For a 10 year old to walk dogs:
- They should be mature enough to do so
- They must be able to manage the dog
- It depends on the breed, size, age, and temperament of the dog
- Training should be given first, ideally in an enclosed yard
- Initial walks should always be with a responsible adult
- Start with short walks
If you have kids, they may start asking you if they can walk the dog, too. Now, obviously if we’re talking about a toddler, you’re going to say no. If you’ve got a responsible teenager on your hands, you may well say yes and be glad of the offer.
But what if you’ve got a 10-year-old?
Suddenly, the answer isn’t quite so clear, is it?
I’ve done a lot of research into kids of this age, the skills they’re likely to have, and things you need to think about on a physical and mental level. I’ve provided some advice you can use to help you work out whether your 10-year-old can walk your family dog. The solutions you’re looking for to answer this question are all here.
10-year-olds begin to exhibit greater independence
This means they will do more by themselves and with friends, rather than wanting to be with mom and dad and their siblings all the time, if they have any.Yes, you’re going to start being very uncool right around this time!
The CDC provides a great guide on how a child typically develops and changes at this stage of life – known as middle childhood. Remember, though, it is just a guide.
According to my research, this is the age where many children can take their dog out alone. If they have that desire for independence and have shown themselves to be responsible and trustworthy, a short walk shouldn’t present any issues.
Some kids mature faster than others
Many tweens or tweenagers, as they are called, may look older than their years. However, there can be a huge gap between being a child and a teenager. We all mature at different rates, and while girls are said to mature faster than boys, we can’t say that’s true of every girl and boy.
If you are the proud parent of a mature 10-year-old, boy or girl, you’re more likely to be able to let them walk your pooch than if you know your child has a lot more maturing to do first.
It depends on the size and breed of dog
Walking a chihuahua is a different proposition compared to walking a Great Dane. Chances are if you have a child aged 10 and a chihuahua or another tiny breed of dog, you’re going to be more likely to allow them to walk the dog sooner than if you had a large breed.
Of course, size isn’t the only thing that matters. I’ll cover other aspects in other segments of this article, but you should also consider how strong your dog is. Some breeds are very muscly. Think of a Staffordshire bull terrier, for example.
We had two of those in the family years back, and they were literally solid muscle. Soft as anything in terms of their nature, but solid. If one decided to pull on its leash, I would have trouble holding it in place. A 10-year-old would have no chance.
Even our Freya is strong, even though she may not look it from the picture of her below, and Bichons aren’t known for being a strong muscle-bound breed.
She loves hiking with us and ‘digging’ in her bed though (and sadly digging in the garden too; we have lots of evidence of that). That has led her to have stomach muscles anyone would be proud of. She’s solid for a little dog.
Top tip: Consider whether your dog and child are a good match
Think about strength, maturity, and size – both for your dog and your child.
It also depends on the age of the dog
We all know a puppy when we see one. The same goes for many adult dogs, except maybe for the cute fluffy ones that always look more youthful! (Freya, I’m looking at you…)
Puppies tend to mature into dogs between one and two years of age. However, even when they are fully grown, they can still retain a lot of those puppy features and habits. They can be bouncier when they’re young too, presenting a bigger challenge for a young 10-year-old to cope with.
Consider how old your dog is and what they are usually like on the walks you take them on.
Obviously, if your dog is now 10 years or older, they’re going to be far less bouncy than a two-year-old dog. They might be happy to walk for a block or two to do their business before returning home.
You should also consider what your dog is like when meeting other dogs
Some dogs love other dogs. Some hate them, and some fall somewhere between the two. Hopefully, you’ve got a well-socialized dog that will happily and safely greet other pooches before going on its way.
However, if your dog is a little feisty or excitable, this is going to be more challenging for your child to cope with. If your pooch has problems with other dogs, I wouldn’t recommend that your child ever takes the leash on their own. Even if you are there, it may not be a good idea.
They must first be taught how to walk the dog on leash
If you have a yard, get started out there. If you’ve had your dog from a puppy, you should already have a series of commands they follow. These should include:
- Walk on (or whatever else you say when you command them to cross a road or continue walking after stopping)
You can then teach your child to control the dog using the same commands. Make sure they use a strong tone of voice. Dogs respond to tone as much as what you say.
My other half was always better at this than me. I naturally have a softer voice, and it took me ages to get that commanding tone that Freya would pay attention to. I needed to know I could safely walk her and have her under control though, so I worked on it, and now we’re fine.
You should make sure your child adopts a strong tone as well. It might take a while, hence why training in the yard is a great idea.
If your yard is big enough, encourage your child to walk the dog on a small circuit of the available space. They can try using the various commands they will use on a walk too – the ones we mentioned above. This gives you all a chance to see whether the dog pays attention.
This is a learning experience, of course, so you may find it takes a few attempts before your dog understands that your 10-year-old is in charge.
Short sessions a few times a day are better than one long session too. Your child’s attention span (and that of your dog) will likely improve over time.
They should then walk the dog with a responsible adult
Once the training sessions have gone well, and your child is managing to walk your dog and take proper control of them, you can move on to accompanied walks.
At this stage, you should give your child control of the dog but still accompany them on every walk. Start with a short walk and build from there.
For example, if your dog would usually get a 30-minute walk, you might choose a 10-minute walk around the block instead. You can always head out two or three times a day.
Tackle different walks in various locations
This helps to build the experience for your child. For example, you could go on accompanied walks:
- To a dog park
- Around the block
- Along a trail or path
- On a busy sidewalk
These varied locations provide lots of different stimuli for the dog and your child. They’ll learn far more doing this than if they walked around the same route every time.
You could always ‘shadow’ your child for a while before they walk the dog alone
This is a great idea if you’re still unsure whether your child is ready. Of course, they may also feel unsure, so you can use this technique to bridge the gap between buddy walks (i.e. with an adult) and walks they do alone.
The idea is to agree a route beforehand (something short to start with) and to let your child leave with the dog a minute or two before you. They should be within sight but be able to feel they’re walking the dog alone. If anything happens, you’ll be close by and ready to assist if needed.
This is a good way of boosting the child’s confidence but giving them a security blanket of sorts too – at least to start with.
Consider whether your child and your dog are a good match
For all the advice and information that I’ve given you here, there are two parts to the equation that cannot be assessed by anyone other than you. They are:
- Your dog
- Your child
One 10-year-old child might cope well with a medium-sized dog that has been well-trained, proving that they can be relied upon to take it for a safe and enjoyable walk. Conversely, a 10-year-old living two doors away from you might struggle to stay safe on a walk with their family dog.
That’s why there is no simple yes or no answer to the question I posed in the title of this article. You know your child and their level of maturity better than anyone else. You also know how your dog behaves on the average walk.
While I wouldn’t suggest that your 10-year-old child should let the dog run off leash on any walk they tackle together, there will come a time when this is the next natural step.
And when you reach that stage, you can look back at this experience as the perfect groundwork to build on. You never know, you might soon wonder whether you’ll ever get the chance to go on a solo walk with your pooch again!
When a 10-year-old is ready to walk the family dog, it helps cement their bond
This could be the best benefit of all. They’ll have a bond with the pooch already but going for dog walks does help cement that further.
I was in my early forties when we adopted Freya, our Bichon Frise, so I was way beyond being a kid (even though some who know me might dispute that). I noticed how much strong our bond grew as we walked together each day though. That’s something your kid can enjoy too.