Colorado State Researchers Study Dog-Related Conflicts in Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks

Colorado State University researchers recently completed a study about dog-related conflicts and management strategies for the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, or OSMP. Study results reveal that the OSMP is taking the proper actions to help reduce dog-related conflict in open space areas.

The study was conducted by Jerry Vaske and Maureen Donnelly, professors in Colorado State’s Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. The results revealed that the most common dog-related problems were owners not picking up after their dogs, dogs chasing wildlife, dogs jumping and pawing on visitors and dogs flushing birds.

More than half of the respondents from the study, 57 percent, said that owners not picking up after their dogs was an "extreme problem" making it the biggest problem revealed by the study. Ninety-one percent said the issue was at least "slightly problematic."

At most of the trails managed by OSMP, dogs are required to be under voice and sight control if the owners let them off-leash. Dog owners watch a video and sign a form before their dogs can receive a voice and sight control tag from OSMP.

"OSMP does have some human/dog related problems to address, but their Voice and Sight Tag Program had just been implemented at the time our data were collected. Given time, the program should raise visitors’ awareness of the problems. Hopefully, more people will take responsibility for picking up after their dogs. The major problem is created by humans, not the dogs," Vaske said.

The study was based on 951 surveys collected during the summer of 2006. Researchers asked individuals to rate 11 specific behaviors on how much of a problem each behavior was for them. Thirty-five percent said that dogs causing wildlife to flee and dogs jumping on visitors were "extreme problems" but both behaviors were not observed by participants on a regular basis. Dogs wandering off the trail was considered a "slight to extreme problem" by 47 percent.

There were few differences between dog owners and non-dog owners in their beliefs about the problems. Both types of visitors rated the problems in the same way.

"We also found that how regularly visitors walked their dogs at OSMP was not related to the visitors’ conflict ratings," Donnelly said.

Vaske and Donnelly agree that OSMP should continue the Voice and Site Tag Program.

"The program is clearly a step in the right direction for minimizing people conflicts with dog behavior. OSMP is aware of the problems and is trying to correct them in a rational way," Vaske said.

To view the entire study, visit