Climbers and dogs often go hand in hand (or hand in paw) and taking Tess with me away is always a treat; she’s a large part of why my climbing trips are often over land! The problem is taking that enormous dog bed from the kitchen and some clunky metal dog bowls isn’t exactly ideal.
So here are some tips, tricks and some specific kit that i’ve found eases the issues slightly and could be the difference between the pooch being a great travel companion or a chore.
[I’ve talked exclusively here about Ruffwear equipment. It is expensive but good quality kit always is and it really is good quality kit. While normally i try and be a bit impartial, on this occasion i’m actively recommending Ruffwear as my brand of choice. I’ll try and explain why along the way]
Somewhere to Sleep
Much like ourselves, having a comfy bed is much nicer than sleeping rough on the floor. What’s slightly more important, when you have a wet and dripping dog trying to get into the tent, having somewhere to send them (obedience of dog notwithstanding…) can be more than a little bit helpful.
As with a lot of this kit, having something cheap and cheerful like an old scrap of carpet could do the job but let’s face it, if we’re going to be lying on expensive Thermarest and the like, spending a little more on the canine companion is the least you could do.
We’ve got a Highlands Bed and it works a treat. My old favourite quality of being warm when wet applies here and the fact it squashes up nice and small means it travels much better than Tess does!
I’ve also trained Tess not to go on the bouldering pads but when the back of the Land Rover is stacked up with them, there’s not a great deal of options. Throwing the bed down on the top makes the world of difference between her getting mixed signals and having somewhere comfy to curl up on a long drive.
Something to eat out of
Again, with this one, an old Trangia pan would do the job but not well and it’s a pain to store. And when she’s not gonna finish her dinner in a service station just off the motorway somewhere in rural Germany it leaves me with a choice: chuck it away and let her go hungry (through no fault of her own) or try and avoid letting it go all over the back of the car.
So i pretty quickly opted for something good. Ruffwear no longer make the exact model we’ve got but the current equivalent would be the Quencher Cinch Top. While a lot of dogs will demolish anything you put in front of them, Tess, being fed only once a day, will normally leave some for later in the day so having a good strong drawcord at the top makes the world of difference.
Likewise with the water bowl, being able to pull the top in can avoid spills in the tent that you really don’t want and paying that extra will mean you don’t have to worry about the water seeping out through the bottom of the bowl.
Of course the other major advantage is being able to collapse them down to nothing. Tess’ bowls both live permanently in the Land Rover with a days worth of food, just in case i inadvertently end up somewhere i wasn’t expecting overnight. It’s paid dividends over the years and they take up zero room meaning i really don’t notice them until i need them.
Something to distinguish them…
Yeah, i didn’t really know how to phrase that and i’m talking about collars. I’m not that fussed in the UK, around home, if Tess somehow gets herself separated from me and lost as i’m pretty sure someone will know to look for her microchip and so on. It’s much more of a worry when you’re abroad!
So i want something she’s not going to wriggle out of or something that’ll break and fall off. In short, i wanted something i could trust would stay firmly around her neck with my name and contact details on. Tess is currently wearing a Hoopie Collar and i’ve picked her up by it in the past – not regularly but occasionally being able to lift her lumbering 20kg by her collar to quickly get over a wall or boulder can be invaluable (not that i’m suggesting this, it’s an emergency thing i’ve rarely had to use). Knowing it’s not going to suddenly snap open is a huge relief.
Lastly, i’m shocking for losing or forgetting leads, especially as she’s so infrequently on one. What i normally have kicking around in spades though is climbing kit and with the Ruffwear collars, you’ll easily get a full size karabiner through the metal eyelit. Trust me i’ve done it.
Something to wear…
No, i’m not talking about taking your dog to the crag with the santa suit your crazy aunt bought the dog a few years ago; i’m talking about a proper dog harness.
Now, climbers among you, don’t mistake a dog harness with a climbing harness: they’re not designed to take the dob abseiling. The fact that you can with a Webmaster Harness, for example, is purely a handy benefit but as someone who completed eight abseils down the West face of Tryfan in full winter conditions with my poor frozen collie, it’s NOT recommended.
They do have some excellent attributes though: lifting over fences/gates, seeing the dog in the distance and even giving a more pleasant attaching point mean that i’m incredibly glad i have one of these and something like a Webmaster is so easy to fit and again, packs up super small, that i’d not want to be without one. After a quick shake, Tess really doesn’t mind it being on either.
Something to keep them occupied
Don’t underestimate this one when you’re at the crag with your dog: they’re out and about and they want to play. And i’ve learned a few bits along the way.
Taking something for them to play with gives you some peace to get on the boulders but not just anything has worked for me in the past. Your standard dog toys do have a tendency to be filled with foam and having to clear this up at the crag is a giant pain in the behind, so best avoided. Likewise, i’ve lost several in various talus fields on our travels (and believe me, we’ve really tried to get them back) and often tend to lose toys in a bush which means i have to go and tend to my forelorn looking dog – another pain when you’re chalked up with rock boots on and you need to romp through some heather!
I’ll admit to using some cut up bits of rope tatt but i’ve always been reluctant for several reasons: firstly, i don’t want my dog to get into the habit of thinking it’s okay to chew climbing ropes and secondly, i don’t want to be distributing bits of rope tatt around Europe under boulders. And if, unlike me, you haven’t got access to endless metres of scrap rope, it could quickly get more expensive anyway!
These days, we’ve opted to shell out on a Hydro Plane and it’s working a treat! Spending the extra means she can chew and thrash the living daylights out of it with little or no effect. The weight of it means it sits nicely on top of anything it lands on and it’s size means it’s less likely to get lost in a crack. Very much worthwhile.
Oh and one last thing: sticks. Two major issues: one, they’re not great for dogs if thrown incorrectly and have a high risk of injuring your pooch. To be honest, i’m not sold on the whole thing beign a problem and for me, the far more important thing to bear in mind: it’s great relying on sticks until there aren’t any around….