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Making a Zip Line for your Dog

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Camping … picnics … a trip to the park or the beach … even just hanging out in your own back yard. Whenever you’re kicking back outdoors with your dog, a zip line is the perfect accessory to make your time together more fun!

Ty the Shar-pei from on a zip line in a campsite

Keeping Ty and Buster safe, and abiding by the rules of many of the places we visit, means that the boys spend a lot of time on-leash. Though we’re always out exploring new territory, life at the end of a six foot tether – anchored to a person with a mind of her own about our direction of travel – may not provide the dogs with a satisfying sense of freedom.

To give the boys more room to wander when we’re at a campground, we devised an inexpensive doggy zip line!

Zip Line vs. Tie-Out

The zip line has a lot of advantages over the tie-outs that are often used to keep dogs from wandering off.

First, you don’t spend all of your time untangling your dogs from each other, the picnic table, or whatever stick, tree, or anthill they manage to wrap themselves around.

Second, you’ll never have that sickening feeling in your gut as you watch your dog hit the end of their unforgiving cable tie-out at a dead run, nearly decapitating himself.

Ty the Shar-pei and Buster the German Shepherd lounging in a campsite on their zip line

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Materials and Assembly

The materials for the zip line can be picked up at any hardware store. All you’ll need is some nylon rope and two spring clasps – the whole works cost us about ten dollars.

We chose a rope with a smooth cover, which makes it comfortable to handle, and also has a bit of stretch for some shock absorbency to protect the dogs from a harsh stop.

The knot tying was handled expertly by my Eagle Scout husband – he made quick work of the two bowline knots that we needed to attach the spring clasps to the rope. After passing the raw ends of the rope though a flame to melt the fibers and keep them from unraveling – SHAZAM – we were done!

Coiled rope with snap clips attached to each end

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Deciding On Length

The most difficult part of making your zip line will be deciding how long it should be.

Since we have two dogs, we decided on a 50 foot line, which give us plenty of length to attach it at each end, wrap the middle around a tree, picnic table, or post (whatever’s handy), and then create a second run to the other end.

Wrapping the rope around the middle tree gives each of the boys their own space and helps keep them from getting tangled around each other. In the picture below we’ve used three trees, and Ty is on the shorter run, while Buster has a little more space to explore.

Ty the Shar-pei and Buster the German Shepherd from lounging on their zip line in a campsite Ty the Shar-pei and Buster the German Shepherd from lounging on their zip line in a campsite

Connecting Dogs to the Zip Line

Dogs should not be attached to the zip line by their collar, because it could choke them if they became tangled. We use Buster and Ty’s harnesses, which have a loop on the back to connect the leash. The final step is to slip a heavy-weight carabiner through the leash handle and snap it on the line, then sit back and relax! Just remember not to leave your pal unattended on the zip line.

Ty the Shar-pei and Buster the German Shepherd from lounging on their zip line in a campsite Ty the Shar-pei and Buster the German Shepherd from lounging on their zip line in a campsite

Have your tried a zip line with your pets? Please share your experience in the comments below!

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  • Robert says:

    I enjoyed the article. Full disclaimer, I’m the owner of Rover Roamer Aerial Dog Runs, but I think I may be able to contribute to the conversation. These points come from my own experience.

    1) Use what I call a “neck-safe bungee” between the line and the leash to reduce any whiplash effects from running until restrained. When I camp, I personally put the line up above my head so I don’t clothesline anyone or trip over it.
    2) For a dog, even worse than discipline is a feeling of abandonment. They are social creatures and rely on a sense of belonging. A dog may feel abandoned if left on a dog run without some comforts nearby like familiar toys, a blanket, a dog bed, and maybe an old t-shirt that smells like you. Check in regularly to assure your pet that they are not being punished. Give them love and rewards for good behavior.
    3) Dogs inherently don’t like to be tied up. A quiet system is best. Rope is quiet and stretches. Using a harness helps reduce the stress of feeling tied up.
    4) Use bumpers/rope clamps on the line, situated far enough away from trees so they don’t get wrapped around the anchor points.
    5) Observe them on the track to make sure the bumpers are set apart correctly and that they don’t chew off the leash.

    Great article and love the pics!

  • Barbara Pattee Hoffman That’s too funny, Barbara! I haven’t seen the movie, but I read the book and it was incredible.

  • Brandy S West We just recently watched A Dog’s Purpose. My dog is quite a tv watcher. But, he watched all but about 10 min of this movie. He sat right on the couch and watched with me. LOL

  • Teaching “wait” is a fanatastic idea, Sandy. It’s one of the most important commands, because it can literally save your dog’s life. I remember once Ty’s leash broke as we were walking down the sidewalk in a busy city. Telling him to wait allowed us to get a hand on his collar before he dashed out into traffic. Thanks for your note, and waggin’ trails to you!

  • We were at a rally and took the traveling with pets work shop. One of the things I took away from that class was to teach the “wait” comand. Have the dog at the top of the steps inside the coach and tell them to sit , wait. If they move repete. this comand prevents larger dogs from knocking you down jumping out of the coach when you’re not ready. alos prevents accidents in rest stops or gas stations. The speaker told of a case where a little dog jumped out of the casch right into the path of an on coming truck. needless to say the truck won. I use the comand at home too to keep them from running out the front door when guest arrive.

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