If you’re like a lot of people, your busy lifestyle means you sometimes end up walking your dog when it’s dark out. This is especially common during our Canadian winters when daylight hours are short. Dog-walking at night is great – you both need daily exercise, after all! – but when visibility is low, you need to take some extra precautions.
One of the most important things is to make sure you and your dog are going to be visible to passing traffic. Wear lighter-colored clothes that will show up better at night (black or grey aren’t good choices), ideally with reflective fabrics or trim. Fit your dog out with a jacket, sweater, collar or leash that also incorporates easy-to-see reflective features.
Light the way
A flashlight or headlamp will make you even more visible. A handheld flashlight may not be the best option when you’re also holding your dog’s leash, so try a clip-on option. Lights that flash will increase your visibility.
For your dog, look for collars or leashes that feature LED lights for maximum visibility.
Product placement caption: Several companies make reflective gear for your dog as well as LED leashes and collars. Head-Lites, based in Winona, Ontario, for example, makes durable, high quality LED collars in a range of styles, sizes and lighting colors, from red and purple to blue and green. The electronics run on AAA batteries.
The night hours, especially those just before the dawn, are the coldest. This can make nighttime walking a welcome relief during the summer, when daytime temps are often too hot for much outdoor exercise. But during the winter, the mercury can quickly plunge after the sun goes down, so make sure both you and your dog are wearing warm, weatherproof apparel. In snowy or icy conditions, boots or a paw protectant will help shield his pads from freezing surfaces.
Keep him leashed
Always leash your dog when you’re walking at night. When visibility is limited, he can wander out of your sight in no time, which means you can’t keep track of where he is or what he’s doing – he could run in front of a car, get tied up with a skunk, or get into someone’s garbage before you know it.
Consider personal safety
Many people assume they’ll be safer if they have a dog with them when they walk at night. But not all potential human predators are put off by dogs. Play it safe, especially if you’re a woman, by avoiding dark paths and empty parks, and staying in busier, well-illuminated areas.
Leave the tunes at home
When it’s hard to see, you need to rely more on your hearing to know what’s going on around you. Refrain from using headphones when walking your dog at night, so that you can pick up on auditory cues in your environment, such as the sound of a cyclist whizzing up behind you or an animal rustling in the bushes.
Take your phone
Taking a cellphone with you on night walks means you can quickly call for help if you need it.
Stick to known routes
Nighttime isn’t the right time for exploring new trails and streets. Leave it for the daylight hours, and stick to routes you know best.
Now you can enjoy!
Once you’ve taken all the right precautions for your safety and your dog’s, it’s time to relax, step out, and enjoy your walk!
Ann Brightman is Managing Editor for Animal Wellness Magazine and Integrative Veterinary Care Journal. A lifelong animal lover, she has also been a writer and editor for over 25 years. Ann is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and lives in Cobourg, Ontario.