Go: Guidelines to follow when cycling with your dog in Colorado | PostIndependent.com

Go: Guidelines to follow when cycling with your dog in Colorado

Sarah Mah Withers
Special to the Post Independent
Jenn Winkler and Handsome Jake ride together on Grand Valley singletrack.
Sarah Mah Withers |

Dogs are great, and good trail dogs are wonderful companions. But there are some considerations you must take when taking your dog out on a ride; many of them have to do with health and safety, while others relate to being a good trail user.


First of all, you need consider the health of your pooch where long-distance exercise is concerned. If your dog is ill, it’s pretty much a no-brainer (don’t take it on the trail), but younger dogs and elderly dogs may need to be left at home, too. Older dogs that are not accustomed to running trails run the risk of over doing it and injuring themselves. Likewise, younger dogs have limitations. Until a dog is mature, high mileage can also do permanent damage to the joints. Many veterinarians recommend waiting until a dog is a full 1 years old before running it on trails. Regardless, it is very important to consider the fitness of your dog; remember, they won’t tell you that their “off the couch” fitness can’t keep up with you, and they will kill themselves to stay with you.

In conjunction with the health of your dog, choose trails wisely. High-speed trails are fun, but may not be the best option for your dog. Fast running on trails increases the likelihood of torn paw pads and exhaustion. Rocky trails might call for booties for the paws, especially if your dog is used to loamy forest soil and you plan on hitting the rocky ledges and slick rock of the desert.


Outside of dog health, there are other safety concerns cyclists should consider when trail riding with man’s best friend, like hydration and pad wear. Make sure you have enough water for your dog, especially if you are riding in an arid climate where there will be no water on the trails. That means filling up that hydration pack a little heavier, so your pooch isn’t left high and dry.

When it comes to pad wear, it’s best to start a dog out with short rides to build up the thickness of their paw pads. A ripped pad may mean carrying your canine buddy out. Also, there are plenty of options for booties that can be a paw saver on harsh trail surfaces.

One last favor for your dog would be to factor in the temperatures. Dogs aren’t made to run in high temperatures, and it would be wise to let your black lab rest when the mercury creeps over 85 degrees. Early morning rides or evening rides might be the best option. There are evaporative jackets for dogs that act as a “swamp cooler” of sorts for the animal, but it is wise to keep tabs on your dog’s sensitivity to heat.


Finally, part of having a trail dog is being a good dog owner. Check the regulations pertaining to dogs, if there is a leash law, it’s probably not the place to take your dog for a trail ride. If the area allows dogs off-leash on the trails, then you are good to go!

Your dog should be under voice command at all times and be trained to stay with you, not approach other trail users, and it absolutely should not harass livestock or wildlife. It is within a rancher’s rights to shoot on site any animal that is deemed a threat to his livestock; that includes your dog. Rangers are also given the authority to shoot dogs that harass wildlife. Please, keep your dog under control around other animals.

And last but not least, scoop the poop!

Sarah Mah Withers, co-owner of Desert Rat Tours, guides private mountain-bike groups in Fruita, Grand Junction, Palisade and Moab. She is also an artist and photographer in Grand Junction and she loves the outdoors. Contact her at sarah@desertrattours.com. For more information, visit http://www.desertrattours.com or find Desert Rat Tours on Facebook.

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