Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

My Child Wants to Walk the Dog: Is It Safe?


Can my child walk the dog Dog-loving children, especially “I can do it!” toddlers often want to walk the family dog. Is that a good idea?

My dog-training answer? It depends.

Here are my rules.

Yes when…

  1.  the dog is 1/3 the weight of the child or less.
  2. the dog walks without pulling or lunging.
  3. the adult is holding the leash so can help instantly if needed (think double-handled leash or two leashes).  This assumes #2 and that you are adept at leash handling. Safety is our top priority.
  4. there is no risk – at all – around either of your beloved ones.

NO when…

  1. YOU cannot walk the dog on a slack leash without effort or muscle of any kind in any situation. (Never ask a child to do with a dog anything you cannot easily and safely do.)
  2. your dog lunges after things like other animals, people, moving objects, etc.
  3. you’re near any street or danger zone. If your dog lunges, your child will either let go (and live with the guilt if things go badly) or not let go (and your child lives with the consequences of that).

When we envision this in our head, we tend to envision some cute moment like the photo above. As a dog trainer with decades of professional experience and hundreds of stories in my head, I envision two seconds later when the dog spots a tossed tennis ball, takes off and things go suddenly and unintentionally badly.

Children and Dogs Book Image

I wrote Childproofing Your Dog to help people prepare their dogs (and themselves) for safe, positive dog/child interactions.

Now you know.


  1. I am brother-in-law to Tim and Amy and they recommended I talk with you as I am about to get a dog for my family. I have a 7 and 9 year-old and want a medium (30 to 40lbs), hyperalleginic, kid friendly dog that can fetch. I was looking at Labrodoodles. My wife thinks a Wheaten Terrier might be better. Thoughts

  2. I feel my 8yr old niece is kinda of rough with her puppy chihuahua. She pulls her leash like the puppy is a toy (kind of a lil tug choke) as the dog is hesitant or wants to go in a different direction and is constantly picking her up under her rib cage as puppy doesn’t like being held un properly and wiggles constantly to escape her arms. She also constantly covering her mouth at times and grabs her under her jaw. 🙁 ive never owned a pet myself but it seems harsh to me. My sister doesn’t supervise she doesn’t care bout the puppy she dislikes its habits and I’m like it a puppy!! How much “abuse” can a puppy handle around children her age. 8yr old. Puppy is 8 months.

    • Hi Jay – Sounds hard to watch. I’m sure the little girl isn’t trying to be “mean”. Could you and she go to a local puppy class together – sometimes a qualified third party can have more influence than a concerned family member. Good luck!

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