Despite snowy conditions, Colorado dog owners tend to remain very active during the winter months. Owners should be aware that their dogs should be kept on leashes unless they are trained to stay near by, to prevent them from disturbing area wildlife. Dogs chasing wildlife is not only illegal, it can be dangerous. When a wild animal is chased by a dog they are subjected to unnecessary stress and often lose essential calories which may result in their death. Keeping your dog on a leash may also protect their best interests as well. Numerous dogs are lost in the mountains every year, after they run off, and their owners are not able to keep up. Additional tips to keep your dog and native wildlife safe while you’re out hiking in the Colorado forest are available below.
- Understand that off-leash work is equivalent to a graduate degree. You cannot expect your high-school level dog to suddenly become a PhD when you unhook its leash on a tempting mountain trail. Getting that PhD requires education and tons of recall practice in your home, yard and elsewhere.
- Accept that dogs are like us in this important way: they seek to avoid pain and gain pleasure. If you punish your dog for returning to you, why should he do it again? If you motivate your dog (think delicious meat or cheese training treats-dry dog biscuits are boring and insufficient) to stay close to you, you are well ahead of the game.
- One way to motivate your dog to stay close by is to “leak chicken.” This means you go outside with your dog (on a loose leash at first) and you don’t talk to her but you quickly bend down and—oops—drop pieces of chicken every few steps. Try this for five days in your backyard and watch how “sticky” your dog becomes.
- We say in dog training: “you get what you reinforce.” I encourage (beg, actually) owners to reinforce EVERY TIME your dog visually “checks in” with you on a walk. They look back at you and when they do: jack pot! Reward with smiling, petting, and some of that chicken you haven’t yet leaked. This is the beginning of a reliable recall.
- Put bear bells on your dog, even if you aren’t concerned about a bear being in the area. It alerts wildlife to your dog’s presence and it gives you an indication of where your dog is. Don’t allow those bells to get out of hearing.