Should Children Be Walking The Dog?

I saw a post on Facebook earlier today on this topic. The main idea was that a woman was being investigated for allowing her eight-year-old daughter walk their Maltese around the block (USA Today article)).

The article centers around the idea of neglect and while I certainly feel this is an issue worth addressing — not for me here.  My concern is the safety of the child and the dog as it relates to the act of walking the dog. As a professional dog walker for over 12 years, I have seen adults incapable of walking a dog safely and to me, the idea of allowing a child to walk the dog alone is risky.

Now, that being said, I also recognize that this is a generalization and that many young children may be quite capable and I leave that decision to parents to determine based on a number of factors, including but not limited to the size of child and dog, the overall safety of the area, likelihood (although really unpredictable) of loose dogs, and how well the dog has been trained to walk on a leash.

Problems I’ve encountered/seen while walking dogs — the walker being distracted by the phone and dog pulls to go after a squirrel and the leash is dropped, the walker may fall. Other walkers with the ‘ole “my dog is friendly” approaching whether the other dog they’d like to meet is friendly and a fight ensues. Would you want your eight-year-old involved? I’ve broken up a dog fight or two and I cannot imagine a child having to deal with the fear and trauma of a dog fight.

Will the child pick up the poop (which is also another opportunity for the dog to surprise the walker and pull the leash out of the hands)?

I was curious about this topic and found some other websites addressing this topic:

http://wwwpetproblemsolved.com.au/blog

http://www.askthedogguy.com/kids-walking-dogs/

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41353890/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/your-dogs-head-size-can-reveal-how-strong-fast-it/

I realize parents will decide, hopefully wisely, when it is safe for their children to walk the dog, but I do hope they recognize dog walking can be risky and consider the many outside influences that can determine the outcome of the walk.

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