It’s every Sydneysider’s worst nightmare: you’ve finally booked a table among the seaside eating elites at Opera Bar or Opera Kitchen, but now your fancy, salt-sprayed dining experience is being interrupted by malicious, dive-bombing seagulls trying to steal your chippies.
Efforts to ward off the common Australian gulls, like covering food en route to tables, using sonic deterrents and even a robotic hawk, have proven futile. Now, they’re bringing out the big guns and inviting Sydney’s doggos to ensure harbourside meals make it to the intended mouths.
Dog training and walking service Mad Dogs and Englishmen have been enlisted to protect dining venues around the Sydney Opera House from the pesky gulls by patrolling the waters edge with their trusty pooches. The pack of adorable bodyguards are the best bird-stalkers and woofers found among their pool of Sydney pups, which they take for strolls around the city (so you may see a familiar fluffy face).
The company founder James Webb says the dogs keep the area seagull-free simply by being their joyful selves.
“Humans will be shooing the birds away with their hands and [the seagulls] will land three metres away at the next table and then just carry on doing what they were doing. But if I walk up to that same seagull with a dog, the seagull will fly away and go sit in the water.”
They initially started with two dogs on duty for double seagull scares which has effectively trained the birds to keep clear, and now one enthusiastic guard pup is sufficient.
The trial has been running throughout January with impressive results. Opera Bar has seen an 80 per cent reduction in the rate of replacing customer’s meals due to seagull intervention, and the formerly bird-wary staff at Opera Kitchen are walking without fear of being swooped and dropping plates.
Webb says a brief pup cuddle when on duty is certainly acceptable, but don’t be offended if you get snubbed – the dogs are very dedicated to their jobs.
“If they’re having a pat and I say ‘come on, let’s get a seagull’, they’ll stop what they’re doing and go for the seagull. It’s not really distracting from their work, because their favourite thing to do is to chase the birds.”
You can find the very good birdy boys and girls on lookout from noon-4pm every day until the trial concludes on January 31, and while it's yet to be confirmed, Webb is anticipating a permanent roster of woofers at the Sydney Opera House.
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