Other animals

We’re The Real Paw Patrol

Our brave pups protect Sydney from public enemy number one - seagulls!
  • Seagulls are no match for crack team of pooches the Seagull Patrol
  • The dogs protect Sydney Opera House and other iconic Sydney areas from pesky gulls
  • Lauren Swan is one of the lucky trainers of the Seagull Patrol. 
  • Beloved by diners and tourists the well trained canines chase away the feathery menaces

Here Lauren Swan, 34 , Sydney, NSW, shares her story in her own words. 

Strolling along the iconic Sydney harbour foreshore, I saw a marauding flock of seagulls swoop down on nearby restaurant tables and pounce on the leftover food.

As they squawked loudly, I tightened my grip on the dog lead in my hand.

‘Ready, set, go,’ I said to Peppa the border collie.

As she bounded up to the table, the seagulls flapped their wings and flew off.

‘Good girl,’ I cheered, giving Peppa a treat.

It was just another brilliant day in the life of a seagull dog patrol handler.

With two lovely pups of my own, Indigo, a chihuahua, and Billy, a terrier mix, I was a life-long dog lover.

So much so, that I’d been walking dogs since I was 17, before landing a job with Mad Dogs & Englishmen dog walkers and trainers in 2017, regularly walking and training people’s dogs.

A year into the job, the owner, James Webb, mentioned a scheme he was working on.

‘The restaurants at the Opera House are having problems with seagulls stealing food and causing breakages,’ he explained.

They’d tried everything from mechanical hawks to sonic deterrents, but nothing had worked.

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Indigo and Billy (Credit: Supplied)

In fact, the seagulls had just sat on the mechanical hawk’s head in defiance.

‘The restaurants have asked if we’d set up a dog patrol,’ James said.

I loved the idea and jumped at the chance to be involved.

We began training working dogs, such as kelpies, to chase the birds. But they also had to be good with people and not try to nibble the food themselves.

We took the dogs down to the Opera House and trained them to chase seagulls on command. We ensured they weren’t jumping up at people and gave them a treat as a reward.

James also trained up his dogs, Tauzer, a red kelpie, and Muffin, a mixed breed.

Knowing my own little Indigo and Billy were more likely to be snatched by a seagull rather than chase the birds away, they had to stay home.

Finally, in 2019, it was time for Peppa’s first shift as a patrol pooch.

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Me with Peppa (Credit: Supplied)

I did my best to anticipate wherever spare food had been left, and guided her to the tables to stop seagulls from swooping in.

As Peppa proudly strutted along the concourse in her Seagull Patrol harness, she was like a canine celebrity.

‘Can I pat her?’ some of the customers asked, lavishing Peppa with attention, which she lapped up.

And if any seagulls tried to nab a cheeky chip off a customer’s plate, she’d warn them off with a bark.

After an hour of hard work, I let Peppa cool off in the water in the harbour before she was back pounding the pavements once more.

When our four-hour shift was up, another working dog took over the patrol, to ensure the restaurants were kept safe between 11am and 7pm every day.

Back home, I couldn’t wait to tell my husband Chaim, 28, all about it.

‘It’s the best job,’ I told him.

‘I can’t believe you get paid to walk around the Opera House,’ he laughed.

I felt so lucky.

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Training Gigi (Credit: Supplied)

Before long, compliments from the restaurants began flooding in.

‘We’ve had so many less customers asking for meal replacements,’ the staff said. ‘And so many less broken glasses.’

Tourists were in awe of the pups, too. ‘I wish you’d come to England and scare away the seagulls there,’ some holiday-makers from the UK said.

Messages began to stream in to our Instagram @maddogsseagullpatrol, from people the world over.

Three years after launching, in 2021, businesses from Cockatoo Island and Barangaroo also asked us to patrol there.

Now we have a total of 28 dogs in the Seagull Patrol – some belong to handlers, while others are volunteered by clients. And we have 14 trained handlers.

After becoming a mum to our son, Elias, in October last year, I’ve taken a step back while on maternity leave, but I know our pooches have the Opera House safely under control.

Those pesky birds are no match for the proud Seagull Patrol.

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Muffin and Tauzer (Credit: Supplied)

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