Toby and Roo talk us through their top tips for dog walking with little ones! Read on to find out what to do, and how to prepare... When we first bought our puppy, Yoda, following the death of our old dog, I was determined to buy a dog that wanted to go out on nice long walks and could keep up with the children as they charged about. We have a small chihuahua who has never been interested in going out for walks, especially if the weather hasn’t suited her so I wanted a larger dog who would encourage us all to get out and have some fun.
Funnily enough, Yoda hasn’t just encouraged myself and the kids to go on nice long country walks, but he’s also inspire the chihuahua too - she adores running and keeping up with him, which means I now have 2 dogs and 3 children under 6 (one of which can’t walk very far as she’s only 1) on a countryside walk with me. As you can imagine the question I get asked a lot is “How do you do it?! The answer is: Easy. It is bizarrely easy once you have a few things set in place, not to mention easily my favourite part of the day. Here are a few tips for you to enjoy dog walking with young children. 1.) Plan ahead. It might sounds a bit daft but planning ahead is a brilliant way to guarantee no upsets. Get half way through your route and one of the kids has a meltdown or accident? If you know where you’re going you will know whether it is smarter to turn back or carry on. Check out if there are any cafes or places to stop and get changed in case of emergency and if not, plan a slightly shorter route. I actually recommend keeping a dog walk for young children to between 1 and 2 miles, no more until they are used to the idea of walking. (it’s also not recommended to take puppies on more than a short walk). 2.) Take only what you need Glorious day? You probably don’t need big puffer coats, so leave them behind. Try to take exactly what you need and no more other wise you will end up becoming a pack horse as well as parent and responsible for dogs. Don’t let wet weather put you off either, grab the wellies and waterproof trousers and enjoy the chance to splash - just make sure you keep a towel ready for the dogs (and kids). If you have a potty training little one, change of clothes might be a must but try to make it something that can easily be rolled up and stored in a little back pack that they can carry, not you. 3.) Pushchairs are a no. Just no. I have made this mistake a fair few times. I’ve planned out a route in our local forest, I’m all ready to go with my big off roading pushchair… and I meet a big wooden fence. Sigh. If you have a child who is unlikely to be able to walk for a long distance, invest in a good quality carrier. I have just bought a Tula carrier for Edie and I wouldn’t be without it… especially as it can also hold Toby who is nearly 4! Ditch the pushchair and grab the carrier is my best advice for people with under 3s on any walk. 4.) Leads and harnesses Please, please DON’T take your dog out without a lead or a proper harness. I can’t tell you how many times in the short time we have been dog walking I have seen people with very obedient dogs walking at the heel with no lead, only for them to shoot off when they see a rabbit or something. Leads are a must, and for a large dog I would recommend a harness to help you with pulling and to keep control. In large fields or woods, feel free to let them off once they are trained, but when you have young children with you, a proper restraint is a must as your ability to run off is significantly diminished. 5.) Ahoy to the training class Get your pup enrolled in training classes as soon as you can. If not classes, at least make sure to take up some training with them yourself. I also HIGHLY recommend getting the whole family involved in training, Yoda will now sit and stay for Reuben (age 5) which is so important because it gives the dog the knowledge that, even when out playing on a walk, the child is still the dominant role, meaning your pooch is less likely to try and dominate the kids when excited. The kids absolutely LOVE taking treats with them to dish out for good behaviour, so it is fun for all. 6.) Have a STOP plan that the kids understand If, for any reason, something goes wrong, have a STOP plan. It could be something as simple as shouting STOP and everyone listening, in case someone has tripped or something or a bit more complex and followed with “move to the side of the road for the tractor” but make sure that everyone knows where they stand and have a chat before hand. Last of all, ENJOY!