Tails and Trails

Tips for hitting the trail with your canine companion

We’ve all been there: you’re packing for a day hike – grabbing energy bars, extra water and your trekking poles – and then as you’re about to head out, you see it. Or rather, you see him – your dog, your best friend and oh-so-loyal companion – waiting patiently for you next to the door. Big, brown eyes staring you down. Ears perked, questioning, pleading, waiting. A soft whimper that makes you melt with guilt.

While you may not be able to bring your pup into the National Park or even certain parts of the wilderness, there are tons of great hikes around the Tetons that will get you into some amazing places and let Rufus come along. A quick web search will offer you countless choices, but a few of our favorite dog-friendly spots include the hike to Jackson Peak (with a bonus lake part way up for swimming), Munger Mountain (down Fall Creek road with panoramas in every direction) and Phillips Canyon.

Once you’ve decided to bring your four-legged friend, there are a few simple ways to help ensure you and your dog will both have a great time out in the mountains together.

 

Double Check Your Terrain

Always look closely at the topography where you’re going. If you’re getting into steep terrain without a water source close by, make sure to bring extra water for both of you. If you’re hiking exposed ridgelines on a bluebird day – especially in the heat of summer – dehydration can set in fast. Since your pup can’t sweat, remember to double check the forecasted highs for the day – if it’s going to be in the 80’s, choose a hike that offers some time in a shaded canopy.

 

Protection from the Sun

If you’re hiking in Jackson, your base elevation is 6,300 feet above sea level. As you get into the higher mountains during summer, you may want to consider eye protection for your pup. Just like humans, UV rays can be harmful to dogs. A local Jackson company, Rex Specs, makes special goggles for dogs that protect them from UV rays – as well as from dust, sticks, rocks and any other other harmful elements that could result in an eye injury to your furry friend.

Fuel Up

Your dog needs to refuel just like you. Pack some snacks, or bring a reasonable ratio of your dog’s dry food based on how far you’re going. A few miles isn’t a big deal, but if you’re going for 3,000 feet of elevation gain and a 15-mile hike, your pup will need some food.

 

Trail Etiquette

One of the biggest decisions to make is whether you let your dog run off-leash or clip him in. First, check the rules of the area you’ll be visiting. If off-leash is an option and your dog has excellent recall and will return to you even when the most tantalizing animal dashes out in front of him, then you’re in the clear. But if you don’t have much hiking experience with your dog and you haven’t worked on recall in training together, or if he has a strong herding instinct, keep him leashed. Dogs that chase moose, elk or even bears are going to put themselves – and you – in danger. 

 

First Aid

While many of us think about bringing a first aid kit for humans, most of us don’t think about the potential situations our dogs could get in miles away from help. It’s a good idea to read up on basic first aid for dogs (and yourself, too), and while there are tons of first aid dog kits on the market, a great place to start is with a quick phone call to your local vet to steer you on the right track.

If you keep these things in mind, you and your dog will be great trail ambassadors, and you’ll also be knowledgeable and safer out in terrain where the unexpected can happen. And it goes without saying – always be a responsible dog owner and scoop the poop or use leave no trace principles for your dog’s waste.

Worried your adventure might not be appropriate for your four-legged friend? Fear not! You can always opt to drop Fido at one of Jackson’s quality pet sitting and boarding locations for the day, like DogJax, where he’ll get plenty of loving attention and exercise while you’re out.

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