When it comes to winter dog walking, one of the problems is that it’s dark… a lot. This does compromise your safety somewhat – either in terms of accidents, or in terms of crime.
So, I wanted to run through a few things to help you all stay safe, happy and well during this time.
I used to go walking in the dark a lot, because it was unavoidable for me and my set up, but I learnt a lot of ways to stay safe.
Staying Safe On Your Night Time Walk
There are two main factors here:
1 – Keep yourself safe
2 – Keep your dog safe.
Both of these factors should be considered before heading out on your walk.
Keeping yourself safe has to happen. Whether it’s ice, a stray rock, or something more sinister, walking in the dark presents a whole bunch of challenges. So let’s take a look!
Don’t Walk Alone
Walking with others is reassuring, deterring for potential criminals, and means you’ve got back up if you do injure yourself. It’s quite a simple one? But having other people present is a good thing in this instance!
Carry A Flashlight!
A bright, powerful torch will allow you to see – bet ya didn’t know that! haha
Seeing is a great thing, and our dark vision? Is not that great! A torch is going to make things a lot easier whether you’re talking tree routes or finding your keys when you dropped them – this one is definitely useful for practicality.
Pick More Populated Routes
c) avoid remote routes, walk more populated routes, and be aware that local parks often close their gates around sunset. You don’t want to get your car locked in the local park and you do want people to be around if anything goes on.
Actually, even grabbing the phone number off the gate to your local park for the ranger or warden is a great plan in case of emergency.
Ali was quoted for this subject in Country Living!
Make Sure Someone Knows Where You Are
It may seem a little old fashioned, but it’s a good thing.
d) make sure someone knows where you are (even make sure someone has your find my friend or similar so that you can be found). Whether you’re walking alone, letting someone know where you’re going and how long you’ll be is never a bad idea – even in the depths of summer! Sometimes things don’t go as planned and having someone as backup is better than having no one.
Make Yourself Visible
I’d always advise that you make yourself visible. High-vis jackets may look silly for humans, but they may save your life! If you’re road walking, or otherwise, a high vis jacket could be a lifesaver.
Keeping Your Dog Safe.
The next part is keeping your woof safe and secure.
First, check their equipment, their tags etc are up to date. We tend to get more fireworks and more wildlife encourters in the dark, and if your dog (who is normally trustworthy off lead) takes a fancy to it? Then you could well be in a predicament where your dog breaks a leash, or harness, or chases a fox of badger off to goodness knows where. Making sure their tag and microchip information is up to date is a great idea.
If you’re truly worried? Grab a dog tracker.
Light Up Collars
These are wonderful. They were a lifesaver for me at this time of year. My favourite (after much testing) was the Leutchie LED collar – whilst it doesn’t replace your dogs collar, it’s a wonderful addition to make sure that you can easily locate and monitor your dog at all times, and that should they come across wildlife – or a car – they are going to be seen quick.
Mind Your Manners
Remember your doggy ettiquette. If you see another light approaching you in the dark, call your dog back to your side and even clip them back on the lead whilst you pass. The other dog may be old, or grouchy and may not want another dog running up to them in the dark. And try not to dazzle them with a torch either!
Reflectors & Visibility
High-vis… Lots of harnesses these days have some wonderful reflective strips in, and can be really useful in these sorts of walks. Whether from headlights, or another persons torch, or a farmers… they can help people to know that your dog is a dog and not a wild animal (especially if you have a fox-look-a-like breed like a red shiba inu!)
Some harnesses with great reflectives are:
Ruffwear Front Range Harness
Julius-K9 Longwalk Harness
Make sure you carry treats and that you have a solid and reliable recall if you intend on letting them wander. Even consider a tracking device because dark evenings are no joke!
Of course, if this doesn’t appeal (which I wouldn’t blame people! It can be really scary), you can walk earlier, or even ask a dog walker to come and help you out with an earlier walk.
It may seem like small steps, or unecessary procedures, but keeping ourselves and our dogs safe across these darker months is very important.
And, remember, if you’re not comfortable? Missing a walk is not the worst thing in the world. Spend time indoors, focus on enrichment and safer things to do in your home.
If you need some help with your puppy, why not check out Pupdates! They’re built for you as a new puppy parent to set you up for success and help you turn your little pup into a wonderful dog!
Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021’s worlds’ best pet blog!