Follow these tips to romp with your dog out on the trail—and be responsible about it.
Pump Pup Up
The sun’s bright and the trails are calling, but before you head out into the wild with your best friend, make sure that pup is well prepared. Dogs, just like humans, tend to go a little soft during the long winter days. Brush up on obedience training—or contact the Humane Society (humanesociety.org) for classes—as well trail etiquette during hikes near home, and be sure that you and your hound yield to all other oncoming individuals when on the trail. Use short hikes to build stamina, and to reintroduce your pup to a hiking pack if you are planning on using one.
Fit the Pack
If your dog will be carrying a pack on the trail, make sure it fits snugly around his chest, won’t slip or chafe, and that you don’t overload it—best guidelines are a maximum of 25 percent of the dog’s body weight. A handle on top is nice for helping smaller dogs over hazards.
Carry Extra Water
Make sure you have the proper hiking essentials, either in your dog’s pack, and/or your own. Water is a must. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends a minimum of one ounce of water per pound of your dog’s body weight per day. Along with water bottles, you should carry a collapsible water bowl for your pooch (it can serve double duty as a food bowl). A good rule of thumb to remember is that if you are hungry or thirsty, then your dog is, too.
The Doggy Extras
Don’t forget a small first aid kit complete with supplies to deal with a cut paw (antiseptic, bandages and a bootie). Many Colorado trails require a leash, so you should have one with you at all times, especially if your dog is not voice controlled. Anticipate weather changes by having a small jacket if rain or cold are forecast, or a cooling collar on hot days. Lastly make sure you have a large supply of poop bags to bring out your dogs crap, it is good for the environment and follows the Leave No Trace ethos. If you are worried about the smell, toss in a few Ziploc bags to seal it up.
Get Out There
Most hikes in the Front Range are dog friendly. Some of our favorite spots include Golden Gate Canyon State Park (cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/GoldenGateCanyon), with its relatively quiet 35 miles of trails with open meadows, ponderosa pine forests and rock formations. The Palmer Lake Reservoir Trail in Pike National Forest (fs.usda.gov/psicc) dishes out a moderate four-mile long hike to two mountain lakes. The Catamount Trail in Green Mountain Falls (also in Pike National Forest) offers a longer six-mile hike that leads to expansive meadows that fill with wildflowers.