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To Bring or Not to Bring: The Fate of the Crag Dog

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Odell the dog eagerly waiting for Mom to return to the ground. Photo by Michelle R. Johnson

Once, in the dead of night, my dog bolted upright. She started growling. The three of us—my dog, my boyfriend, and I—were nestled inside the bed of my tacoma, a topper separating us from the night air and surrounding woods. Outside, thick squiggles of fog layered the ground. I can never be sure, but I think I saw a bear in the distance.

Dogs can be excellent crag companions: They keep you company on long approaches. As was the case with my dog, they may be able to warn you if a bear or other large animal is nearby. They’re also just dang comforting when you aren’t able to make the send happen.

But what should you consider before bringing your pooch to the crag?

The issues:


A few weeks ago, a friend had to leave the crag early to get stitches. A small dog had bitten her nose.

If your dog is aggressive, don’t bring it. End of story. And don’t blame adults or children for not asking before petting your dog, because chances are they won’t. Prevent bad situations from arising by taking complete responsibility for your pet’s actions.


Is your dog a digger? If it’s hot out, many dogs respond by digging holes to sit down in and cool off. Such unsightly holes disturb wildlife and are tripping hazards. Furthermore, if your dog is prone to disturbing wildlife in other ways, such as chasing squirrels or bunnies, then tether the dog up or leave it to enjoy its wildlife-free bed at home. You might be doing the dog a favor, too. At some crags, the wildlife might pose more of a threat to your pooch than vice versa. Remember snakes can kill. Bears and birds of prey, also poisonous plants and even cacti, could all end your send day early.

The Noise:

Dogs can be loud. They tend to bark at each other and whine incessantly while Mom or Dad is too many vertical feet away. Much as if the pooches were babies, many dog owners struggle to keep the peace when their pets decide otherwise. The noise can be a real distraction for serious sends or redpoint burns. Ultimately, climbers should not bring their dog if they can’t keep the noise to a minimum.

Being a general nuisance: 

Many sandwiches or chips have been stolen from unwatched or untethered creatures. Owners who aren’t prepared to take command of the friend to ensure no climbers go hungry should not bring their dog to the crag. Not only that, but if dogs will be running around and peeing on ropes (it’s happened to my rope) or tripping belayers, leave your pooch at home or tie it up.

Land Restrictions:

Most important, before bringing your dog, make sure that your dog is actually allowed to be in the area. Some public lands restrict dog access or require that you use a leash. Do a Google search, check Reddit or ask a friend, whatever it takes to make sure the presence of your dog is kosher. Guidelines about public land restrictions and more tips about cragging and dogs can be found on

If your dog is allowed in the area, is leashed, safe, friendly, a non-digger/animal chaser/food stealer, and quiet, then bring away. Just one last thing: Remember the poop bags!

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