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Crag Dogs and the Rock Climbers who Love Them

Posted by Connor Olsen on
Crag dog sitting at the bottom of rock climbing wall

It’s easy to see why dogs like to hang out with rock climbers: there’s always an outdoor adventure just around the corner; you get to go on epic car rides; the crash pads double as dog beds.

At Atlas Pet Co., it’s obvious that we love both pups and scrambling up rock faces - we constructed our Lifetime Leash and Collar out of professional grade climbing rope, after all. Not only is it the most durable, long-lasting, adventure-ready material we’ve found, it’s also a tribute to the outdoor lifestyle we love.

Whether your pup is a seasoned rockhound or you’re both just getting your crag legs, we’ve got you covered. Read on for the inspiration and tips to get you and your pup to the wall.


Learn the ropes.

A good crag dog has to be adventurous, not afraid of a little dirt, and willing to chill while the climbers do the hard work. But it’s not as easy as just leashing up and hitting the rocks - a good climbing companion needs some key traits.

“There is a lot going on at a climbing crag,” says dog trainer and climber Amber Pickren. “You can’t run over and grab a collar while you’re belaying someone.” That’s why she says having voice control over your dog is imperative. When lives are literally hanging in the balance, you’ll need to call your pup off from chasing wildlife, prevent her from getting spooked, and convince her to move out of a fall zone - all just by using your voice.

Keeping your pup relaxed, happy, and polite at the site is also essential. Buster the Crag Dog is just a wee pup, but his parents are already reinforcing good habits in him on their climbing trips. 

“He has plenty of treats and cuddles to keep him happy, and we carry his favorite blanket with us for him to lie on,” says Buster’s mom. “We make sure he doesn’t bother other people, we pick up his poo, and leave nothing at the crag.” 

In a short time, Buster has developed trail manners that others could learn from.

“To be fair,” says his mom, “he’s cleaner than a lot of the climbers!”

crag dogs. Climbing rope sitting under rock wall

Always have your ‘send’ face on.

The best thing about a crag dog is the waggy cheer she brings to the wall. Milly the mini Boxer loves spending weekends in the shadow of a sheer rock face - and her humans sure appreciate having her around, too.

“She’s always chilling at the base of a route to congratulate her humans for finishing a climb - or give them kisses to cheer them up if they didn’t,” says owner Caroline. 

Originally adopted as a stray from New York City Animal Care and Control, Milly’s life looks very different from her street dog days. Her family has since moved to the Pacific Northwest, and Milly gets out in the wild every weekend. In one recent month, this wacky-tongued boxer mix hiked to Mailbox Peak, raced along the waves of the Pacific Ocean, and romped in a field of wild daffodils. Her natural habitat, though, is still the crag.

“She’s always stoked to go to the crag with her humans,” says Caroline. “And her derpy face and long tongue brings cheer to the other climbers.”

Excited as she is, though, Milly knows how to zen out at the crag. “She’s always quiet and relaxed while the humans climb,” says Caroline. “She knows the sort of behavior that will get her the most attention from climbers!”


Two crag dogs are better than one.

Climber and photographer Abi didn’t waste any time showing her pups the ropes.

“Both Kodi and Kuma started coming with me the day I brought them home,” Abi says. ”The day I brought Kuma home, we immediately hopped in the car and drove to Shelf Road for a day of sport climbing. I simply packed them both into a backpack and carried them in.”

Abi’s pack is based in Colorado, and their adventures see them hiking, skiing, and backpacking throughout the Four Corners. The crag is special, though.

“I love watching them run around while we hike to different walls, I love seeing them melt into rocks as they curl up in the shade to watch us all up on the wall, and I love seeing them make new crag dog friends!,” says Abi.

Kodi and Kuma’s favorite part of climbing trips? “I would like to think it’s the friends and being outside exploring new areas,” says Abi. “But let’s be real. Their favorite part is all the snacks.”

climber on rock wall

The Great Indoors.

Even crag dogs get the blues on rainy days. The folks at Denver Bouldering Club can sympathize, which is why they allow well-behaved mutts at their main gym, rain or shine.

Allowing furry cheerleaders at the DBC “has been law of the land since day one,” in 2009, according to General Manager Anthony Bruno. The club offers all kinds of fun perks - free outdoor climbing days, 24/7 memberships - but the one that keeps folks smiling is climbing with canines.

“It’s been something our dedicated dog owners have been psyched on the whole time,” says Bruno. “Our staff also gets a kick out of being greeted by happy dogs. We’ve always been about community here, dogs included… cats, too!”

On any given gym day, you might run into Emiko the Happy Shiba or Beers, the front desk dog. You might find it strange that most pups who come to DBC automatically sit like soldiers when they enter the gym, but their noses know best - the staff always keeps a full treat jar behind the counter.

Just be sure you’re prepared to come home with a dirty dog, though.

“Every time I bring Aspen here, she gets covered in chalky handprints,” says Paige, who brings her black pit mix to the gym. “She loves getting all of the pets, but she always needs a bath right afterwards!”

rock climbing in climbing gym

Rock on.

So there you have it: dogs make the perfect rock climbing companions, and it’s high time you and your pup hit the crag. Now, the only decision you have to make is which Lifetime Leash matches your lead rope best.

 

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