Dog-Friendly Guide to Denver, CO

denver skyline

Population: 705,576
Off-leash dog parks: 12
Accommodation: 117
Restaurants, pubs, & cafes: 248
Most popular dog breed: Australian Cattle Dog


If you’ve ever visited Denver, then you know the beautiful views of the mountains the city offers, and you likely noticed tons of people out walking their dogs. Denverites love their dogs and they love to take them everywhere with them. Even without the drive out to the mountains, there are plenty of hiking, biking, and walking trails in and around Denver that allow dogs. There are lots of restaurants, bars, and retail businesses that allow dogs as well, so you’ll be able to take your dog with you, even if it’s out to dinner.

The most popular dog in Denver is the Australian Cattle Dog, which just goes to show how much the people of Denver love getting out and about with their dogs. A high-energy breed like the ACD requires lots of activity, so you know it didn’t become popular without Denver helping them burn off extra energy.

Labradoodle dog and woman outside at the park
Image Credit: Lopolo, Shutterstock

divider 9

Interesting Facts

  • In 1952, the Denver-Boulder Turnpike opened. Shortly after its opening, the toll workers began seeing a dog around the tolls who would beg for food, so they began feeding him. This dog became known as Shep the Turnpike Dog and he was famous for happily greeting motorists who were passing through the toll booths. Shep was so loved by motorists that many of them would pay extra at the toll so the attendants could get food and treats for Shep. Motorists paid so much extra money that Shep’s needs were all met and the state used the leftover money to pay for the turnpike, paying it off 13 years ahead of schedule.
  • Denver is so dog-friendly that they have one of the highest numbers of dog walkers and pet sitters per capita in the US.
  • One survey showed that 24% of Denver dog owners said they walk their dog nine or more times per week.
  • Some dog-friendly hotels in Denver offer dog beds, food and water bowls, a food and water mat, and a doggy amenity kit to make the hotel stay feel like home for your pup.
  • The Denver Zoo has a pack of African Painted Dogs, the most endangered carnivore in Africa. One of them is named Theodore Roosevelt in honor of the US president who was known for his love of animals and conservation work.

Leash Laws & Licensing

In the city of Denver, it’s illegal for a dog to be off leash except in specifically marked off-leash areas like dog parks and enclosed private properties. Even in off-leash areas, dogs must be under the handler’s control and the handler must be 18 years old or older. Dogs found roaming are impounded by Denver’s animal control and can be claimed at the shelter.

Starting in January 2021, Denver lifted their pit bull ban, but they do still require that pit bulls and any dogs with mainly bully characteristics have to be registered under the city’s Breed Restricted Permit. Obtaining this permit also requires an evaluation by animal control of all bully breed dogs aged 10 months and older. Denver also requires that all dogs over the age of 6 months be spayed or neutered, but a permit can be requested allowing you to keep your pet intact. If the city denies your permit request, you can challenge the denial, but if it is denied a second time then you must get your pet spayed or neutered.

woman strolling with dog in Denver

Living in Denver with a Dog

With the number of dogs living in Denver, finding a vet to see your dog is a breeze. They’re all over the city! If you need a place for your dog to play, you’ll find no shortage of doggy daycares in Denver, and that’s not even mentioning the dog walkers and pet sitters. These are great resources even if you’re just visiting Denver because even in a dog-friendly city, there will be places you can’t take your dog, like grocery stores and many restaurants. You’ll be able to go to those places with no worries knowing someone will be available to care for your pup.

Denver is an urban city, which comes with all the risks with vehicles and stray animals. However, Denver also has a homey feel and was built to retain much of its natural beauty as well. This means that finding activities for your dog to burn off some energy after being at home all day won’t be difficult.

Average Cost of Ownership

Denver prides itself in being one of the lowest costs of pet care in an urban city, and there are low-cost clinics available for low-income households as well. Even still, you’re looking at around $1100 annually to provide the basics for your dog, like food and vaccinations. For intact dogs, the fees start at $15 annually and can also be purchased as a 3-year registration for $40 or as a lifetime registration for $150, but these fees are subject to change at the city’s deciding. Breed Restricted Permits are $25 for the evaluation and $30 annually for 3 years. After that period, the dog can be reevaluated to see if the city still determines they have the characteristics of a restricted breed.

Doggy daycare, pet sitters, and dog walkers all come with their own associated fees that can easily turn into thousands of dollars a year. Denver is home to multiple dog boutiques, which sell products that will likely cost you more than purchasing items from online or big box stores. You can definitely live with your dog in Denver on a budget, though!

Denver Colorado downtown with City Park
Image credit: Andrew Zarivny, Shutterstock

Shelters & Rescue Centers

Denver’s public animal shelter always has dogs available for adoption. Some of them may be classified as restricted breeds, which means the cost of adopting them will be higher since the additional permit applies. It may take a few days after applying for an animal to get an answer on whether you’re approved or not due to the volume of animals they handle. The good news is that there are multiple rescues in the Denver area as well, so you have options outside of the public shelter. The MaxFund and the Dumb Friends League are both no-kill nonprofits in the Denver area. It is possible to set up an appointment and get a same-day dog adoption through all of these resources.

Divider 3


Denver is a fun city that’s perfect for dog lovers and dogs alike. There’s never a shortage of activities to get into and you’re sure to find other dog enthusiasts in the area. With multiple off-leash dog parks, hiking and walking trails in and around the city, and tons of doggy boutiques, neither of you will ever be bored. Denver is a great place to visit or move to, so regardless of what you’re looking for, you’re bound to find it in Denver.

thematic break

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay