What an ideal scene! The kids walking the dogs. There are several things to consider first!
First, how important is a walk for dogs…very!
One of the most normal activities for canines to do is walk with the pack. In nature, dogs would walk daily together with the pack, most likely looking for food. But, in the case of the modern day dog living with a family, searching for food isn’t usually the reason for the walk. (Although the way dogs try to scarf up anything they find along the way, you can see this may be hard wired in their brains.)
Walking does a number of important things for a dog.
No. 1 – drains energy
No. 2 – relieves boredom
No. 3 – builds a bond with you
No. 4 – exposes them to other dogs/people/things
So, yes, in my book walking is a great thing to do with your dog!
Now, back to the kids as the dog walkers…here are a few tips to help make it a dream.
The first thing to do is be sure your dog has leash manners with you before handing the leash over to your child. My neighbors, seen in the photo, were both 9 years old when they first asked to walk my dogs Hunter and Ruby. As calm they look in the photo, originally they were both horrible “pullers” on leash! In fact, Hunter, the retriever, had a history of pulling down his previous owner’s daughter and mother-in-law! At 5 years old he came to live with me and I began training him over the coming weeks and months. By the time the neighbor girls asked, Hunter was trained to walk politely.
You also need to learn if your dog reacts unpredictably to certain things so that a child won’t get caught in a bad situation. Some dogs get excited if they see another dog, others may bolt out if they see a cat or other animal. Sometimes an unexpected sound like a large vehicle may cause a dog to react. Depending on the dog, it could be as simple as a plastic bag blowing across the street. Know your dog! Back to the photo, the vizsla Ruby was afraid of at least 20 things when she was first re-homed to me (crunching leaves, plastic bags, feathers, crossing bridges, etc.). I spent time making her comfortable with these things before handing the leash to a child.
Third, consider using a double leash. In this case, both you and your child have separate leashes which are attached to your dog. You can be the “safety net” if something goes wrong during the walk.
If any of this makes you uncomfortable, just hire a good dog trainer or take a class. As a trainer, I love working with children and families. Be sure to find a good trainer or facility that will be happy to work with your entire family and your dog to create a positive bond between all family members. Just like any other profession, dog trainers are not all the same. Hunter’s previous owners told me other trainers had given up on him. Fortunately, I took no heed to this. Be sure to find a trainer that will work with you to help you succeed!