Great Lakes Sporting & Companion Dog Club

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If you and your fur-friend would like to enjoy some socialisation and perhaps learn a few new kills, Tony Turner, President of the Great Lakes Sporting and Companion Dog Club, may just have the solution for you. A friendly and welcoming club, members also help out regularly in the community …

Hi Tony. What brought you to the Great Lakes area initially, and for how long have you been a “local”?

Hello Jo. As retirement approached, my wife, Irene, and I went searching for our little bit of “paradise”. We explored the NSW coast from Eden to Tweed, and simply fell in love with climate, people and facilities of the Forster/Tuncurry area. We have been residents here for a little over four years.

What’s the history behind the club you established, the Great Lakes Sporting and Companion Dog Club?

I had been involved with dog training – obedience, behavioural and “Dances with Dogs” – for several years, but starting a dog club was not on my retirement bucket-list. Shortly after arriving in the Great Lakes area, I went in search of the local dog club, to no avail.

I approached the then Great Lakes Council and was told there had not been a club in the region for some time. Following discussions with Kerry Simmons (of the Council), I was offered the used of their off-leash dog park at Tuncurry as a training field if I would set up a club that focused on the good behaviour of canines and owners (yes, both); something to which I and the Council were both very committed.

The club arose from these humble beginnings and now has a regular membership of more than 60.

Why did you feel there was a need to establish such a club locally?

Our region has a large number of pet dogs and owners, many needing the opportunity, a safe venue and the training support to better enjoy each other and fit well into the broader community.

The Council, strongly prompted by Ted Bickford (Graffiti Ted), had provided several areas for owner and dog use, including great access to beaches, so, the club was a natural development of what they had started.

How has your club worked with local council/s over the past few years – and how has this teamwork been beneficial to your organisation?

The Council (now the MidCoast Council) has been amazingly supportive over the few years we have been going. Ted and his team maintain the park area, Kerry remains a great connect with the Council, and the Rangers are helpful visitors.

The park is huge, but is on a well-travelled road and has a major cycle path along its perimeter. Dogs could easily escape owners, making the situation potentially very dangerous.

The Council, after careful review of the success stories coming from the Club, budgeted around $20,000 and have provided great fencing, an extra storage shed, more shade gazebos and yes, the very necessary extra poo bag dispensers and bins. They have also added further seating and have plans for more water supply.

I have spent time in many off-leash dog parks around Australia and can attest that the Tuncurry Park is leading the way.

What activities does your club currently participate in regularly?

The Club has two major foci. It provides owners and their fur-kids with a safe and structured training program to develop great citizenship (dog and human) – all done in a fun way! We cover all the standard pet obedience issues in a real social environment.

We even hold a once a month special activities day that might be a beach walk, visits to dog friendly restaurants or simply fun and games like agility or learning tricks to music.

The second string to our bow is “community involvement”. For example, club members and their dogs recently visited and performed at a local nursing home, receiving several follow-up requests from other groups for similar visits. On another vein, the Club recently made a $1,000 cash donation to a local animal rescue organisation.

Where/when do club members regularly meet?

We meet on Tuesday mornings at the Tuncurry Off-leash Park, where we hold classes for both beginners and for those who have gained some experience. We break over the Dec/Jan period because of the heat and huge influx of tourists.

What are some of the issues with dog ownership you commonly see locally … and how keen are you to assist with these issues?

The two most common concerns from owners are – “How do I get my dog to walk without pulling?” and, “How do I get Fido to always come when I call?” The dog owners I meet are usually great people; they simply have not been given the sort of information and knowledge necessary to achieve these goals.   

We cover many other issues, such as waiting, reducing barking, and socialisation (with both dogs and people). It has been wonderful to hear all the great success stories because of the training they experience at the club.

What types of people/dogs would benefit from being a member of your club?

All dog owners and their pets can get something from the club. It is about having dogs fit into their owner’s family, not the other way around. Developing these skills is the first part; consolidating them is the important follow on.

Where can readers find out more info?

Come to the park on a Tuesday morning, Beach St, Tuncurry, between 9 and 11. Contact any of the vets, pet shops or groomers in the area – they all know about us. Alternatively, contact me by phone (0403 640 576) or email

Lots of our members now carry info/contact cards too. It is a friendly environment where likeminded people and their dogs meet and enjoy themselves – come along.

Thanks Tony.

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