About a month ago, Josh and I brought home an adorable pound puppy we named “Santoki” – or “mountain bunny” – after a chestnut-gathering bunny in a famous Korean children’s song.
I’m a dog lover, so I’ve always had a soft spot for dogs at the crag. I’ve climbed with awesome crag dogs that epitomize good doggie citizenship. Their companionship can add a lot to a day outdoors. On the flip side, I’ve had negative experiences with dogs in busy climbing areas. I’ve seen it all – off-leash, aggressive or fearful dogs that actually snapped at other climbers, dogs that peed on packs and raided people’s lunch, piles of dog poo littering trails, and roaming packs of dogs with no owner in sight. In my opinion, the issue isn’t about dogs at crags, it’s about dog owners and dog education. We are definitely a work in progress, but I’m hoping that one day Toki will be a chill, happy and well-behaved crag dog.
Some of the things that people can do to minimize dog-related conflicts at the crag:
- Your dog should be people-friendly and dog socialized. For instance, if your dog has a phobia of hats or crash pads, a busy and sunny bouldering area is not the ideal place to take him.
- Watch your dog if he’s off-leash and please respect other people’s property and personal space. Remember that some people are afraid of dogs.
- Please pick up dog poo!
- Follow trail closures and other rules to protect fragile ecosystems. Otherwise, other dogs (and people) might not be able to enjoy access in the future.
- Prevent your dog from chasing livestock, barking like a banshee, or otherwise making a nuisance of herself to others.
- Please keep your dog off crash pads and off ropes.
Now that we’ve started taking Toki into the wilderness, I understand how much attention and care a puppy requires. Water, toys, leashes, and food all add another layer of complexity to a climbing outing. And like an overanxious parent, I find it hard to concentrate fully on my latest project when I’m also monitoring Toki’s perambulations. Toki is fond of digging in the cool dirt, chasing lizards, and generally following wherever her sniffing nose will take her. So for now, she stays on leash, kitted out with her toys in the nearest shady spot. Eventually, I hope she can graduate to off-leash lounging.
For an example of a great crag dog, Toki would do well to emulate Schleppy, one of the best crag dogs I know. She’s sweet, quiet, stays off the crash pads, and stays out of trouble. She also ignores climbers’ lunches in favor of her own — usually a juicy turkey drumstick from Schatz.
Maybe once Toki masters the bouldering dog basics, she can graduate to sport climbing areas. Ruff Wear, makers of performance dog gear, recently released a climbing harness for dogs (check out the picture) that just don’t want to be left behind…
I’d be interested in your thoughts on crag dogs – post a comment!
For more photos of Toki-in-training, you can check out her flickr photostream.
In my next post, I’ll talk about some tips from a dog trainer about the best way to train your dog to stay off crash pads.