to exercise their dogs in relative privacy.

After a year of planning and “chipping away slowly”, Selak opened Wagspot on January 14 – and has had regular bookings from happy patrons – two and four-legged – ever since.

“The first weekend we opened, all these people shared photos of their dogs at the park on Facebook, looking happy and having a great time in their own little safe space.

I started tearing up – it was amazing.

“Some people whose dogs are friendly might not understand the need for a place like this. But if you’ve got a more aggressive or reactive dog, it can be really stressful. I wanted to accommodate those dogs who don’t have that typical happy-go-lucky temperament, but still need to get out and about.

“People love knowing there’s a safe place where their dogs can relax, they’re free to run around, and they have their own space to be themselves. I just wanted a small chunk of land for lots of happy dogs. It’s great to see that come to life.”

Selak said her dog Bubbles was “very social” in her youth and enjoyed her daily walks – but became apprehensive after some “bad experiences” with off-leash and roaming dogs. She also became fearful of new people, which increased after having surgery on her back legs. Eventually, public outings became traumatic for both dog and owner.

“It got to the point where I’d be looking down people’s driveways, worried that a dog would come out and approach us. My anxiety levels were crazy, which Bubbles would pick up on. I ended up resenting other dogs, which was awful.”

Early last year, Selak set up a Facebook group to discuss the possibility of a private dog park with fellow Wairarapa dog lovers – and was staggered by the response.

“I thought, ‘there’s got to be other people in the same boat.’ I set up the group, and about 900 members joined. There was obviously a real need.”

Selak was later able to secure some land on a family-owned property on Norfolk Rd, and began “scouting around” for play equipment and outdoor furniture. Most items were sourced from TradeMe or Facebook Marketplace – including agility jumps and seesaws, dog waste bins, water stations, and toys.

She and her partner also constructed a small play area, comprised of old tyres, wooden spools, plywood planks, and a small bridge.

“Some people we knew were throwing away their old tyres, so they were happy to give them to us. We did all the landscaping ourselves, and a lot of DIY – lots of screwing plywood together.”

More challenging to organise was fencing around the perimeter – due to companies facing high workloads and supply chain issues following covid-19. “It was slow-going, but we got there eventually.”

Selak said the park has been visited by “a wide range” of dogs so far.

“We’ve had some dogs that are usually friendly, but feel more secure in a quieter space. Some dogs are more likely to run off if they’re not in a fenced area. Others have some behavioural issues from abuse in their past.

“We get all types – little fluffy dogs, Rottweilers, huskies, the works.”

To book a space at Wagspot Private Dog Park, go to wagspot.co.nz. Entry is $15 for 30 minutes, or $25 for an hour. Visitors receive a code for the gate after booking. More information is also available on the park’s Facebook page.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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