Photo therapy: Spring scene reminiscent of winter

Deirdre Devlin walks her dog Yogi on a snowy Tuesday earlier this year at Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs. The iconic area spans 1,474 acres and is a popular spot for day hikes, mountain biking and bird watching. (Chancey Bush, The Gazette)

It’s hard to beat having a canine companion by your side for your favorite outdoor recreation activity. However, if you’re out on Colorado’s trails with the pup, it’s important to follow a few important rules to keep the experience safe and fun.

1. Pick up your dog’s poop

Wild animals might be leaving their poop trailside, but that doesn’t mean your dog’s feces should meet the same fate. Leaving your pet’s poop behind for nature to take care of can introduce all sorts of non-native bacteria and other things to the ecosystem. Plus, it’s nasty and stinks up the trail for other hikes.

2. Don’t leave your filled poop bags behind

Now that you’ve picked up your dog’s poop, remember that you also need to bring the poop bag with you. Many hikers seem to forget this, likely operating under the assumption that they’ll remember to snag the bag on their return trip. However, judging by the number of filled poop bags often seen on the trail, many hikers are a bit forgetful. Don’t leave it behind, pack it with you immediately instead.

Pro tip: Bring a larger zip-lock bag for your filled poop bags to help prevent bad smells from lingering. This is great for longer hikes.

3. Follow the posted leash laws

Leash laws exist for a number of reasons and following them could save your dog’s life. If a leash law is required, it might be to protect nesting wildlife. It might be due to a hazard such as a poisonous plant or an unseen cliff drop. It might be to protect other dogs on a crowded trail. Keep your dog on a leash if you’re told to and use a leash that allows you to maintain control of your animal.

Remember, just because your dog is well-trained and well-behaved, other dogs they might encounter may not be. Help prevent a nasty situation by following the rules.

4. Don’t harass the wildlife

Don’t let your dog bark at, chase, or threaten wild animals you might encounter on the trail. Not only is this illegal, it’s also very bad for the wild animals. It’s stressful and can lead to death in some cases.

5. Keep off the grass and out of the water, when asked

If there’s a sign posted requesting that you keep your dog off of a certain terrain feature or out of a certain water source, there’s probably a good reason for that. Whether it might be due to a dangerous pesticide that was recently applied or the presence of a deadly algae, a number of concerns can prompt these warnings. For the safety of your pet, please follow the posted rules.

6. Yield the right-of-way

A lot of different people head to Colorado’s trails for outdoor recreation, including runners, bikers and hikers. If you’re got a dog on a leash, yield the right-of-way to passersby. Make sure your dog and the leash aren’t in the way of someone else and when possible and responsible, step slightly off the trail to allow for safe passing.

7. Know your pup

If you pup isn’t good on the trail, it might be best to leave your dog at home. Some dogs deal with anxiety and aggression that might prevent them from being safe to bring around other animals. Out of respect for other dog owners, be aware if this is you and act accordingly.

Pro tip: If you’re unsure how your dog might act around other animals, take them to a very controlled social setting first and keep them on a leash. A muzzle should also be considered if you’re unsure of how your dog will behave.

Spencer McKee manages the OutThere Colorado digital publication as the Director of Content and Operations. He also writes about outdoor recreation, travel news, and more. In his spare time, he loves to rock climb, trail run, and mountain bike.

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