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.

Director of Content and Operations

Spencer McKee manages the OutThere Colorado digital publication as the Director of Content and Operations. In his spare time, Spencer loves to rock climb, trail run, and mountain bike. Follow along with his adventures on Instagram at @spence.outside


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(5) comments


Finally, someone who understands the perils of not using a leash in the mountains! For sure one of the most overlooked safety issues of our time. And during a pandemic, it's just plain selfish to leave the house without a leash. If the governor was aware of this critical issue, I'm confident he'd impose a leash mandate for all hikers in the state, and for their dogs as well. Multiple studies found that leashed hikers have a much higher survival rate. Follow the science, for a safer Colorado!


This article isn't honest. The leash rules aren't about anything other than easily frightened people who don't like dogs, and who file endless complaints.. Nobody behind these rules cares that your dog could be attacked a predator or fall down a mine shaft. These events are so rare, they should not be used to justify sweeping legislation that affects all dogs and their owners on all trails. For example, trails that go over old mining areas could be leash areas, but there is no reason ALL trails in Colorado should be closed to dogs off leash. I have routinely taken my dogs to an off-lease dog park for years - literally scores of dogs have a fine time together every day and I've yet to see one fight, nor have I seen anyone bitten. I can find no cases online of predator attacks on dogs on trails in the past 5 years (and just a few before then - very rare) and I doubt it is lack of reporting. I HAVE seen many reports of people whose dogs have been attacked in their own yards, though. This is mostly letting dogs wander neighborhoods unleashed - which I don't condone. Dogs should always be with their owners if outside and off-leash. I have seen reports online of joggers being attacked by big cats and bears - far more frequently than any related to dogs being attacked. Do we legislate against jogging or put joggers on leashes? They could be hurt after all - fall down a mine shaft or get attacked by a predator! It is an owner's responsibility to keep their dogs close - a pack of coyotes won't attack a dog walking with an owner, nor will any other creature - bear or even big cat. Moose can be a problem in the backwoods, but again, they are more dangerous to the hiker than the dog. Say a bear attacks - the hiker is probably at a higher risk than the dog I keep my dogs leashed because it is the law (and I've always cleaned up after them), but I don't support these laws. Dogs don't just go up to people and bite them. I've seen bicyclists with sticks hitting dogs who aren't even bothering them, but just on the trail as they've passed. Lots of arrogance at work. I've also had bikers nearly run me, on foot, off the trail, once knocking me over. Do we legislate against bikes now, and put the bikers on leashes? I'm tired of being pushed of the trails by them. 99% of the dogs I've met on trails are just fine, and the other 1% can be avoided by voice control. Is it really the dogs that are a problem? Or is it whiny and entitled people? Asking for millions of good dogs.


Here's why you should stop posting clickbait titles:

1. It's degrading to regular readers.

2. I was going to read the article anyways.

3. Great way to get people to stop reading your article.


Thats funny. I dont think you inow what clickbait is. The articles is titled exactly what is is. Nothing misleading whatsoever.....


Thank you for posting this! And dog owners please clean up after your dog and take your poop bags with you

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