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

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

Much like young children can be headaches at crags, so can dogs be furry balls of trouble. Indeed, the question of whether or not dogs belongs at crags is hotly contested. For many dog owners, their four-legged friends are as precious as children and they’re coming, end of story. Yet for the cat-type people or just anti-pet ones, a dog belongs at a crag about as much as a baby belongs at a bar.

So what are the real pros and cons of pooch accompaniment? 

The issues:


If you’re headed to popular crags like Rifle or the Red, you can bet on babies and/or small children waddling around. The problem is that children don’t always know to ask if a dog is friendly. If there’s any chance at all that your dog will be aggressive, don’t bring it! It’s not O.K. to be that person with the mean dog. Children don’t deserve to have fingers or faces bitten.


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!


Also Read

Five Things Every Gym Climber Must Know About Climbing Outside

  • Delaney Miller is a three time U.S. Champion in the open Sports Climbing Series. In total, Miller has won 12 Championship titles between youth and adult, National and Pan-American competitions. She has three years of coaching experience and a degree in Health and Exercise Science from Colorado State University.

    • Show Comments

    • Dave Meyer

      Dogs are wonderful- just not at the crags. I am sure this will immediately invoke a storm of hatred from all the “I bring my Fluffy-poo everywhere” people. That said, I stand by the original remark. Access and impact on limited natural resources is an ever-growing issue. Adding dogs (particularly unleashed dogs) to the mix makes restrictions to access more likely. I have also watched a “but he’s really nice” dog bite my partner at the crag and then watched the owners get outraged with my partner for being bitten. Let’s keep the crags open and the dogs at home. Take them for a walk when you get home from sending your latest project.

    • Frank

      First, thanks for making it possible to comment without Facebook.

      Crag dog education for gym climbers…
      See also: preparation on outside climbing before heading outside.

      I get it: you love yer dog. I don’t. If he or she can be there without impinging on my climbing experience, be it barking, biting (yes, I have been), or just rushing up to wipe dog-snot on my pants, fine. But canine restraint in these matters is, to be kind, not universal. You need to be considerate of your fellow climbers, because yer dog won’t necessarily be so.

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