Dr. D’s Tips For Hiking With Your Dog in Colorado

Oh, how I love the summer in Colorado!  Every year I can’t wait to strap on my hiking shoes, grab my pack, and hit one of the many amazing trails along the Front Range.  And more often than not, I took along my best hiking buddy – my dog.

Because hiking with your dog is one of the greatest pleasures of living along the Front Range of Colorado (there are so many great dog-friendly trails!), I put together a list of tips for you so that you and your pooch can have the best experience.

(And so can all the other trail users…)


Backpacking with Dogs


1.  Make sure your dog is in good health.  Consider getting your dog an exam to make sure they are fit for some serious exercise.  If they are elderly, definitely have them examined by your veterinarian for any joint or limb pain before you start hiking with them.

2.  Don’t be a weekend warrior.  If you and your dog aren’t getting any exercise during the week, it’s not a good idea to jump into a 4-hour hike on Saturday.  You’ll both regret it.  Start building up your dog’s endurance with walks, runs, or fetch sessions during the week.  Increase the time and intensity gradually.  You should also gradually increase the intensity of your hikes over time.

3.  Strengthen your dog’s recall response.  Many trails in Boulder County allow your dog to be off leash if they wear a Voice and Sight tag.  If you participate in the program, make sure your dog has practiced and can recall immediately when you signal them.

4.  Bring plenty of water and snacks.  Not just for you.  Hiking burns a ton of calories, and it’s easy to get dehydrated quickly.  Make sure you have some good, energy-replenishing snacks for your pup.

(4a.  Do you know the signs of heat exhaustion?  I had a park ranger in Boulder tell me once that they see tons of dogs with heat stroke, and they wished more people knew how to spot the signs.  Learn all about it in this article!)

5.  Know your dog’s abilities.  Don’t take him on a hike that’s too strenuous for his level of endurance.  He’ll end up with an injury that will put him on bed rest.  If it’s a hot day, pick an easier hike (like one that ends at a pond), or just let them stay home.  Remember, a dog’s paws are more sensitive to hot sand and rocky trails, and they can easily end up with burns.  That would certainly put a damper on your summertime adventures.


Dog Hiking on Trail


6.  You and your pooch are ambassadors for ALL hikers with dogs.  Be the best at hiker/dog etiquette:

  • Pack it out!  You know what I mean.
  • Obey posted signs regarding leash laws.
  • Yield the trail to other hikers and trail users.  When someone is passing, leash up your dog and hold them next to your side.  Say a friendly hello to the people passing so that your dog knows they are not a threat.
  • Don’t assume that everyone you see is a dog lover.  Some folks might find your exuberant, friendly pooch rather intimidating.  Recall your dog, and keep them by your side.
  • If you see another dog approaching, leash your dog.  It is easier to control the situation if at least your dog is on a leash.  Be familiar with dog body language so that you can avoid an undesirable situation with another dog.  And don’t be afraid to ask the other dog’s owner to leash their dog if necessary.
  • Don’t let your dog chase or approach wildlife.  The trail is their home, after all.

7.  After the hike, inspect your dog.  Check all four paws for injury or soreness.  Check their coat and skin for any ticks, thorns, or burrs.  Make sure they are hydrated and not over-heated.  And if they are sore the next day, give them a rest and don’t let them push so hard the next time.

8.  Above all, have fun!  Take your time, stop and smell the smells, listen to the sounds of nature, and enjoy being in the great outdoors with your best friend!


GrayTorrey 2011 summit


Need to schedule a pre-hiking exam for your pooch?  Give Dr. D a call!

Breaking News: Plague confirmed in Boulder, CO

How worried should you be about the recent confirmation of plague in Boulder?


Here’s the bottom line:  Plague has actually been active in areas of Boulder (as well as neighboring areas) every year since 2005.  If you take precautions, and know the disease symptoms to look for, then you don’t have much to worry about.  Luckily, Dr. D is here to help you!

Plague in our area is mainly spread via fleas.  It is commonly attributed to the prairie dogs, because they seem to be the most visibly and commonly affected, but fleas are the organisms you and your pets want to avoid.  This, in turn, means avoiding rodents, including squirrels.

Most folks in Colorado aren’t in the habit of using flea prevention medications since fleas aren’t a huge problem here like they are in other states.  However, it’s smart to apply a topical flea medication on your dogs if you take them hiking or walking near open spaces.  Also, take extra care to keep your dog on a leash and away from wildlife, wildlife burrows, and dead or sick animals.

Keep your dog away from wildlife and wildlife burrows.

Keep your dog away from wildlife and wildlife burrows.

I think it goes without saying that YOU should also not touch any sick or dead animals, and maybe tuck your pants into your socks while hiking in areas where plague has been confirmed.  Plague can be spread to you, as well as your pets.

If your cat is allowed outdoors to roam anywhere along the front range, a topical flea medication will be important for them as well. Outdoor cats are more likely to hunt and kill rodents, and therefore will be exposed to more fleas.  All the suspected cases of plague that I have personally encountered have been among cats allowed outdoors in Colorado.

The signs of plague most commonly include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.


If you notice these symptoms in your pets or humans, contact your veterinarian or medical provider right away.  This disease can be treated with antibiotics, but it is important to start them as soon as possible.

You and your dogs don’t need to stop hiking for the rest of the season just because plague has been confirmed.  You don’t have to lock your kitty indoors for the rest of her life.  Just be smart and take these few precautions, and continue to enjoy our beautiful open spaces!

Go enjoy the outdoors after you've taken some precautions to prevent the spread of plague.

Go enjoy the outdoors after you’ve taken some precautions to prevent the spread of plague.


If you have more questions, contact Dr. D.

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