Can you bring dogs on the Upper Missouri River Breaks?

In the United States it is well known that we love our pets. In 2020 statistics show that Americans owned an average of 1.46 dogs per household. That is why we often get asked this question. Boarding dogs can be expensive, and a lot of people get dogs specifically to recreate with. With that said, yes you are allowed to bring your pets on the river. However, there are always things to consider when making this choice. We here at Missouri River Outfitters love our dogs, but we do not bring them on the river for the following reasons. 

1. The environment- The Upper Missouri River Breaks are known for its tenacious mud, cactus, and dry heat. In the spring the riverbanks can be quite difficult, and we gage mud by how far up your calf it goes when getting out of the boat. Cactus is everywhere in the Breaks. There are not distinct hiking trails and even if there are you will still be watching for cactus with every step. In the middle of the summer to early fall you will be battling the heat and the best way to cool off is the river. What this all means for your furry friend is that they will be covered in mud, you will be picking cacti from their paws, and you will need to be conscientious of them overheating. 

2. Critters- There are a couple critters that just don’t mix well with dogs in the breaks. The top 3 would be rattlesnakes, porcupines, and tics. In 2020-2022 at least one dog was bitten a year and porcupine incidents are not uncommon in the area. Both Rattle Snakes and Porcupines will create an emergency vet run. Unfortunately, in the Breaks there is no cell phone service and emergency evacuation are not common for dogs. There is little to no road access and your best way out is going to be by paddling as fast as you can. 

3. Hiking- There are fabulous hiking opportunities in the breaks but a lot of them will require some rock scrambling (hand over foot). You will need to Carry your dog up stuff or just opt out on some of our favorite hikes. This includes the Slot Canyon and the Hole-in-the-wall hike. 

4. Pack in pack out- Everyone is required to pack in/pack out their waste. This will also be the case for your pet. Even if they don’t go to the bathroom right on the trail, you need to pick it up! The Missouri River Break is a desert environment and waste doesn’t decompose like it would in other environments. Besides that, it’s the rules! 

5. Dogs must be on a leash- it’s the rule! Your pet is not allowed to run around unsupervised. There are many reasons to leash your pet including keeping your dog safe, keeping wildlife safe, considerate to others, and protecting the environment. 

6. Canoeing with a dog- Some dogs are great in canoes, while others are not at all! Make sure to do a trial run before bringing your dog on the river. A good article on how to canoe with your dog Tips for Canoeing or Kayaking with Dogs – Plan a Safe and Fun Adventure (

7. Group preference- If one person brings a dog it can affect everyone in the group. Make sure your group is okay with you bringing your dog. To start the trip on the right foot, make sure everyone has a say in the decision.

We know that all dogs are different, just like all humans are different. Some dogs will handle the river better than others and this all comes down to how well you know your dog. We bring our dogs on lots of adventures with us and absolutely love seeing furry friends stop by the shop. If you are bringing a dog on the river, be an example out there, know the risks and come prepared. Here are some links we find helpful when planning a trip with your dog

Tips for canoeing with dogs- Tips for Canoeing & Kayaking with a Dog | Old Town (

Dog camping checklist The ultimate checklist for camping with your dog | PawTracks

Good article on camping with your dog Camping With The Dog – GUIDE: The Official Blog of SALKAN® (

We do allow dogs in our shuttle vans but require that they are clean, wrapped up to minimize shedding and stay on the floor. If you plan to rent a boat please cushion the boat with a piece of carpet, padding or bedding. 

Happy Camping!