Thursday, August 30, 2018

Can my kids walk the dog alone?

When a family has a dog very commonly parents want their child(ren) to bond with the family dog and really learn the responsibilities that come with dog ownership. 

This is commendable and definitely should be part of every family's priority list when dealing with a family pet. However, adding "walk the dog" to your kids' responsibility chart may need some considerations to be taken into account first.


Ø  Do your child & dog have a respectful & considerate relationship with each other?

Ø  Does your dog follow/listen to directions/cues from your child?

Ø  Has your dog ever shown signs of aggression toward any other person or animal?

Ø  Has your dog ever chased cars or other animals?

Ø  Can your child read/interpret canine body language & what it means?

Ø  Can your child interpret situations & make appropriate/quick decisions when/if necessary?

Ø  Is your child physically able to handle your dog if it starts to pull on the leash if a distraction were to re-focus your dog?  


Ø  What happens if your child were walking the dog and they were approached by a strange dog, off-leash? Would your child be equipped mentally and physically to handle that scenario?

Ø  What if your dog spooked or became highly aroused by a darting cat or squirrel? Could your child act fast and remain in control of your dog?

Ø  What if your dog's leash pops out of your child's hand and takes off running for some reason or another? Would your child know what to do in that situation?


Ø  What are the local dogs like that live around you, that you may encounter on a regular basis?

Ø  Are there many off-leash dogs you encounter on your normal walking route? In your neighborhood in general?

Ø  If you encounter off-leash dogs, are they friendly?

Ø   Does your dog react in a friendly manner towards dogs that may approach him/her when on-leash?

Ø  Is your dog controllable if excitable/distracted while walking on a leash?


ü  Be sure that Fido has received a good deal of positive training with regards to leash work & how to handle distractions & other dogs that may approach.

ü  Fido should be able to be verbally & physically controlled by whoever is holding the leash. If only one family member has this ability they should be the only one walking the dog until more training for all family members takes place.

ü  Be sure to go over body language, social cues & what-if situations with your child prior to allowing him/her to take on this responsibility. 

ü  Train now, don't wait for an incident to occur that makes you realize that you must now train the dog and the child how to understand all that involves walking a dog.

ü  Take your child with you when you go for a walk and slowly build up where s/he can take full control of the leash, gradually increasing the distance walked while they are in full control. Once your child has built up confidence, you can start to hang back a little bit and observe how s/he does. (Stay close behind!)

ü  You should ask your child probing questions about what they would do in challenging situations, such as if another dog approaches. It's important to try and prepare them as best you can so they aren't startled if something unusual should happen.

ü  Make sure you always remind them what a big responsibility it is to walk the dog and that they must always pay attention to what is going on around them. No cell phones or distractions during the walk. (Hey this should apply to you too, adults!)

ü  As a general rule, kids under 14 years of age, should always be accompanied by an able-bodied adult when walking a dog. Some kids 10 or older may be able to do this depending on many of the factors listed above as well as maturity level of the child, physical abilities and confidence level with walking the dog.

ü  As a general rule kids under the age of 10 years old should never be in possession of the dog's leash (when a dog is attached to it) without an adult either holding a 2nd leash attached to the dog at the same time, or adult holding the end of the leash while child holds the middle of the leash.

ü  Kids should be taught proper leash holding skills, training skills, how to read canine body language and what to do in certain scenarios that may come up while out on a walk with the dog. A trained professional is recommended to help with this process.

The most ideal situation would be to go walking as a family unit and make it an activity everyone gets involved in and enjoys! Take a training class or better, have a trainer come to your home to work one-on-one with your family to show everyone how to work with and train your dog. 

There are great training programs that are taught by licensed Private Trainers through The Family Dog and their training programs for families and dogs.

Most children under 14 wouldn't be safe walking the dog alone [without an able-bodied adult], especially when considering all possibilities and scenarios that could arise. However, this isn't going to be the same for all families and kids, so this is why training and good judgment calls are important when deciding and allowing kids to walk the dog alone. No child under the age of 10 should walk a dog alone at any time.
The bottom line is that your dog should be reliably trained to walk with a loose leash and be able to be controlled both physically and verbally by the person holding the leash. This person should also be able to act swiftly if an unforeseen circumstance were to arise.

The person holding the leash should be able to take quick action if/when needed to ensure safety for all parties. So, find a great trainer to help you and your family learn all you need to for dog safety when walking as well as how to gain great leash skills and loose leash walking with your dog.

Stacy Greer, CPDT-KA 
licensed Family Paws Parent Educator 
& Private Trainer with The Family Dog
Sunshine Dog Training & Behavior
servicing the Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas metroplex
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