Raising Kids and Dogs
Kids and Dogs Part One-Walking The Dog
I will say once again, that two of my personal favorite things in life are dogs and kids. Over my career working professionally with families and dogs, I have truly enjoyed working with these two fun and living souls. But that does not mean they aren’t challenging!
Today’s post was sparked by my recent walk with my own dog Dexter. While Dexter and I were casually strolling our neighborhood 10 minutes ago, we saw 3 young children (guessing first grade) walking a 25lb or so dog. I proceeded to give them more distance as I always do for dogs I don’t know, and as they approached, I could see the one girl grip the leash tighter. As we passed by, she said how her dog doesn’t like other dogs and growls and barks at them. Thankfully, Dexter tends to be so neutral that a lot of dogs do not respond to him, and their dog just walked past like we weren’t even there.
Wow! My mind was in overdrive as Dexter and I continued to walk home. So many things with this scenario just make my hair stand on end. So let’s break down the idea of kids walking dogs WITHOUT an adult along.
At what age should a child be allowed to take the family dog for a walk without an adult? As you can imagine, there is not a gold standard in age. But I wouldn’t even consider allowing a child under 12 to take a dog for a walk without an adult. There needs to be some social maturity holding that leash. Then I would look at a few key factors before making a decision. You should be able to answer YES to all the questions below without any hesitation.
- Does the child respect and always treat the dog kindly?
- Will the child be able to handle the dog if he does get excited?
- Will the child prioritize the dog’s needs above their own?
- Does the child know to pick up the dog’s poo?
What about the dog’s behavior and personality? Once you have come to the conclusion that your child is mature enough to walk a dog without an adult, we need to look at the dog’s personality and behavior to see if he is a suitable candidate. You should be able to answer YES to all the questions below without any hesitation.
- Does the dog behave well in public and on a leash?
- Does the dog pretty much ignore small critters such as bunnies, cats, and squirrels?
- Does the dog ignore passing traffic, noises, and booms?
- Does the dog listen well to the child?
- Is the dog-friendly with all strangers, but not too overly excited?
- Does he ignore other dogs?
Where will your child be walking the family dog? Even if your child is mature and your dog is low key and responsive to your child, the environment can play a huge factor in your decision making. I am sad to report that I know a handful of children and their dogs who were behaving appropriately when their dogs were attacked by other off-leash dogs. This is so terribly upsetting to me on so many levels. Yes, I did write an article on What To Do If You Run Into An Off-Leash Dog, one of my most popular articles to date, which unfortunately says a lot.
This is something you really should think long and hard about. As a parent, you are making a decision for your child that could affect the rest of their life both emotionally and possibly physically if anything should go wrong. I would like to say it doesn’t happen that often, or only happens in “bad neighborhoods,” but in my personal experience, that has not been the case.
So now what? I know I am not a parent to a human child, but I have been working with parents, their children, and dogs for quite some time now, so have a good grasp on what is safe behavior and what is risky behavior. I’m not a risk-taker when it comes to people or dogs in my care. So what this means to me is that I would urge you to walk WITH your children and dogs as a family outing. This is a wonderful time to bond with your children and to continue to teach them life lessons on dogs and dog responsibility. Leave the ultimate responsibility of your dog and children in your hands, not theirs.
Enjoy your family and get out walking!
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