Here are my red, amber and green suggestions for children walking the dog…
I often get asked if children should walk the dog or at what age children should be allowed to walk the dog. Well, of course, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Your answer as a parent and a dog owner may depend on:
- the age of the child
- the energy, strength and behaviour of the dog
- the location of the walk, including safety for child and dog
- the child’s motivation
- the child’s ability to cope with the situation should something go wrong
Here’s a few suggestions for your decision. I’ve also put some suggestions in blue.
Green light for walking the dog
If your child is accompanying you on the walk, you are in an enclosed area and your dog does not pull on the lead, then this is the easiest scenario to allow some dog walking. Most young children insist on it! You still need to supervise their interactions. Practice this is your garden before attempting a street walk.
The older child/teenager/young adult
Another green light situation for dog walking is the older child, the teenager/adult who is still at home. They may still need a little practice at getting the dog to walk by their side and some persuasion to pick up poo! My suggestion is to get them to take a photo of the poo bag, once they’ve picked it up, and you reward them when they get home (cash usually works well at this age). Sometimes this age group is just a little too lazy so good luck with motivating them. I find that letting them know the dog will love them even more if they walk with their canine companion helps.
Amber for caution when walking
The first time
The first few times that a child (of any age) walks the dog can be tricky. Both ends of the leash are learning about one another. The child needs to be firm and consistent in their commands. Let them practice in your backyard prior to any street walks and make sure you accompany them on their first few walks.
The energetic dog
There is no doubt that some dogs are just too energetic to be handled by a child. This may be those with major enthusiasm for walks, those who pull too hard on the lead or those who show excitement or aggression towards other dogs they encounter when walking. The energetic dog will benefit from some training, by you and your child.
Taking a dog for a walk on a quiet street is easier than a busy road. Most people assume that an off-leash park is an easy option but owners and/or handlers of the dog need to remain in control of their dog. If your child is not confidant enough to look after your dog should a fight break out between animals (or even between people), then stick to quiet locations for their walk.
Walking other dogs
Some children like to walk neighbourhood dogs to make a little extra pocket money. Remember that not every dog is as easy to walk as your own, so caution should be taken when walking any dog for the first time. Owners of the dogs need to be honest with dog walkers about their dog’s behaviour.
Red for thinking again about letting your child walk the dog
The young child
If you do not let your child walk the streets alone, then do not allow them to walk your dog. This may seem obvious but some parents feel that their child is safer when accompanied by their dog. Why not let your younger child hold the lead while you are walking together? You can always keep a hold of the lead at the same time.
The aggressive dog
If your dog is extremely aggressive towards other dog or even people that they meet, then it is your responsibility to walk your dog, not your child’s. Seek some help from a behaviourist in solving the aggression problem.
If you address the dog walking question with common sense and caution, you will ensure that your children and your dog always have a positive relationship.