Sydney Toilet training is no longer confined to children. For Sydney's growing cohort of dog owners, scooping the poop is an everyday chore - especially if they want to take man's best friend for a walk in the local park. Inner-city parks are now equipped with special bag-dispensing machines. Dog owners who fail to comply face stiff penalties. 'Poo patrolling' is just one of the many restrictions imposed on Sydney dog owners. Most of the city's beauty spots - beaches, national parks and harbour foreshores - have been closed to canines, however small and cuddly. And unlike their European counterparts, Sydney's pampered pooches are not permitted to sit at restaurant tables, use public transport (guide dogs excepted, of course) or occupy their own airline seat while flying to some exotic, dog-friendly holiday retreat. Like the city's beleaguered smokers, dog owners often complain that they - and their furry friends - are being marginalised, even ostracised, as Sydney becomes more congested, oblivious to rules and generally more intolerant. No wonder then they have been howling with delight at the news that the City of Sydney - the council responsible for much of the inner-city and Central Business District - plans to ease restrictions on where, when and how dogs can be exercised in public. Under proposals unveiled by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, the number of dog-friendly parks and foreshore areas in Sydney will increase from 21 to 50, dog curfews will be removed and (even better, according to the canine community) owners will be allowed to walk their dogs without a leash. There are 15,000 dogs and cats registered in the City of Sydney. 'Additional off-leash areas for exercising and socialising dogs are particularly important in the city where people tend to live in apartments and terrace houses with limited open space,' said Ms Moore, arguing that such reforms should help stem complaints about barking dogs since a well-walked dog was a happy dog. The proposal, open for public submission, has also been welcomed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the country's peak animal welfare organisation, which sees benefits for animals with two or four legs. 'Social interaction is important for dogs' physical and social development,' a spokesman said. Dog owners, meanwhile, are salivating at the prospect of being able to let their pets run loose in the park. Justin Demovic, who lives in the suburb of Glebe, said his dog, Mia, would love to exercise without the restrictions. 'She hates being on a lead,' he said. Owners like Mr Demovic, who visits the park twice a day, are particularly looking forward to walking their dogs throughout the day, rather than just in the early mornings and evening hours. Sydney's non-dog fraternity, however, is not entirely happy about Ms Moore's proposals, which follow a spate of vicious attacks by dogs in and around Sydney. Last year a woman in Newcastle was bitten on the face by her Staffordshire bull terrier, and a retiree, 61, was bitten to death by 11 dogs in the backyard of her property near Windsor. Redfern resident Gina Fairley voices the concerns of many Sydneysiders who worry that the City of Sydney is giving preferential treatment to dogs at the expense of other park users. 'Our public parks are shared zones,' she said. 'The concern is that they will no longer really be a shared zone and that the priority will be given to animals over the pedestrians, the elderly and children.' Ms Fairley recently witnessed a dog snatch food from the mouth of a child at a picnic in Rushcutters Bay. 'The four- year-old was quite traumatised,' she said. Instead of apologising, the owner accused the girl's mother of feeding his dog chicken bones, which could get caught in its throat. Authorities are trying to calm such fears by promising to come down hard on dog owners who do not keep control of their pets. But trusting dog owners to police themselves is a risky proposition. Two bull mastiffs were recently seen defecating on a playing field, an area off limits to animals. When shown the No Dogs Allowed signs around the ground, the owner indignantly responded: 'Well, rules are supposed to be broken, aren't they?'