Safe Off-Leash Hiking with Your Dog

Blue sky, sunshine, your much-loved dog and a new trail – off-leash hiking is one of the joys of Colorado living and especially easy in this state.

With more than 75 off-leash dog parks, open spaces and trails, Colorado is very dog-friendly, and you’ll probably meet people and dogs on your hike. Not to mention sights and scents your dog finds so exciting.

Which brings up the most important off-leash command for safety: “Come!”

  • Responding instantly to “Come!” protects your dog from cliffs, rivers, skunks, porcupines and more, or from getting lost chasing squirrels and rabbits.
  • “Come” (like “Leave it!”) keeps your dog from decaying creature remains and it protects deer and elk from your dog.
  • “Come!” also works meeting dogs on the trail, along with the tips below.
  • Keep “Come!” for urgent situations. When you can, substitute playful, happy, excited commands, even clapping your hands — “Hey, Max! Look here! Look at this! Let’s go!”

Off-Leash Hiking Tips

First, the basics: What’s the weather? Is your dog in shape?  Do you each have the right gear? Enough water, food and high-value doggie (and human) treats? Enough poop bags (to carry out)? Do you know the trail’s features –how steep, rocky, long, twisting? Off-leash or on-leash?

Off- or on-leash trail rules don’t mean people follow or agree with them. Know trail rules thoroughly and be prepared to help other hikers manage their dogs:

  • Know dog body language – aggressive, fearful or friendly?
  • Keep the leash on you at all times in an easily-accessed place.
  • Avoid risk. Watch for dogs and people, especially families. When you see them, take another route, if possible.
  • Give right of way. Be the first to step to the trailside.
  • Leash your dog, or hold it by the collar, or pick your dog up.
  • Respect that some hikers don’t want to interact.
  • Carry a small, inexpensive air horn. Loud noises catch a dog’s attention. (Get your dog comfortable with the sound first.)
  • Carry emergency citronella spray.

If another dog approaches:

  • Assess body language, for instance: are its hackles raised? Tail stiff or loosely wagging? Relaxed ears? Body tense or loose; eyes soft or set and staring?
  • Keep calm. Focus on your dog. The first few seconds give you a chance to assess what you can do quickly.
  • Say “NO” in a loud, confident voice. Or use the air horn.
  • Call out for the dog’s owner to take control of it.
  • Do not grab the other dog’s collar! The safest, quickest way to get fighting dogs apart is with citronella spray. Most bites happen because owners try to break up dog fights.

Prepare for anything and you’ll be ready for a safe and happy hike.

If you’d like to refresh your dog’s response to “Come!” and other commands, just let us know, we’re happy to help! Call us at 888-363-0946 or send an email to [email protected]

Pin this article to always have quick and easy access to whenever you are about to go on a hike with your dog!


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