Expert tips to keep you and your dog safe when walking at night

As we now enter winter many of us with dogs are still having to brave the cold and shorter daylight hours to take our furry friends for their daily walks often in darkness; posing safety issues for both you and your pet.

Concerned about the safety of dog walkers and their furry friends, OnBuy Dog Beds endeavoured to find the safest way to walk your dog at night by speaking to experts.

For women especially walking your dog at night can be frightening experience, Rachel Rodgers MSc Clinical Animal Behaviourlist and owner of Nose to Trail provided OnBuy Dog Beds with these comforting words: “While media often shows us the awful incidents that happen to women walking alone, and the recent increase in dog thefts on the whole these abhorrent incidents are very rare”.

Tips for walking your dog at night

Dog trainer and founder of Rebarkable Ali Smith emphasised dividing this question into the categories of ‘keeping yourself safe’ and ‘keeping your dog safe’.

She provided the following tips:

Keeping yourself safe:

1: Try not to walk alone Walking with others is reassuring, deterring for potential criminals, and means you’ve got back up if you injure yourself.

2: Carry a torch – Seeing is a great thing, and our dark vision? is not that great! A torch is going to make things a lot easier.

3: 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.

4: Noting down the phone number on your local park gate – grabbing the phone number off the gate to your local park for the ranger or warden is a great plan in case of emergency.

5: Make sure someone knows where you are – 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 back up is better than having no one.

6: Make yourself visible – High-vis jackets may look silly, but they may save your life! If you’re road walking, or otherwise, a high vis jacket could be a life saver.

Keeping your dog safe:

1: Check their equipment – Making sure their tag and microchip information is up to date is a great idea.

2:  Make sure you carry treats – 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!

3: Remember your doggy manners – 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!

Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS is a Veterinarian at The Veterinary Content Company and has provided insights on how to safely walk your dog at night.

1: Make sure you and your pet can be seen – Use reflective clothing and light-up equipment to make sure you can both be seen. Light up dog collars and harnesses are excellent. Never leave light-up safety equipment on your dog after you return to the house, as they are often not made to the same safety standards as normal collars. In addition, light up collars contain batteries and wires that can do your dog severe damage if they’re chewed and swallowed.

2: Don’t let your dog off the lead –  I would recommend that you keep your dog on the lead in the dark. If they were to become tangled in a fence, fall down a hole, or even eat something toxic dropped off the path, you will struggle to know what’s wrong with them. Dogs should only be off a lead if they’re under supervision – and in the dark it’s very difficult to effectively supervise your dog.

3: Be aware of your dog’s stress levels – Some dogs don’t mind the dark. Others dislike it, especially if they have anxiety. Old dogs with cognitive dysfunction may also struggle more with darker evenings. If your dog appears stressed by the dark, keep night walks to a minimum and do some indoor mental stimulation instead.