With leash laws strictly enforced these days in most cities and counties, it can be difficult to find a place to train, exercise and swim your high-energy hunting dog during the off season. And anyone who has trained a dog for upland or waterfowl hunting knows that keeping a hunting dog fine-tuned is a year-round endeavor.
Located in Littleton, Chatfield’s DOLA features 69 acres of grassy fields, unimproved prairie and a variety of well-maintained trails. The diverse terrain also includes two large-sized ponds — perfect for practicing water retrieves with a Chesapeake or Labrador retriever. Cherry Creek’s DOLA, located just south of Denver, offers a vast 107 acres of short-grass prairie for upland field work and provides creek access in multiple locations.
In addition to the DOLAs (which are open to everyone), both parks have Sport-Dog Training Areas designated for training bird dogs. Here, you can work with your retriever or pointer on marking drills and blind retrieves without worrying about other dogs running off with your retrieving dummies. Chatfield’s Sport-Dog Training Area includes eight acres of flatwater and 16 acres of upland terrain. Cherry Creek has 30 acres of unimproved prairie for upland work but does not provide water access. Dog-training pistols (those incapable of firing live rounds) are permitted at both parks under special restrictions. Access and days/hours of availability vary at both locations.
Dog trainers may access the Sport-Dog Training Areas by applying for a special activity permit (no fee) and purchasing a DOLA annual pass ($20). Special activity permits are valid from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. A valid state parks pass also is required to enter both parks.
Because of their proximately to Denver, both locations can get crowded on weekends — picture Disneyland for dogs. For the best opportunity to train with minimal distractions from Goofy and Pluto, bring your bird dog on weekdays. Visiting the DOLAs on a Saturday or Sunday, however, is a great opportunity to socialize your dog to ensure he/she plays well with others before the start of the fall hunting seasons. Your dog will love romping with other dogs in an open, off-leash setting and, best of all, you’ll be thrilled to trade that rambunctious retriever for a completely worn-out pup by the time you return home.
View the photo slideshow below to see dogs in action at Chatfield’s DOLA. Photos by Jerry Neal/CPW.