Now the clocks have gone back, days have become shorter, with dark mornings and evenings. So when it comes to taking your dog for a walk, it’s important to stay safe and visible. Whether you live in a busy city, or in the countryside with quiet lanes, each has its own dangers. And it can be a little intimidating to be out alone at night. But walking your dog in the dark doesn’t need to be unsafe. Fortunately, there are some useful accessories and handy tips to help make your life that little bit easier. From reflective gear to weather-proof clothing, we’ve put together an essential guide for having fun and staying safe when walking your dog in the dark.
What are the dangers of walking my dog at night?
Taking your dog for a walk in the dark is easier said than done. It can be cold, more difficult to see, and don’t get us started on the rain! Navigating your way through poorly-lit paths can be a real challenge, not to mention the risk of stumbling on uneven paving and coming into contact with foxes and other nocturnal creatures. And what if your dog gets lost? They may be good at walking off the lead during the daytime, but finding them if they run off in the dark could be an almost impossible task. To prevent possible accidents, you shouldn’t let your dog run free in the dark. At the same time, you shouldn’t underestimate the risk of being overlooked by a car or cyclist when walking your dog in the dark.
It’s true that dogs are able to see better in the dark than humans, but your furry friend may behave differently at night. Objects which are seen as normal during the day may seem scary in the dark, especially strange noises, shadows and other people. Your dog will likely react with attack, or with a nervous pull-back.
What dog-walking equipment do I need?
To keep you and your dog safe in the dark, it’s essential to have the right equipment and accessories. The main danger in the dark is reduced visibility, so the key is to ensure you’re both as visible as possible. Even if you live in an area without much traffic, you should always use a lead at night. Just like us, dogs can get frightened by something or someone suddenly emerging from the dark, and if your dog is off the lead, they may run off. Consider a hi vis dog lead, as well as any of the following high visibility accessories to ensure motorists, cyclists and other walkers can see you coming:
- A reflective dog collar or harness
- Hi vis dog vest
- Clip on lights (for your dog’s collar/harness)
- Dog walking torch (or head-torch)
If you’re walking in a low-lit area, make sure you carry a torch with you to light up your pathway. Or even better, wear a head-torch. This will free up your hands so you can focus on holding your dog’s lead, and it’s easier to clear up dog poop when you have both hands free. Choose LED clip-on lights which tend to be brighter, and will last longer. Some are easily rechargeable using a USB cable, and opt for a water-resistant light so it will still work in the rain.
Other useful items you should consider carrying with you when walking your dog are:
- A portable dog bowl/water bottle
- A small towel (for muddy paws)
- Dog toys
- Dog poo bags
If you’re planning on going for a longer walk, carrying a portable dog bowl or water bottle can be really useful so you can give your thirsty pooch a drink. It’s important to give your dog some time to play, and it’s also a nice way to reward good behaviour. You can even get balls and toys which light up or flash which will stop them from getting lost, and they’ll light up your path too. And any responsible doggy owner will know that poo bags are an essential item when you exercise your canine.
What should I wear when walking my dog in the dark?
So your dog has been kitted out, now let’s talk about you. You’ll need to dress for the weather (and the dark). Hi vis garments allow cars and bikes to spot you, and the right clothing and footwear will keep you warm and dry during the early morning or evening walks, especially in winter. We all know the British weather is unpredictable, so be prepared with these essential items of clothing:
- Waterproof jacket
- Winter fleece or hooded top
- Hi vis vest
- Dog walking boots
- Waist bag/small backpack
A breathable waterproof jacket will help keep you cool in mild weather, and dry in wet weather. They’re usually compact too, so you can throw one into your bag or pocket if the weather seems a little unsettled. A warm fleece or hooded top will protect you from the cold, and a hi vis vest can be worn over your favourite winter coat for extra visibility after dark. A good pair of waterproof walking boots or wellies will keep your feet dry and will provide a sturdy base if you’re walking on muddy or uneven ground. And a waist bag is handy to store all your dog walking accessories in. An umbrella, scarf and gloves will also ensure you’re ready to take on any type of weather.
How can I keep me and my dog safe in the dark?
In addition to dog walking accessories and clothing to keep you safe in the dark, it’s important to tread with caution and use common sense when walking your dog at night. Here are a few tips to help keep you and your dog safe:
- Never let your dog off the lead in the dark. This will help prevent accidents, and will avoid the unimaginable possibility of losing your dog. It’s a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped, but it’s a good idea to invest in a GPS tracker too, to help you find your furry-friend if the worst should happen.
- Take a familiar route. It’s best to stick to a place you know well when walking your dog at night. Keep to main streets which are usually well-lit, and avoid shortcuts through dark alleyways so you’re less likely to come face-to-face with stray cats or foxes (or other people) which could spook you and your dog.
- Take your mobile phone with you. You never know when you might need to call for help. Be sure to keep it charged, and don’t use earphones so you’re fully aware of what’s going on around you. Many phones can also be used as a torch, and you can use a navigation app if you get lost.
- Walk against traffic. If you’re walking somewhere which doesn’t have pavements, then make sure you walk against the traffic so cars and other vehicles can spot you - and so you can see them coming too. Make sure you’re wearing hi vis or reflective clothing to make yourself more visible, and always keep your body between your dog and oncoming traffic.
- Protect your dog’s paws. When it’s dark, it can be tough to see where you’re going. There could be hazardous or dangerous objects in your path (rusty nails or broken glass for example), so it’s wise to wipe or bathe your dog’s paws when you come back from your walk. There are such things as dog boots or paw protectors if your pooch has particularly sensitive paws.
Having the right accessories and staying alert while out on your early morning, or evening walks is key to keeping you and your canine companion safe. Walking your dog in the dark doesn’t need to be intimidating. Be prepared and stick with a familiar route, and your walks will be fun and rewarding, for both you and your dog.