Dog fun at the Whitewater Park

When the city of Fort Collins opened the Poudre River Whitewater Park in October 2019, they created a safe and easy way for people to enjoy some fun in the cool running river water, practically in the heart of downtown. And great news for pet owners, dogs are allowed on leash!

With the proper equipment, the whitewater park can be the perfect, easy-access place to introduce your pup to playing in a river and swimming in a current. Here are some tips on how to get started and what you’ll need.

  • Pet flotation vest

    A life vest is imperative if you plan to allow your dog to wander into deeper water and strong currents or play fetch in the river. There are several different brands available, and ensuring the proper fit is key. The best flotation will also keep your dog’s hind end somewhat afloat, maintaining a less fatiguing swimming position. Handles on the top of the jacket are critically important to enable you to safely lift them out of the water if they need help exiting the river. Watch our video on how to properly fit a life vest on your dog and play safely at the whitewater park.

  • Floating rope lead

    A long lead that floats on the surface of the water is especially important for river play. The rope will tether you to your dog so you can pull them safely back to the shore if the river current overpowers them or they become fatigued. The rope needs to be designed to float so it doesn’t sink below the surface and become caught on rocks or tangled in tree roots.

  • Toys that float

    Lots of types of balls, flying discs or floating bumpers, like Ruffwear’s Lunker, make excellent water toys. However, if your dog has never played fetch in water, especially a moving body of water, you will want to first get them accustomed to it in a pond or lake. Be prepared to lose a few balls unless you’re willing to get wet and retrieve some toys yourself, or tie a rope to the end of a bumper toy so you can reel it back in if it gets away from them. This is particularly a good idea in a flowing river that could sweep away the toy before your dog reaches it.

  • Sunscreen

    Our dogs wear fur coats all the time, and those coats do provide them with some relief from the sun’s direct rays. For dogs with short, thin fur or for dogs with white or light-colored coats and pink noses, sunburns are real and dangerous. Consider a pet-safe sunscreen (human ones just aren’t safe for our dogs). Even for dogs who don’t fit that description, a dab of dog-approved sunscreen on the nose can go a long way toward preventing any peeling that can occur after too much sun exposure.

  • Drinking water

    Swimming against a river current can quickly exhaust and dehydrate your pet. Be sure to bring drinking water for them and keep a lookout for reduced energy levels or excessive panting and make sure they take breaks. The stainless steel, insulated Asobu dog bowl water bottle can be used by both you and your pup. It has a fillable dog bowl that screws off the base of the bottle, while you can drink from the top!

  • Towel

    This is one accessory that can easily be forgotten, but drying your dog’s ears after river play will help to prevent infection. Removing the life vest and drying their coat underneath will help to prevent fur from matting and bacteria from forming, especially if your dog is long haired or double coated.

The Poudre River Whitewater Park is located at 202 E. Vine Dr. in Fort Collins, just south of Poudre Pet & Feed Supply’s North store. The North store, at 622 N. College Ave., is located right on the walking path leading from the whitewater park’s north shore, and the sales clerks can help equip you with everything you need for some river fun, seven days a week. There are also two self-service dog wash stations at the store for a convenient post-swim bath to wash off that river water -- shampoo included!

Watch Sprocket, one of our employee’s dogs, get fitted with a vest and try out several toys at the whitewater park in the video below!