How To Take Your Dog to the Climbing Spot

It’s always fun to take your pup when you go rock climbing, but a little preparation goes a long way. Check out these tips to make sure you and your dog are considerate at the crag.

Do Your Research
The rules and regulations of climbing areas vary widely, so do your research before you leave home. Always check the guidelines for the areas where you’re planning to climb or camp. While most national parks don’t allow dogs on backcountry trails, leashed dogs are usually welcome in national forests, BLM land, and state and other local parks.

Before you head out, you’ll also want to make sure you brush up on your dog’s basic obedience training. Your dog needs to have reliable recall, be calm when encountering other people and animals, and not bark excessively. It’s always a good idea to be in control of your pooch, but it’s especially vital when you’re at the crag, where there might be kids, people belaying, and technical gear scattered around the base of the climb.

Finally, familiarize yourself with the principals of Leave No Trace, a baseline set of environmental ethics for the outdoors. Pack poop bags to carry out waste, don’t let your dog romp through delicate vegetation, and do your best to minimize impacts on other users.

Start With Single-Pitch Adventures
While you’re introducing your dog to the world of rock climbing, it’s a good idea to limit your vertical adventures to single-pitch climbs. By starting with top-roping, you’ll be able to check in with your dog frequently, get him or her used to seeing you off the ground (which can be alarming at first for some dogs), and be close at hand if anything comes up. If you do decide to progress to a multi-pitch climb, don’t leave your dog tied up alone—either have a dog sitter stay on the ground or (if temperatures are safe) leave your dog in the car with food, water, and a comfy place to nap.

Bring The Right Gear
You’ll need your rope, rack, harness, and some gear for your dog, too. Bring a bowl and plenty of fresh water, and pack a Ziplock bag of SOMETHING OTHER THAN KIBBLE and/or treats if you’ll be out for more than a couple of hours. Always keep a collar on your dog, and make sure you have a leash that will keep your pup securely under control. If you’re cragging near the car, bring a soft old blanket, bouldering pad, or sleeping mat for your dog, too. For cold weather, consider investing in a canine-specific jacket; for warmer weather, always make sure that your dog has a place to sit or lay down in the shade.

Be Careful While Belaying
Before you or your climbing partner leaves the ground, make sure you have a conversation about what happens if your pup gets nervous, causes trouble, or runs off. It may sound obvious, but it’s important to pre-think contingencies before you’re fifty feet off the ground.