My dog-training answer? It depends.
Here are my rules.
- the dog is 1/3 the weight of the child or less.
- the dog walks without pulling or lunging.
- 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.
- there is no risk – at all – around either of your beloved ones.
- 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.)
- your dog lunges after things like other animals, people, moving objects, etc.
- 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.
I wrote Childproofing Your Dog to help people prepare their dogs (and themselves) for safe, positive dog/child interactions.
Now you know.