Why I Stopped Taking My Dog to Rifle

We had an epiphany of sorts the other day. We were walking back from a local crag, which has about a twenty minute approach, and our little pup was running around, generally enjoying herself with the coming of spring. “You know what?” I said, watching her joyfully bound up and down the trail, “We shouldn’t take Thunderpup to Rifle anymore.” Tracy asked me why, and I explained that it really can’t be that fun for her.

We’ve always kept our dog on a leash in the Rifle, even the famous Nicklepup, who was arguably the best crag dog in history. The place is already overrun with dogs running into the road and playing chicken with the huge trucks that race up and down the canyon on any given weekend. As such, we’ve always tried to do our part to keep climbers in good graces with the City of Rifle, who might be the best land managers ever when it comes to climbing areas.

Rifle is also notorious for having a bunch of kids running around, along with, in recent years, more and more babies being brought to the cliff. Add to that the already volatile mix of dogs off leash, throw in some big egos, and you’ve got the potential for a blow up of epic proportions, not to mention a six car pile up in the creek.

Thunderpup, being young, gets stressed when she’s on a leash as she wants to be able to go up and sniff everything, so Rifle, I continued my line of reasoning, just can’t be any fun for her. Contrast that with where we’d been that day, where she could roam free, exploring as she liked, or sleeping at the base when she got tired. Tracy agreed, and from here on out, you probably wont see us with our pup in Rifle. I’m not saying everyone should follow suit, but an hour playing fetch in the yard afterwards would probably be a lot more fun than being chained to a tree in the Ruckman cave, surrounded by an army of unsupervised groms.

And for pretty much every other local crag, she’ll get to run up and down the trail, sniff trees, and do whatever it is that makes dogs happy outside, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t involve a crowded canyon, screaming kids and a leash.

13 Responses to Why I Stopped Taking My Dog to Rifle

  1. Thanks BJ for posting this. I have a good friend with with and awesome dog that I’ve been trying to explain this to. I’ll forward it to her. Maybe it will help.

    Greg April 17, 2012 at 11:17 pm
  2. Funny, this is the same reason I don’t myself to go to Rifle, too!

    s00kr33m w1zzl3r April 18, 2012 at 1:24 am
  3. Help your blog won’t let me resize on my tablet/Nook. I can’t read the tiny print! Please don”t set the size. (This is a new problem so something has changed.)

    ej April 18, 2012 at 2:47 am
    • Problem solved. Nevermind.

      ej April 23, 2012 at 10:58 pm
  4. This reminds me that I should write a post on why I stopped taking myself to Rifle. Well done!

    peter beal April 18, 2012 at 4:26 am
  5. Thanks for posting this. It’s interesting from a non-American point of view. I’ve been to Rifle (met you there) and other US cliffs, as well as some other crags in Europe where there is a ‘dog culture’ (read: most crags in Spain).

    It may be an affront to the American Dream, but the majority of the rest of the world don’t want dogs at climbing areas. They’re not accepted as a part of the natural order of things, as they are in the US. In many countries (like mine), climbing areas reside inside National Parks which allow no domestic pets.

    On a purely personal level, part of my climbing experience is still about being in beautiful natural environments (yes, even at Rifle :). Having dogs running around doesn’t add to my experience, it definitely detracts.

    While they might not hold the same view, I hope climber dog-owners read this and understand that it is a valid opinion.

    Lee April 18, 2012 at 10:48 am
    • Don’t get me wrong, at certain spots dogs are great, but just like I wouldn’t leave mine tied up at the base of a long multipitch route, I don’t think Rifle is the best place for most furry friends.

      And yeah Lee, to those outside the US, I’m sure it comes of as very “I’m an American & I’ll do whatever I want” that we like to (and think we should be able to) take them anywhere we want.

      BJ Sbarra April 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm
  6. Your Rifle problem is the same at almost every crag in California. But most of the time your dog can’t go in regardless. This is my girlfriend’s and my reason for wanting to leave California. Think about making a “Best Places to Crag with the Mutt” post. Help us narrow down our search for the Shangri La of climber/puppy paradise.

    Kyle Q April 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm
  7. The best place for your dog is Your Own Chosspile Way Up the Hill. The likelihood of encountering a human who can’t abide by dogs increases exponentially at popular crags. Unlike dogs, who will growl openly when they sense hostility, humans typically dodge overt conflict while still displaying unsubtly passive-aggressive behavior.

    My next Chosspile will be named Ollie’s Crag, and when some poser shows up fuming attitude under his breath I can inquire brightly “have you met Ollie?’

    rob in Pb April 19, 2012 at 3:47 am
  8. I agree that dogs can be big a nuisance at crags. But as a new dog owner, I have a new perspective on it. Dogs are often home alone while we work throughout the week. Am I really going to leave my dog home alone again on Saturday and Sunday too? At some point you have to ask yourself: why do you even have a dog? If you don’t want to spend time with him or her, then maybe you shouldn’t have one!

    I think, obviously, you can strive for a balance …

    Obviously, there are rules and etiquette dog (and baby) owners should follow when they’re outside their own homes in public places, especially when beneath dangerous choss piles or in the middle of roads, etc. You shouldn’t let your dog off the leash. If your dog is running in the road, you have failed as a dog owner. If your dog bites a baby, you have failed as a dog trainer. And so on …

    AB April 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm
    • AB – good points for sure. Really, if people did a better job as dog owners, we wouldn’t have all these problems. But reality is that many owners think their dog is the exception to the rule, and everyone else is the problem. Also, since I work from home, I’m with my dog all day long, every day of the week, so I don’t feel bad about leaving her in one day a weekend. Obviously that wont be the case for everyone.

      And speaking of that new dog, we should set up a puppy play date, Thunderpup would love to chase Brooklyn around the dog park!

      BJ Sbarra April 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm
  9. This conversation is for the dogs! BJ I agree with you that most dog owners think that it is eveyone elses dog that is the problem. It needs to be everyones problem and then there won’t be one because everyone will take care of it.
    I like dogs just not all the choas that many of them bring to a busy crag. Worrying about your partners safety is the number one priority and having to deal with a mean or happy dog running all over your rope or eating your food does not help give a good belay or make it easy to be sure that you and your partner are tied in correctly.
    This is one topic that will always draw a crowd because dogs are fun and loveable.
    Keep cranking out the thought BJ, Hope to see you in the canyon this summer.

    piz April 20, 2012 at 6:39 pm
  10. Dude, just made the connection with you and this website. Ok, so about two weeks ago my wife, Jordan, and I were in New Castle to find a place to rent because she just got a job at the library. We were totally wiped from the painful work of slogging through the rental market out there, so on saturday we decided to take a break to check out pup tent, even though we didn’t have any gear-just scouting. While there we met a cool couple named DJ and Tracy with a spunky 6 month old puppy. I’d checked out splitter choss before, because it’s a sweet local blog, but it wasn’t til I read this article that I realized the guy at the crag was you-recognized thunder pup (sorry I called you DJ). Thanks for all the beta on here and the great articles.

    We’ll be all moved out by June. See you out there.

    Joe April 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm
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