Some dogs need some quality leash time

Taking advantage of a warm January day, my daughter and I picked up my granddogs and daughter-in-law for an afternoon outing. The three dogs rushed out the door to greet us, intuitively aware of a pending adventure. Due to the short days and the kids’ work schedules, outside exercise time has been sorely reduced for the trio. They demonstrated their pent-up energy with endless tail wagging when they were told to “load up” in the truck. 

We chose Riverbend Park in Palisade due to its close proximity. Pulling into the parking lot midday on Thursday, I was amazed at the number of vehicles in both parking areas. The park is located along the Colorado River just southwest of downtown Palisade. Nestled among tall cottonwood trees interspersed along a wide concrete path, the park welcomes all visitors, both two- and four-legged.

There were groups of folks meandering along the paved pathway, many accompanied by their dogs, enjoying the warm afternoon sun. A disc golf course runs parallel with the trail and winds several miles downriver. We chose to route the dogs toward the other side of the disc golf course along the canal road, offering a more secluded area for the dogs to run off leash. While the granddogs are well disciplined with voice commands, awareness of other wandering canines who are not as controllable is always paramount when venturing outdoors.

Not only was the outing good for the dogs, it was also extremely pleasant for us to get out and enjoy the warm afternoon. Basking in the serene setting of this jewel on the river, we launched into a discussion about the truly amazing beauty we have all around us here in our western Colorado backyard. Watching the dogs running around and exploring smells, we laughed at their secret game of chase. As we reminisced on nearby hiking trails we visited this past year, my daughter-in-law commented on how nice it was to have the four-legged kids accompany us. 

Most local, state, and federal parks encourage pet owners to include their four-legged friends when making plans to visit their open spaces. However, there are some exceptions, particularly in national parks, which prohibit dogs in certain areas. For instance, nps.gov states that dogs are not allowed on any hiking or backcountry trails within the Colorado National Monument. They are allowed in the park, though, walking on paved roads and in developed campground areas but must be leashed at all times when outside of the vehicle. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife encourages pet owners to get out and explore the vast open areas of this great state, but dogs must be on a leash at all times in most areas. The website at cpw.state.co.us explains the valid stance on their strict leash law policy in an article titled “Why Dogs on Leash.” On the other hand, national forest guidelines found at fs.usda.gov state, “Dogs must be on a six-foot leash at all times when in developed recreation areas and on interpretive trails, but there are no leash requirements in the general forest.” Likewise, Bureau of Land Management lands require dogs to be leashed in campgrounds and developed areas but they may be off leash in the backcountry. All agencies recommend learning more about your destination by checking out their websites before visiting with your pet.

The chance encounter with other people, dogs or even wild animals is fairly good on any outdoor trek in our backyard playgrounds. For many folks, the notion of taking the dogs on an outing is to provide them with the opportunity to run off leash. While I completely advocate allowing dogs to run, problems often arise when people are unable to control their pet with voice or hand commands. Be respectful of others by keeping a close eye on your roaming pet. If your dog does not adhere to directives given through voice or hand instruction — on the first cue — then I recommend spending some quality time with your dog “on leash” teaching them to better understand your communiqué. 

Charlé Thibodeau has been a passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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