Tips and Tricks for the Crag Dog in Your Life

Truffle Rattlesnake - Copy

Thinking about taking your dog to the crag?

Bringing Fido along for a day of rock climbing is a big responsibility,  but if you have a good system in place it can be a great time for you, other climbers and most importantly your hairy companion. Before you head out for a day of climbing with Fido lets cover doggy crag manners, trail etiquette and gear. Over the years I’ve pieced together a standard kit of must-haves when cragging, hiking and camping with our Chocolate Lab. Keep in mind we are typically climbing in New England during the warmer months of the year, so adjust your system accordingly for your climate and friendly beast.

General Warning: Dogs do not possess the finger dexterity to offer a safe and or reliable belay, do not under any circumstances accept a belay from your K9 companion. Please also accept our deepest apologies for this and any following dad jokes. 

Let’s talk doggy etiquette 

Much as it pains most dog owners to hear, not all people may love your hairy “K9” offspring as much as you do. This is the mindset that you should have when taking your dog with you to the crag and into the outdoors.  Most of the climber and hikers you will come across in the outdoors will be super stoked to see Fido, but it’s the few that are either scared and or uncomfortable that you need to be respectful of…. Even the disgruntled cat person should never experience your dog jumping up on then with their freshly muddied paws or said cat person finding their cat hair covered shoes laced with your dog’s fresh number 2.

Some general guidelines:

  • Be respectful of any recreational animal restrictions ie NPS regulations etc
  • Always pick up after your dog…..bring your own poop bags
  • If your dog is not well-behaved off leash, leave them leashed up
  • If your dog bothers other climbers i.e. walking on their ropes, tie them up
  • If your dog bothers other climbers dogs, tie them up
  • The other climbers at the crag are not your free dogsitters, remember everyone is there to climb

Dog Pack

Having a pack for your pooch is a must if you’re going to be spending any significant time outdoors with your four-legged companion. Our dog will typically carry her bowls, first aid kit, food, towels & jacket in her pack. We use an REI Dog Pack that we bought at REI, in Asheville NC, back in 2012. Unfortunately, REI does not seem to make their name brand dog packs any longer which is a shame as I found them to be just as good if not better than the Ruffwear equivalents. Our dog, Truffle, likes hers so much that the moment I take it our she stands by my side waiting for me to put it on.

REI  Dog Pack Circa 2012


Packing Tip: Be mindful of balancing weight on both sides of your dog’s pack. Otherwise, your friend will be running with one side of the pack hanging below the other


Water / Food Bowls

Recommendation is to keep this light and simple. I will typically use plastic bowls that are stackable, so when packed in the Dog Pack the two bowls won’t take up much space. Lesson learned, don’t go too flimsy, our dog isn’t exactly graceful when hauling ass through the woods and she cracked plenty of the more shoddy plastic bowls we’ve tried.

Food Tip: Always put your dog’s food in a waterproof bag. Our dog will swim any chance she gets and you will usually not be fast enough to take off their packs before they are in the water.

Bear Bells

Whenever out in the woods with our dog ill throw the Counter Assault Bear Bell on her collar. Under 3 bucks this is a great way to keep track of your pup if she goes on an out of site exploratory mission.  This also warns other hikers that your friendly beast may be barreling down the trail.

Bear Bell
Counter Assault Bear Bell


Counter Assault Bear Bell can be purchased at REI for under $3.00


Collar Light

If you climbing days are anything like mine they are typically long with dark headlamp hikes out. The Nite Ize SpotLit LED dog collar light is the perfect combination with the bear bell mentioned above. These small lights clip onto your dog’s collar with a built-in carabiner clip. They are bright, waterproof and can stand up to a lot of dog induced abuse. Once the sun goes down, ill turn this on with one click. For the price its a must have.

Night Eyz
Spotlit LED



Nite Ize SpotLit LED can be purchased at REI for under $8.00



Water Storage

Water is typically the one doggy item that I will carry in my pack. I don’t make our dog carry her own water for few reasons, its the heaviest item she would have to carry and secondly, I want to make sure she always has more than enough. I can not reiterate the importance of having more than enough water for your dog to stay hydrated all day, my rule of thumb being….when in doubt, bring more.

Water Tip: If you will be relying on a natural water source for your dog i.e. creek/stream be sure to check the flow reports before heading out. If there is any chance it will low, make sure to pack extra water. On a summer day in New England our chocolate lab will easily drink 4L of water in a day. 

Since our dog will drink so much throughout the day, my go-to piece of water hauling gear is the MSR 4L Dromedary Bag. These indestructible and yet packable dromedaries are fantastic. I have been using mine consistently since 2011 with no issues. Typically it will sit in the top of my pack directly under my coiled rope. This keeps the weight fairly centered in the upper portion of my pack.

MSR Dromedary Bag
MSR 4L Dromedary



A newer model of MSR 4L Dromedary Bag can be purchased at REI for under $40.00



First Aid Kit

Everyone should carry a basic first-aid kit with them when climbing, same applies for Fido. Our dog’s first aid kit never leaves her pack. Make sure to keep the following in a ziplock/waterproof bag.

Lurking Crag Bear

  • Tick Key© (REI for $6.50)
  • Asprin (Check dosage for your specific dog)
  • Benadryl® (Check dosage for your specific dog)
  • Gauze
  • Latex Gloves
  • Multi-Tool / Pliers
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (will induce vomiting when mixed properly with water, check dosage for your specific dog)
  • Quick Fit Muzzle (Even your best friend may nip at your if they are in a lot of pain)
  • A Field Guide to Emergency Care for the Outdoor Dog (Wilderness Adventure Press for $15.00)

The Basics

Simple & cheap additional recommendations for a good crag day

Truffle Rattlesnake 2 - Copy

  • Rope / Webbing to tie up your tired pup if your leash is too short or not practical. Ill keep a 12ft piece of webbing with a few old beaners in our pups Dog Pack
  • Poop Bags easy to forget and embarrassing when you forget. Always pack in pack out
  • Shamwow Towel nothing will dry off Fido quicker
  • Treats nothing is worse than having your dog stare into your soul as you eat your crag lunch. Dogs get hungry too, hook them up with their favorite treats

Happy Wildernessing!

-Bostonia Outfitters


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