There are many challenges that come along with owning a dog in a town that has snow on the ground at least six months of the year, an abundance of wildlife and a fiercely competitive rental market with little pet-friendly housing.

But some challenges can be negated with just a little forethought and focus on being a good steward to your pet and those who will be interacting with Fido on the trails or in town. Consider it good pet etiquette or “petiquette.” (See what we did there?)

Andrea La Fevers started Jackson Powder Hounds, a customized dog walking service, in 2016 to help owners with their dogs, though at that time it was primarily a dog walking service.

“I thought it’d be the best job ever to be with dogs all day, be outside and help people with their busy lives,” La Fevers said.

After two years of walks, however, La Fevers noticed her clients were also looking for help with their pet’s behavior.

“Training that helps the dogs be physically stimulated but also mentally stimulated so that when they come home they’re well behaved,” La Fevers said.

For La Fevers, mental stimulation begins when she enters the dog’s home to take them on a walk. For example, if a dog is waiting in a kennel, she won’t approach the dog with the leash until it is calm. Mental stimulation might also mean stopping a walk until a dog stops pulling on the leash.

“It’s actually kind of therapeutic for a dog. It’s not aggressive or dominant. We don’t use fear and it’s also not all about treats,” she said. “It’s about challenging them to get back in their thinking brain.”

Off leash if under control

There also seems to be a strong desire to have an off-leash dog, La Fevers said. While there are several areas in town that allow dogs to be off-leash, they must be under “voice control.” This means your dog should respond to your command on the first call, even if he is out of sight or distracted. Dogs under voice control should also yield on command to fellow hikers or bikers, a common courtesy on multiuse trails.

“A lot of dog owners feel the pressure to take their dogs off leash before their ready. Potentially putting their dogs in danger with wildlife,” La Fevers said.

For dog owners that are still trying to teach voice control, the PAWS Dog Park can be a good place to practice. Unfortunately, it’s only an option in the winter. At least, for now.

PAWS of Jackson Hole is spearheading efforts to bring a year-round park to the community, a move that “would be beneficial to our local wildlife as well as our human shared spaces,” PAWS of Jackson Hole Program Director Jess Farr said.

“A contained safe area for dogs to run freely would take dogs who may like to chase wildlife or are learning their trail etiquette and recall skills out of the off-leash trail mix,” Farr said.

If it takes a leash to make your dog a good boy, leash restraint may be the best option, even in off-leash areas. But your dog’s ability to come on command isn’t the only thing that contributes to petiquette.

Keep an eye out

PAWS stocks 23 stations near pet-friendly places with 150,000 free mutt mitts annually, Farr said. The free bags, along with trail ambassadors armed with prizes for pet owners who are playing by the rules, are an attempt to encourage owners to follow the golden rule of owning a pet: pick up the poop.

“Out walking three dogs, pick up at least three piles as a minimum regardless if your dog goes,” Farr said.

Adventure-minded owners should also be mindful of their dog in other ways, including when they’ve taken their pup on a long hike, out on the river or on a backcountry skiing adventure. Teton Pass Ambassador Jay Pistono sees dogs on the pass frequently.

“All dogs will do their best to do whatever their owners are up to,” Teton Pass Ambassador Jay Pistono said.

It’s a “good idea,” he said, to keep a pet’s “ability in mind and design the trip about what they can do,” he said.

Especially around water.

“You have to be mindful as a dog owner of where you allow your dog to go swimming and look out for strainers,” said La Fevers, who previously worked as a river guide.

Mindfulness concerning your pets is not exclusively for intense outdoor adventures. La Fevers encourages owners to incorporate this thinking in everyday pet practices like taking your dogs on mindfulness walks.

Refrain from listening to music. Maybe leave your cellphone at home. Start paying attention to your breath, she said.

“When an owner becomes more present, so does their dog.” 

Contact Brennan Hussey via 732-7076 or valley@jhnewsandguide.com.

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