By Kim Fuller Published in the Vail Daily
There is no offseason for the dogs of the Vail Valley. From puppies to seniors, active to chill, the population of pooches in this community has quite the life, and to sustain it, they should have the best gear, nutrition and trail time they can get. Here’s some fido-focused information to sink your paws into.
TOYS & GEAR
Dogs don’t usually pick out their own toys in the pet store, so how do you choose what to bring home for your furry friend? Steve Johannes, owner of Fresh Tracks Pet Shoppe in Eagle-Vail, said trial and error is a reasonable strategy.
“Every dog is different, and a toy that makes one dog hyper-excited can have no effect whatsoever on another dog of the same breed, or even the same litter,” he said.
Keep an eye on your dog when it has a new toy to make sure it doesn’t become a choking or digestion hazard.
“We want to ask a few questions such as the size and age of the dog and if he or she is an aggressive chewer,” said Beth Bucks, owner of Wags & Whiskers in Edwards. “The extremely aggressive chewing dogs need extra supervision so they don’t get a toy or treat of which they might eat large or indigestible pieces causing a medical problem.”
For instance, she said, rawhide is not digestible, so an aggressive dog eating big chunks of rawhide can end up in surgery to remove large indigestible pieces. Instead of rawhide, Johannes recommends Earth Animal No Hide Chews, containing just chicken, beef or salmon with brown rice.
Bucks said chewing is a stress reliever for dogs, so a long-term chew toy is always a good choice. She recommends antlers and Nylabones, as well as Kongs stuffed with frozen water. But then again, your dog may pick its own toys after all.
“My dog has a large bin of toys, some were her brother’s from the late ’90s, and she digs into it on occasion to pull out some toy that she had ignored for as long as we can remember,” Johannes said. “So the toy that is not a hit immediately may still have a chance down the road.”
There is a common food philosophy that both Johannes and Bucks share, and it’s reflected in the ingredient-focused food they sell. Bucks said that like people, every dog is different, with different preferences and different needs.
“So we want to make sure that the dog food manufacturer has a good track record of little or no recalls — indicating that they have good, clean processes in place,” she said. “Byproducts do not have any regulation, so they can include some really unpleasant and unhealthy stuff. You also need to make sure your pet food does not include sodium, sugar, artificial colors or preservatives. Those are the biggies.”
Johannes said a well-balanced diet for a dog with an active lifestyle is high protein, high fat, low carb and low toxin. He believes in giving your pooch nutrient-rich food without any corn, wheat, glutens, soy, byproduct meals or unnamed fats (animal fat).
“Raw diets are either a highly controversial topic, or the most natural thing one could do, depending on who you talk to,” he said. “I vote raw.”
So what’s trending in the dog-food world right now? Grain free and gluten free.
“We do see lots of grain allergies in dogs,” Bucks said, “so the gluten- and grain-free dog foods are very helpful.”
“Grain-free” is all the buzz, and Johannes said that while many have switched to grain-free foods and seen improvements, he wonders how many of these people were at the same time switching their dog to an overall better quality food, and this was a good part of the benefit.
Dog owners should know that there are some foods that are toxic to dogs, including chocolate, onions, grapes and raisins. The human food that is OK, Johannes said, are proteins and vegetables without spice.
“A bit of your quality proteins or diced up veggies with no sauces will add whole-food goodness to your pet’s meal,” he said.
Once you have a healthy and happy dog, there is plenty of great terrain to explore with your best furry friend in the Vail Valley. With this pleasure comes responsibility to be a mindful and considerate dog owner.
Paula Peterson, district recreation staff officer for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District, said that on any given day, popular trailheads such as Meadow Mountain and Grouse Creek near Minturn usually have an average of five to 10 poop bags sitting on the edge of the trail. “People put the poop in the bag and leave it on the trail, and think ‘I’ll pick that up when I am coming back,’ and that doesn’t always happen,” Peterson said. “Or they take a different route back — not everyone comes down the same way they went up.”
Garbage receptacles and poop bag dispensers are not located at the Meadow Mountain or Grouse Creek trailheads (both parking lots are on National Forest Service land), so people often leave poop or poop-filled bags for other users to encounter or to deal with, hike on or ski over.
Peterson said the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District is not funded to install or manage trash receptacles. Where you are more likely to find bags and garbage cans is at trailheads on municipal land — like Gore Creek and Deluge Lake trailhead on town of Vail property — but not everybody uses the bags or the bins.
As local dog owner Karen Vucich recently remarked in a Facebook post commending the cleanliness of Bighorn Park in East Vail, “Never walk without a bag!”
Once a bag is full, dispose of it or pack it out with you until you can get rid of it properly.
In terms of keeping your dog on a leash, general Forest Service regulations state that in developed sites — campgrounds, trailheads, overlooks — you have to have your dog on a leash at all times.
“They are congested areas,” Peterson said. “So this is safety for the pet and also safety for people.”
Once on the trail on National Forest land, an owner must always have a dog under control, whether by voice command or leash, and must be able to control the dog when another user or animal is encountered.
The Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, Peterson emphasized, has a special regulation that your dog must be on a 6-foot leash at all times. This area includes many of the popular East Vail hikes, like Gore Creek and Deluge Lake. Know the rules, and follow them — whatever they are in any given area.
“It goes back to safety for the dog, for the wildlife, for the human and for the non-dog recreator,” she said. “Have respect for that other person trying to enjoy themselves on public land.”