« Top 10 Victories for Climbers in 2011 | Main | Conservation Team: Life on the Road »

January 03, 2012

Crag Dogs: acceptable or not?

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 to offer some insight on when and where it’s legal to bring your dog and some guidelines for appropriate crag dog behavior. Dog

Where and how dogs are allowed

National parks—The National Park Service (NPS) permits dogs in most front-country areas if leashed or “under physical restraint” at all times. Dogs are prohibited from backcountry areas, with some exceptions.

Forest Service lands—The United States Forest Service requires that pets be restrained or on a leash at all times while in developed recreation areas.

BLM lands—The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has the least restrictive policy concerning dogs, only requiring a leash where habitat or wildlife restorations exist.

State parks and local government lands—Policies vary, so be sure to check regulations before heading out to climb with your pup.

Private lands—Policies vary and aren’t always clear. If in doubt, we recommend asking the landowner or leaving your dog at home.

Guidelines for happy cragging with your mutt

Use common sense. When visiting a popular area with lots of climbers or planning to climb long multipitch routes, or if the day is hot and the approach is long, consider leaving your pet at home.

Respect the rights of others. Tether dogs in high-use sites like bouldering areas or staging areas for climbs to keep them out of the way of spotters, belayers, and other visitors, and to prevent packs from being pilfered for food.

Respect the rights of your dog. Make sure your dog has plenty of food and water, and let others know your dog’s name so they can get your dog’s attention if need be.

Keep your dog under control. Be sure your dog responds to verbal commands and can be kept under control, especially around others. Train your dog to stay with your gear and not someone else’s.

Clean up after your dog. Canine feces are unsightly and smelly and can become a problem underfoot. Pick it up and pack it out.

Has your dog reached crag dog status?

The answer is probably “NO” if …

  • He barks and/or whines incessantly
  • She shows any signs of aggression toward people or other dogs
  • He likes to dig
  • She doesn’t respond to verbal commands


Tell us what you think. Leave a comment.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Uh, the NPS doesn't allow dogs beyond parking lots. At least, not any of the ones I've visited.

NPS doesn't allow dogs out of parking lots... I went on a 3 month long road trip and was unable to climb at some of my favorite places because my dog was with me... If you can, leave your dog at home, but when you are living on the road its hard....

The rules and regulations on bringing pets into National Parks are fairly restrictive, but policies do vary from park to park. The standard policy in most National Parks is that pets are allowed in most “front country” areas (campgrounds, paved trails, overlooks, etc) if leashed or physically restrained. That being said, most climbing in National Parks happens in backcountry areas, where pets are (for the most part) prohibited. Visit www.nps.org to find the policy for specific parks.

Thank you! I wish all dog-owners had "common sense". I love dogs, just like I love kids (I'm a mom!), but I don't want other people's kids or dogs getting tangled in my ropes, running wild and unsupervised, eating my food, rolling around in poison oak and then rubbing against me (I am VERY allergic to the stuff!), yelling or barking... I've had to deal with all of the above after going to some effort to get to a climb with the expectation of enjoying both the crag and the people there.

* He barks and/or whines incessantly
* She shows any signs of aggression toward people or other dogs
* He likes to dig
* She doesn’t respond to verbal commands

You can apply this list to kids at the crag as well....maybe minus the aggression part.

Shame on the parent's of a child who is completely out of control at a crag, but I get tired of hearing children being compared to dogs. Granted, kids can be annoying and whiney, but people seem to forget that those kids are the future of our climbing areas and land. Giving kids the opportunity to experience the outdoors improves the chances that more people will become educated and thoughtful about the preservation of our climbing areas. I doubt that dogs will contribute to the Access Fund in any way, but the kids will grow up and just might...

Can't you also rephrase that to say, "Shame on the owners of a dog who is completely out of control at a crag"?

In the same way that there are rules and expectations for dogs at the crag...there are also the same kinds of expectations for children AND adults at the crag. Why should we ignore these for children...because they will one day contribute to the AF? NO WAY. Granted I'm kind of playing devils advocate here...but do own a dog, and do always take my dog to the crag with me. I tend to stay from crowded areas as not only is it miserable for me, but for my dog as well.

I'm not trying to compare the two...but saying that I have experienced the EXACT same annoyances from children at crag that I have with dogs. I think it's not the children and the dogs that should be held to these standards...but the owners and the parents. It's what THEY allow to slide that is the problem, not the animal or kid.

I agree with Blake. Dog owners and parents are responsible for monitoring the behavior of their dogs and children at crags. Sometimes it's appropriate/reasonable for them to be there, sometimes it isn't. Common sense applies. An attitude of tolerance and sharing the crag with others should also apply for ALL climbers at crags. And let's not forget that dog owners contribute to The Access Fund same as non-dog owners.

Leave 'em home! We lost access to a 5-star area in VA after the property owner's request to leave dogs home was ignored.

Way to add to the discussion.

To bolt or not to bolt. To bring your dog or not to bring your dog. How about to trespass or not to trespass as the next blog topic?

Am new member to Access Fund.Not alot of experience in technical climbing, am interested in bouldering. I do hike. Was in Mohonk Preserve NY last spring. Saw a very well mannered black lab on a leash hiking the trails which was awesome. Saw another situation which wasn't. Bonticou Crag is a rock scramble and saw a couple hand carrying a small but hefty dog on a leash up the rock cliffs. Trying to encourage the thing to climb and or dragging it. Unbelievable. They ended up carrying it and passing it between the two of them grunting the whole time while trying to climb. One of the stupidest things I've seen in my life.They deserved a fine IMO.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment