Woman and Dog Hiking Along Ridge with Stunning Mountain Views

A woman hikes with a dog off-leash. Photo Credit: Adventure_Photo (iStock)

Hiking trail leash laws seem to be some of the most obviously ignored rules in Colorado. While Fido might seem to enjoy leaping through the wild without a restraint, this poses a number of risks to your pet, the environment, and other people on the trail.

Here's a list of reasons why you should keep your dog leashed on a hiking trail:

1. To protect your animal from predators

Sure, your poodle might be a descendant of the mighty wolf, but allowing them to travel the trail off-leash in a natural space still poses a number of threats. One major threat is that domesticated animals often tend to be targeted by predators.

Groups of coyotes pose a major threat to Colorado's dogs, often brazen enough to attack in relatively populated areas and often not fazed by a dog's size. While coyotes have been known to attack leashed dogs, keeping them close to you can act as a good deterrent. This also helps you avoid the risk of your dog triggering a predator while off-leash before fleeing to you with the predator behind in tow.

2. To protect your animal from trail hazards

Multiple times a year I find myself writing a story about a dog rescue that could have been avoid entirely had the animal simply been kept on a leash in a dangerous situation. This begs the question – how many dogs die due to trail hazards, but simply aren't covered in the media?

Colorado's natural space poses a number of risks, from hidden mine shafts to raging rivers to massive cliff-drops, and beyond. Keeping your dog on leash helps keep them away from these hazards that they may not fully understand with their canine brain.

3. For the safety of other hikers

While every hiker seems to think their dog "isn't aggressive," exploring a new trail can sometimes result in a dog displaying uncharacteristic behaviors, especially if they encounter a new situation that makes them feel threatened. When an unleashed dog on the trail displays aggressive or overly excited behavior, many hikers perceive this as a danger and respond accordingly, sometimes even shooting dogs that are off-leash.

If your dog is off-leash, they'll also be likely to go off-trail. On some of Colorado's terrain, this can pose a major rockslide risk that can seriously injury or kill you or other hikers.

4. For the safety of wildlife

If a dog spots wildlife, there's a good chance they'll want to chase it. When this happens, it stresses out an animal, something that can lead to death in itself. Keep your dog on a leash to prevent interactions that may result in wildlife being maimed or killed.

5. To preserve the local ecosystem

Because dogs aren't eating a diet that's made up of what's found within an ecosystem, their feces poses the risk of introducing foreign bacteria and germs to an area. An off-leash dog is more likely to poop in an area where it's unsafe or irresponsible to retrieve their feces. However, by leaving it behind, it can introduce things that may harm the local ecosystem.

Introducing off-leash dogs to an area can also cause wildlife to flee for good. Most wildlife is more likely to leave an area if there's an added risk, rather than stay and adapt. When wildlife leaves an area, even a single species, it can impact an entire ecosystem. For example, consider that a local squirrel population may be eating seeds that help keep a certain invasive plant species under control. When the squirrels leave because of the dogs, this invasive species may be able to gain the foothold it needs to spread, limiting native plant life in an area for generations to come.

6. For the sake of other dogs

Your dog might be friendly, but that leashed dog approaching on the trail might not be. While that owner is following the rules, the approach of your unleashed dog may trigger their animal, resulting in a negative experience and possible injury or death.

Yeah, yeah, yeah... they shouldn't have an aggressive dog on the trail in the first place. But they do. And now your dog is in the emergency room fighting for its life because you were unable to pull your animal away. No one wants that.


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