We’ve had Yoda for a couple of months now, and it’s become a daily thing to take him out for a walk. When we were searching for a breed to give a home to, I was determined to buy a dog that wanted to go out on nice long walks and could keep up with the kids as they charged about like raging loonies. I wanted a dog that we could drag along to our local National Park who would see it as a bit of fun and not a chore, our 10 year old chihuahua would keel over if I suggested she ran about for 6 hours – heaven forbid. Or at least, I thought she would. Funnily enough, Yoda has inspired a desire to go on nice long country walks in all of us, including Barbie the chihuahua (yep, her name is Barbie… what’s your point?)
As delighted as I am that my mastermind plan worked and we’re inspired to go out in the great countryside and run about – free fun – I guess I didn’t think it through that I would be exclusively responsible for the safety and care of 2 dogs and 3 children under 6 (one of which can’t walk very far as she’s only 1)… something I find mind boggling when we are in the house and wrapped in safety gaff.
As you can imagine the question I get asked a lot (and I ask myself a lot) is “How do you do it?!”.
The honest answer is: Easy. No really, I’m not drunk or typo-ing, it is actually surprisingly EASY when you know how and you follow a few little tips.
Want my tips? Well, I’m going to share them anyway 😉
1.) A little bit of planning goes a long way
It might sounds a bit daft but planning ahead is a brilliant way to minimise upsets. PLEASE NOTE: One cannot plan for circumstances that involve sticks or rocks that your children fall madly in love with like Toby did on one particular walk that I wrote about last week… you just gotta roll with that shizzle.
I usually make a plan of where we are going, not always exact, but with an idea of what is surrounding me. I really do think if you have an idea of where you are then you can’t really go wrong, and in case of an accident or something, you will be able make decisions like turn back vs carry on easier. I strongly 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 due to bone development!).
2.) Don’t overload
Look, if it’s bright sunshine and 20C, you probably won’t need to take an umbrella and coats will you? Don’t go crackers and try to take everything you could possible need for a short walk, just take the bare minimum to get you by. If it’s unlikely it rains, but it does because we’re in the UK then rest assured your kids won’t melt in the rain like the wicked witch. The ultimate goal here is to get everyone out and having fun without you losing one of them or breaking your back in the process, if you take coats and all that jazz, you will end up being a pack horse as well as parent and responsible for dogs. I recommend grabbing one of those back packs that can attach reins to if you have a potty training toddler that can/will walk, and then roll up a small change of clothes. Also, keep a towel in the car with a change of clothes in case it rains or you decide upon a bit of impromptu stream paddling.
3.) Push it, push it real good… or not.
Ditch the pushchair and grab the carrier is my best advice for people with under 3s on any walk, there is just no pushchair in the world that will be fun on a woodland walk with older kids or dogs in tow. The truth is, and this is from a mother who has vast experience in selling pushchairs specifically for off-roading, you will set off with your pushchair and run into a fence or locked gate. Humour me, don’t do it!! Buy a carrier.
4.) Lead by example
Always have leads to hand. You can’t run after a dog with a baby attached to you or kids in tow. Unless you have a super power… Let your kids help with the leads, but be prepared to take over in the case of other dogs, people, rabbits and virtually anything that could inspire the pooch to leg it.
5.) Train the dog… and the kids…
Get your dog trained, be it through enrolling in training classes or training them yourself. It is a must if you plan to go on dog walks with kids, you simply can’t be the douchebag with an untrained hound belting around and untrained mini humans going feral as well. I also HIGHLY recommend getting the whole family involved in training, Yoda will now sit and stay for Reuben (age 5) which is super important because, despite the fact that he instinctually knows I am “alpha dog” he needs to learn he is never going to be the “beta” when the kids are present, even if they are small and non-threatening. To allow a dog to be dominant over any human is simply asking for bother.. Take some treats with you and train on the go. On top of training the dog, “train” the kids. Going out with the dogs has rules in our family, 1.) we don’t run too far ahead, 2.) we listen to my instructions and if I shout STOP it happens immediately, 3.) we never, EVER go near water without my say so and 4.) don’t approach other dogs or try to get involved if our dogs run off.
I know it makes me sound like a bore and I can almost feel their eyes rolling in their heads because I re-cap these rules every day, but it is simply for their safety and my sanity. We walk near rivers, we walk on popular dogs walk routes and I need to be sure (ish) that we will all make it home.
Last of all, and most importantly, ENJOY! Do you have any tips for walking dogs with kids in tow?
P.s – Just a tiny bit in love with Yoda? He has his own instagram account. No really, I’m not joking, Yoda is a bit of an IG star… check him our on instagram at @yodaandthebabes.