Crag Dogs: Acceptable or Not?

Categories: Tips , The Climber's Pact

It’s a hotly contested topic among climbers, not far behind the “to bolt or not to bolt” debate. We aren’t here to condemn or condone, but rather to offer some guidelines for appropriate crag dog behavior and to let you know where and how it’s legal to bring your dog.

Crag Dog Quiz: Are you and your dog ready?

I have checked the rules and regulations ahead of time to make sure my dog is allowed at the climbing area.

I have a leash or tether to restrain my dog if needed or if land rules require it.

I will keep my dog out of the way of belayers, spotters, and other people’s gear.

I have adequate food and water for my dog’s day out.

I have plenty of poop bags and plan to clean up after my dog and pack it out.

My dog responds consistently to verbal commands and can be controlled around other people and dogs.

My dog shows no signs of aggression toward people or other dogs.

My dog doesn’t bark and whine incessantly.

My dog doesn’t dig or chase wildlife.

I am prepared to scrap my climbing day and leave with my dog if they fail to meet these guidelines.

How do I know if my dog is allowed?

Dogs are not allowed at every climbing area, so know the rules before you go. Do some online sleuthing and figure out who owns the climbing area. Check the area page on mountainproject.com or do a quick Google search of the area you’re planning to visit. It’s also wise to know the guidelines.

  • National parks are the most restrictive when it comes to our four-legged companions. Dogs are prohibited from backcountry areas (with some very rare exceptions), and are allowed in front-country areas (like developed campsites, parking lots, roads, paved paths, and scenic overlooks) only if they’re leashed or “under physical restraint” at all times.
  • Forest Service lands typically allow dogs in developed recreation areas and on interpretive trails, but they must be leashed at all times. Read more about what the U.S. Forest Service has to say about bringing your dog.
  • Bureau of Land Management lands have the least restrictive policy concerning dogs, requiring leashes only where habitat or wildlife restorations exist.
  • State parks and local government lands vary wildly, but typically require your dog to be leashed. Check regulations before heading out to climb with your pup.
  • Federally designated wilderness areas usually allow leashed pets, unless the area is inside a National Park or restrictions are posted.
  • Wildlife Management Areas or Gamelands typically allow dogs but they must be on leash, as these areas are managed with wildlife as a priority.
  • Non-government lands that are privately owned or owned by a land trust or local climbing organization have wildly different rules for dogs. Be sure to check regulations before you consider bringing your dog.

If you’re not sure what type of land your favorite climbing area is on, and you can’t find it on the internet, it’s best to leave your dog at home.

When to leave your dog at home

  • If you’re climbing multi-pitch routes and can’t be on the ground to supervise your dog and make sure its needs are met.
  • When you’re visiting a popular climbing area with lots of other climbers, confined staging areas, or known wildlife concerns (rattlesnakes, bear, bees, etc.).
  • If the land manager prohibits dogs or if you can’t get a clear answer on whether they are allowed.
  • If the day is hot and the approach is long. Dogs who bake in the sun typically dig down to cooler soil, creating increasing levels of erosion at climbing areas.
  • If you or your dog aren’t ready, based on the Crag Dog Quiz above.

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