I was speaking with a colleague the other day – he and his family recently got a puppy that he said was a shepherd-doodle. This colleague is married, has two children, and joked that since his first two kids had gone well, it was time for his family to get a third, namely the dog. Which, he said, in addition to the fun and excitement of a new puppy, has also turned out to be like having another child in the house, minus the diapers to contain the messes.
The dog was supposed to be about 40 lbs max, but to their surprise, at 14 weeks the dog has already reached that weight. The dog is not yet fully grown, and they estimate it will end up being around 70 lbs.
His kids (8-10 years old) are relatively young, and he expressed some concern with them being able to walk their new, energetic dog on their own anytime soon.
This observation hits right at the core of understanding the dog lifestyle, and planning for it ahead of time as much as possible.
Thinking about getting a dog? Great! Here are some questions to consider about your lifestyle, given the situation presented above.
1. How many people are in your family? You? A partner or spouse?
2. Do you have children? How old are they? Are they young, teenaged, or grown up?
3. Are parents living with you? How is their health with respect to their ability to walk your dog?
4. From your family members, how strong and coordinated are the potential dog-walkers? How knowledgeable?
5. Who are going to be the people involved with training and walking your dog?
These questions might very well affect the type and size of dog you choose to get.
If you’re thinking of getting a larger dog, you may have to make sure your dog is well-trained not to pull on the leash before allowing younger, not-so-strong children walk the dog. We don’t know anyone who wants to have their children pulled off their feet by a dog that moves suddenly or takes off after a squirrel.
As the adult owner, that means you will likely have to spend a substantial amount of time with training your dog, with your children involved, before the dog is sufficiently trained not to pull, and the children are skilled, and able/strong enough to walk the dog.
Now, let’s break this process down. If the adults both work full time, training sessions will likely have to be in the evenings or weekends (consider the time commitments and potential expenses here). For best results, daily training would be ideal, but not necessarily feasible with the addition of children’s and family’s activities as well. This reality can extend the time required to get your dog trained-up to the point that you’re comfortable with your kids walking it.
Another possibility is that, maybe as the owner, you believe it’s more appropriate for your kids to not walk the dog alone until they’re big enough to be able to safely manage the dog. In this case, the dog-walking will be reserved for times when adults are available (kids can’t take the dog out alone after school until the walkers get home) during the week, on weekends, or off-shift. How will that reality fit with your work and activity schedule? What impacts will that have on your time?
There aren’t necessarily “right” answers for these questions, but they are considerations to think about when you get a new dog. Figuring out the best options for who walks the dog and when, as well as who’s available to do the training, will be different for owners and their families.
Likely, a balance will be involved – between abilities (adults, children, and dog), training (when sufficient benchmarks are met), safety for people and the dog (a combination of abilities and training). The timing and effort for all of this to happen will vary.
Your present and future lifestyle will be factors to consider when choosing what kind of dog to get.
We love the idea of people getting dogs as pets, and we love even more the idea of them doing so with safety and preparation in mind.
What problems have you run into with family members, their ages and abilities, and training/walking a dog? How did you solve them? What are you still working on?
Let us know in the comments or write back to us. We read all our feedback.
And if you haven’t yet today – give your dog a hug, and as always, thanks for reading.
Are you interested in some additional info that supports this post? We’re happy to refer you to a couple of research studies that look at dog walking injuries in people. The results of these studies suggest considerations for you to keep in mind if you plan on getting, or have, a dog, and may have different people involved in walking your pet.
Additional reading in support of this post:
A study of Nonfatal Fall-Related Injuries Associated with Dogs and Cats — United States, 2001–2006 (published online by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-CDC) provides insight into dog-walking injuries. The study found:
- Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in the United States.
- Injuries were most frequent among persons aged 0-14 years and 35-54 years.
- The most common injuries and the highest injury rates were for fractures and contusions/abrasions, and the highest fracture rates occurred among persons aged 75-84 years and >85 years. Among hospitalized patients, 79.9% were admitted for fractures.
- Twenty-six percent of falls involving dogs occurred while persons were walking them, and the most frequent circumstances were falling or tripping over a dog (31.3%) and being pushed or pulled by a dog (21.2%).
A second study, a 2002 Swedish research initiative, published with the National Center for Biotechnology Information (U.S. National Library of Medicine), noted the following findings and perspectives:
- Dog walking was the activity most often related to injury.
- Falls were more common among women (than men) and related to fractures and dislocations.
- Most dog related injuries were caused by the owner’s dog.
- Walking the dog was the activity most often related to personal injury.
- The cost for inpatient cases (treated at the University Hospital, Umeå, Sweden) caused by dogs and cats is of the same magnitude as the cost due to motorcycling in traffic, but less than the cost for injuries sustained during horseback riding and other horse related activities, for soccer, snowmobiling and for assaults.
So, to sum up:
- Walking your dog can cause injuries.
- Ages 0-14 and 35+ are most susceptible to injury.
- Injuries (falls, fractures, dislocations) are more common among women.
- Injuries tend to affect extremities (arms, hands, legs, feet).
- Most dog-walking injuries happen in or fairly close to home.
- Falling/tripping over a dog, or being pushed/pulled by a dog, are the most common occurrences.
So please don’t not get a dog – but be careful when you, and your family/friends, walk your dog if you do get one.
You, and your dog, will thank you.
Again, thanks for reading.