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…)
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.
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!