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.