If you have a dog and a young child, then you will inevitably be wondering about the best way to walk a dog with a toddler. But how should you go about it?
There are three options for walking your dog with a toddler: in a stroller, a carrier (backpack-style preferred), or your toddler can walk with you. Which option you choose depends on the age of your toddler, your dog’s temperament, and your preference.
Let us take a closer look at your three options. We will look at the specifics of a couple of strollers and carriers, and we will give you some tips and tricks for when you have a toddler that wants to walk beside you or hold onto the leash.
Option 1 – Putting your toddler in a stroller
In my opinion, you will definitely want any child under two years of age in a stroller when you are taking the dog on their daily walk. Even if they have started walking, they are probably still pretty unstable on their feet and you will spend more time helping them up than actually walking. So, it would be a bigger hassle than just placing them in their strollers and walking the dog as you did when they were an infant.
My family takes a lot of long walks together, and we definitely prefer to have our 18-month-old secure in a stroller so that we can get to walking without having to worry about him. He loves seeing the neighborhood and can look anywhere he wants in the stroller!
It is a parent’s choice on how long to use a stroller for their toddler, but it is suggested to start the transition out of the stroller beginning at age three. Kids need exercise and they need to strengthen their leg muscles and work on their coordination. By three years old, they are pretty stable on their feet and they can walk very well if they are holding your hand.
Which stroller is best for walking a dog with a toddler?
As long as you are following the weight restrictions, you can use any stroller that you wish. It is whatever is best for you, your toddler, your lifestyle, and your budget. Now that your baby has gotten a little older, you can move them away from the bulkier strollers that carry car seats and into the lighter and more convenient ‘umbrella stroller’ style. Luckily for parents, these strollers are also quite a bit cheaper than the big infant strollers!
You can pick up an umbrella stroller from Walmart for dirt cheap, and that option is totally fine. Still, I personally hate going ultra-cheap because they usually end up falling apart before we are done using it. Ideally, I will find something that will last longer than we need it so that I can sell it, use it for another baby, or even give it away once we are done!
Anyway, you can pick up a very inexpensive umbrella stroller on Amazon that will get the job done and likely last long enough for another child to use. We’ve used something like this one before (which has a 4.5-star rating with almost 4,000 reviews).
Option 2 – Putting a toddler in a carrier
A lot of parents prefer using a carrier for their toddler when walking the dog if they are still a bit younger and lighter. This leaves one hand completely free, instead of having zero free hands. One hand will hold the leash and manage the dog while the other hand is free to soothe your toddler or point out things to him while you walk.
You can use a carrier from birth until about the age of two or three, depending on the weight of your toddler. Having carried three children this way so far, I can personally attest to the fact that lighter is better, especially on long walks! Just be mindful of your physical capabilities or limitations when it comes to carrying your child during a walk because once you’ve set out it will make things much more difficult if you are having a hard time.
Speaking of limitations, don’t forget that your dog will also be a significant factor when you have your toddler strapped to your back or chest. Big dogs, or even just misbehaving smaller dogs, could cause you to lose your balance and fall while you are walking. With the extra weight, your balance might not be as good as it normally is, so be sure that your dog is ready to walk obediently (or that it is small enough for you to handle easily).
Which carrier is best for walking a dog with a toddler?
If you don’t already have a carrier that you used for your little one when she was an infant, then I would advise you to pick up a more traditional backpack or frontpack-style baby carrier rather than a wrap-style.
Don’t get me wrong, wraps are fantastic, and we’ve used them many times, but older babies won’t do as well in them as infants.
With a toddler, you’ll want to look for something that has wide, comfortable straps and flexible carrying options. Personally, I always preferred to carry a baby on my back. My wife, meanwhile, liked to carry our babies in front. Do yourself a favor and pick one that does both! You’ll also need to pay attention to the size and weight limitations because a two-year-old toddler probably weighs close to 30 pounds at this point.
With all that said, I would personally recommend something like this to get the dog walking done. It’s extremely affordable compared to some of the fancier brands but still very highly reviewed. It can also work with toddlers up to 40 pounds, lets you carry your baby in four different ways, and includes some handy pockets as well.
Option 3 – Letting your toddler walk with you
As a parent, I believe a one or two-year-old should be in a stroller or a carrier, in general. Their legs are just not stable or strong enough to walk with you for long distances and you’ll probably end up spending more time chasing your toddler around than walking the dog.
If your toddler is 3-5, however, I think it is very do-able – assuming your dog is obedient and mostly calm. Otherwise, you are going to have your hands very full.
Take an honest assessment of your dog and how easy it is to walk her under normal circumstances. If you have a small dog that is very obedient, then you will likely be in great shape to test the waters with letting your toddler walk alongside you. If you have a huge dog, even if he is normally pretty well behaved, don’t forget that a poorly timed squirrel sighting could cause a disaster pretty quickly if you have your toddler walking near the leash. Your dog could easily knock your toddler over, or the leash could trip him up quite easily.
I think a better way to approach this option is to take a short ‘walk’ in your backyard or taking a short trip up and down the sidewalk rather than committing to a long outing. This way, you’ll be able to get everyone used to how things work and you can increase the distance over time. Once the short trip is done, pop your toddler into the carrier or stroller and get your steps in!
Of course, maybe there is another way…
Should you use a child leash?
Is putting a leash on your toddler a possible solution?
Would using two separate leashes make the dog walking experience easier or more difficult?
I don’t know the answer to these questions because, frankly, I’ve never used a leash on my children. I do know, however, that these things are indeed a thing, so I thought I would mention it.
Some people feel it is close to cruel to put a child on a leash. If you have never seen them, however, you should know that these are totally different from your standard dog leash – they don’t go around the neck for one thing! The child leash goes around the child’s wrist, so there is nothing cruel about it – BUT you could still feel as though you are treating your child like an animal or pet. Some parents also feel that you could begin to slack and not pay as close attention to your child as you should if you didn’t have them on a leash.
Other parents that I have spoken with swear by a child leash. The child can freely walk, more at their own pace and it is easier to keep them from wandering off. This method can actually keep your child safer, they argue, than letting them walk freely. They can not wander out into the street and potentially get hurt. Children need the exercise and it helps to keep them close for those of us parents who are physically unable to chase a toddler down.
Anyway, these things are super cheap, so it might be worth checking them out just for the novelty. This one by Munchkin even looks like a backpack, so in the worst-case scenario, you can just cut the leash off and let your toddler use the bag! It also has almost 2,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating, so apparently there are lots of parents out there that don’t think it’s a little weird!
Have fun walking the toddler!
How old should a child be to walk a dog?
Most parents say that as long as the dog is well trained, calm, and behaved a child can start walking the dog between ages 8 and 10 so you definitely shouldn’t allow your toddler to take the reins yet.
Any younger than eight years old and you will still need to help them hold the leash, teach the dog commands, and make sure that everyone is safe while on the walk. If you feel that your child is going to want to walk the dog, or if that is going to be one of their chores as they get older, then start showing the child how to walk the dog around five years old. You can also get some safe practice done in the backyard without having to worry about anyone running away or getting hurt!
How do I teach my toddler to be gentle with the dog?
As a parent who has dogs, I started to teach them to be gentle when they started to crawl. They are going to see the dog lying on the floor or in their dog bed napping, and they are going to head straight for the dog. Guide the child’s hand to the dog and show them how to ‘pet’ the dog nicely. As you are guiding their hand down the dog’s head or back, make sure that you keep telling them to be nice and to be gentle.
If you repeat this on a daily basis from the time the child is about 6-8 months old, then you will have a toddler that is extremely gentle and nice to all animals. As parents, it is our job to teach them how to do the things that they need to be responsible adults. This includes our furry friends as well as other family members, friends, and strangers. “treat people and animals the way that you want to be treated,” should be the number one thing that kids learn starting at a very young age!