Is Your Child Ready to Walk the Dog?
Walking the dog alone is a huge responsibility and as a good parent and pet owner you’ll need to consider a number of factors before allowing solo walks to happen. Many parents, eager to have the responsibility of dog walking lifted from their shoulders, allow their children out alone too soon and end up paying the consequences. So take it slow and easy when deciding whether your child is ready to walk the dog.
Sometimes Size Does MatterGenerally speaking, children under 10 should not be walking the dog alone, although you can have them hold the leash while you accompany them. Too many things can happen while your dog is out walking for a child younger than 10 to be able to quickly decide what to do if danger arises. Also, the size of your dog and the size of your child is a huge factor in whether your child can perform dog walking alone. When a dog is larger than one fifth the size of your child, the weight ratio is too much to handle solo.
Getting Your Child StartedBegin teaching your child how to walk the dog by having them accompany you, explaining the purpose of commands like ‘heel’ and what tone of voice to use, how much pull you can put on a leash without hurting your dog, why cleaning up after your pet is so important and other aspects of dog walking. This is a wonderful parent-child bonding experience, a nice way for both of you to get exercise and helps deepen the connection between kids and their dogs as well. Once you feel that what you’ve said has sunk in, you can begin to allow your child to hold the leash while you are in deserted areas as a training guide to solo dog walking. It’s important to the safety of your dog and your child that this only happen in deserted areas as traffic and other dogs can be dangerous to both when inexperienced.
Kids and Obedience TrainingYour dog should have some sort of obedience schooling before allowing your child to walk him alone. The dog needs to respond to the commands of your child so test runs with your child issuing commands is important. Watch your dog to see if it’s pulling on the leash, dragging your child or not responding to commands. If any of these are happening, you’ll need to take your child and dog to obedience school so your dog learns to respect your child. Obedience training is as much about teaching the owner how to get the dog to listen to them as it is about training the dog itself, so even if this is a refresher course for your dog it will help your child’s confidence levels immensely.
Dealing with Common Dog Walking IssuesKids should be well aware of the responsibilities that come with dog walking and also how to deal with possible problem situations like dog fights before being allowed out alone. Talk to children about the fines that come with leaving dog poo on the ground, calculating out how many weeks of allowance it would take them to pay it off is a great way to drive the message home. Explain what a yucky feeling it is to put a bare foot or hand in dog poo and (after the fits of giggles have died down) have them visualise themselves stepping in something another owner has left behind and get them to tell you how it makes them feel. Explain what to do if a dog fight occurs and how kids should never try to break up a dog fight with bare hands as they can be easily bitten. You’ll also need to cover some of the ‘birds and bees’ issues as dog romances happen frequently in public places!
Once you are completely satisfied, it’s time to let your child go out alone. Make sure they are well prepared with all the accessories they will need and let them know they should tell you if they are finding the responsibility too much. Then sit back, relax and enjoy the lifting of a responsibility from your shoulders.