5 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Walk the Dog
It is many parents’ dream to have their children take an active interest in caring for the family pet. After all, the dog is sometimes viewed as another member of the household. Additionally, it’s always good to know that your kid can get along well with your furbaby. As your child grows older, it may be time to introduce them to the more grown-up responsibilities of caring for your canine companion. This includes letting them take your pup for a walk without you. If your little one seems hesitant to take on the task, here are some tips to help you encourage them:
Treat It like a Milestone
Some children eagerly wait for the day that they get big enough for certain things, so why not make dog walking one of them? That said, your kid’s size will matter, especially if your pup is on the larger side. As a rule of thumb, you might need to wait a little longer if the family pet is larger than a third of your child’s height. Otherwise, it is going to be too dangerous if there isn’t much of a size difference between them.
If your kid is tall enough to handle the task, get them a customizable step-in dog harness as an added precaution. Compared to a normal leash, your child does not have to rely on their weight or strength to keep the dog under control during a solo walk. A harness also provides the leverage and support they need so that neither they nor your pet will get hurt. Additionally, there is something incredibly touching about handing your little one a harness and saying “It’s your turn, buddy.”
Take Them with You
Lead by example by letting your kid accompany you on dog walks. It is a great way to bond with your child and your pup, and will allow the former to see firsthand what can happen when taking the dog outside. Doing this can also help set expectations so that your little one slowly learns what to do and how they can respond to certain situations once they start doing the activity on their own.
Start Slowly and Build Up from There
Help your little one understand that teaching them to walk the dog is a process. In the beginning, you will need to have your child observe what needs to be done during the activity. Then, as they get accustomed to this arrangement, you can gradually allow them to hold the leash for a while. Go to areas far away from other pet parents, their canine companions, and traffic. That way, they can just focus on walking your pup while you take on the role of a guide.
When you feel that your kid is ready for solo walks with your pet, have them do short intervals at first. Vary the time and frequency depending on the needs of your furbaby. If your pup requires constant walks, have your child start with a few 10-minute solo sessions around the house. Gradually allow them to take the dog out of the house for longer periods and reach farther distances. Eventually, you can trust that your little one will always safely get home with your canine friend after their quick adventure around the neighborhood.
Teach Your Child about Proper Walking Etiquette
Another important aspect of dog walking is how one should properly behave and act, since the activity involves going to public places and interacting with other people and animals. Sometimes, your furbaby can get into fights or start displaying flirtatious behavior with other dogs. As such, your child must be briefed on what to do about it.
Additionally, make sure that they bring paper towels or dog poop bags to clean up with if your pup defecates in public. It’s common courtesy to do so and it’s a good way to prepare your kid to learn how to become responsible and accountable.
Consider Additional Training for Both Your Child and Dog
Sometimes, children aren’t so different from puppies. Both can benefit from obedience training, even if it is just a refresher course. Your little one needs to learn how to get the dog to listen to them when they give certain commands such as sit, stay, and heel, especially on solo walks. In the same vein, your pup needs to learn to respect and listen to your kid. Remember that this is also a new experience for your canine companion, so a short period spent in obedience training can help both your child and furbaby adjust to these new roles in the family.
Letting your kid go out alone to walk the dog is a parenting milestone that you need to be ready for. While it is nice to sit back and relax because you now share the burden of walking the family pet with someone else, you still need to ensure that your child is ready to take on that responsibility. Take the time to let your little one and your furbaby get used to this change and learn to let them go when you know they’re ready.