Wednesday, July 17, 2013

At What Age is a Child Old Enough to Walk the Dog Alone?

Kids in the age range of 12-16 can take a great deal of responsibility for the care and training of a puppy or a well-trained older dog.

Puppy Care and Training

They can feed, groom, train and clean up after the puppy. They can let the puppy in and out of the crate. Most children in this age range can handle the puppy independently in a group obedience class (while a parent observes) and can continue as the puppy grows older and stronger. Behaviour specialist Teresa Lewin suggests that a child is old enough to handle a dog independently when the dog respects and obeys the child, when the child can read the dog, predict an impending problem and can intervene appropriately. This will occur at different ages and depends on the maturity of the child, the relationship the child has developed with the dog and the temperament and level of training of the dog.

Walking the Dog Alone

Some kids age 12-16 will be safe walking the dog in the neighbourhood without adult supervision. This depends on the maturity of the child and a number of factors. According to Teresa Lewin of Doggone Safe, some basic criteria must be met:

·            The dog knows how to walk on a loose leash and this behaviour is reliable
·            The child can read the dog’s body language
·            The child and dog have a mutually respectful relationship
·            The dog will happily and willingly follow directions from the child
·            The dog has never shown any sign of aggression toward people or other dogs
·            The dog does not chase cars, cats, or other animals
·            The child knows how to interpret situations and take appropriate action.

In addition, the size and strength of the dog relative to the child must be taken into consideration. The child should be strong enough to control the dog if the dog did decide to bolt or pull hard on the leash. Another consideration is the situation in the neighbourhood with respect to other dogs. If there are loose dogs, or dogs that act aggressively on the walk route, then the child should take a different route or not walk the dog without an adult.

Make it a Family Event

Better still, make walking the dog a daily family event. This has many benefits for the family as well as the dog.


  1. My concern is not only about the child's ability and the dog's training, but also about the neighborhood. My biggest fear would be a child walking a small dog that is attacked by another dog. The dog (or child)
    could end up seriously injured or killed and the child emotionally scarred for life.

  2. I got "my" first dog when I was 7. I was never left alone with him till I was 11, but by that time I was working with horses and was learning all about the body language of different animals.

  3. Good list - but in my area even adults walk with large sticks to fend off aggressive strays, so no child would be safe. The problem is so bad I have decided to train my dog to retrieve, rather than risk his safety around my neighbourhood

  4. 12-16 is a reasonable age, but IMO the kid should have "experience" walking the dog with an adult before and the kid should be fully aware of what to do in the case that Linda Brennen mentioned. And I think the kid and dog should have the proper training before they walk the dog alone.

  5. Example of poor judgement: while walking my Lab back to the car from the dog show ring, a group of people doing the same the were to my right, but a small child was "in charge of" their Bouvier. The dog bolted and pulled the child over to stand face to face with my dog, challenging him. Fortunately, my dog didn't take the bait and I hope the people learned a lesson. If I had had my friend's male Akita, the outcome would have been very different.