If you are a new pet owner (or even an experienced one), you may come across new situations with your dog that you aren’t necessarily prepared for, such as needing to walk your four-legged friend in the dark. Walking your dog at night does not have to be a stressful experience for you or your buddy. There are several tips and products you can use in order to keep you and your dog safe when walking in the dark. Like any new situation, it is best to prepare for uncertainty so that you and your dog can stay healthy and safe in all circumstances. Below are some safety suggestions for walking your dog at night.
First, your dog should be trained to walk on a leash.
If you are working on this with your dog or puppy, make sure you bring along a small bag of training treats on your walk should your dog get distracted by smells, people, other dogs, and animals, or anything else your pal may want to investigate! Using treats can be an easy way to get your dog focused back onto your walk. This works even if he is already trained and walks well on a leash. If your dog is getting distracted, ask him to sit and give him a treat. When he’s focused, tell him, “Let’s walk!” You can then continue your walk (slowly at first) and give him an additional treat to encourage him and keep him focused.
Next, it is better to use a regular-length leash (4 to 6 feet in length) and not one that is retractable.
Retractable leashes can be dangerous for both you and your pet, especially if your dog tries to dart away after an animal or something else. Many pet owners have burned or cut their hands on retractable leashes and have lost control of their dog. Retractable leashes should only be used during the day and in familiar areas. They can allow your dog to do some safe exploration, but it is better to contain this in the dark. So especially at night, it’s best to stick with a regular leash. Make sure to wrap the leash around your palm so you have a sturdy grip on your dog. Even if your dog can walk well without a leash, do not allow this at night. Keep him on the leash for his safety at all times. This is extremely important to safely walk your dog at night.
You should also use a harness or gentle lead when walking your dog.
Using a harness makes it easier to control your dog and he will not be able to slip out of it as he might with just a collar. The proper leash and harness will make all of your walks a much less stressful experience, especially if your dog pulls or you are still working on training him. Gentle leads can be a good option if your dog has a tendency to pull. You can ask your vet or pet store employee what type of harness would be best for your dog.
Your dog should also have proper ID tags on his collar at all times, even when walking during the day.
It is better to prepare for the worst, such as losing your grip on the leash and your dog darting away from you. If your dog has a habit of taking off on you, having the proper IDs, as well as your name and phone number on his collar, will make it that much easier for someone to reunite you with your dog should he get lost. Consider micro-chipping as well if you are concerned about this. Losing your pet is a stressful experience and is even worse if it happens at night. Don’t let that happen! Be prepared.
For added visibility, attach a small clip light to your dog’s harness or collar.
You can purchase these at most pet stores or other outdoor retailers. Many of them are small, LED lights that you simply clip onto your dog’s collar. You can usually change the settings to a standard light or a blinking one. Either way, the idea is that the light allows others to see your dog in the dark. This is perfect if your dog has a dark-colored coat and cannot be seen well at night. You can also purchase harnesses and leashes that have reflective patches on them.
It is important that you keep yourself safe as well as your dog.
You should wear a reflective safety shirt or clip light as well, and you should always carry a flashlight with you. Make sure you are walking on the correct side of the road and follow any basic safety precautions that you would on any other walk. Be very cautious around cars, because even if you have reflective gear and flashlights, drivers may not be able to see you well. Amazon has some great options for flashlights with enhanced luminosity. These are fantastic for walking in especially dark areas.
You also still need to consider the weather when walking at night.
If it is very hot during the day, walking your dog at night when it’s cooler is easier on his paws. On the other hand, if it is cold and the temperature continues to drop at night, you may need to consider a sweater or vest for your dog if he is short-haired or otherwise sensitive to the cold. No matter the weather, you should consider checking your dog’s paws after a walk in the dark to make sure he didn’t step on anything and cut himself, especially since you may not be able to see if you are walking over any trash such as broken glass.
And of course, don’t forget bags to clean up after your pet!
Even though it’s dark out and you think you can get away with it, you still should be cleaning up after your dog. It is just common courtesy.
Below are suggested products to use when walking your dog at night (via Amazon):
- Clip light: Life Gear Night Walker Glow LED Pet Safety Clip Light
- Reflective harness: Top Paw Ultra Reflective Dog Harness
- Reflective leash: Wooflinen 7ft Ultra Reflective Dog Leash
- Headlight (for humans!): EverBrite Headlamp & Tail Light – 300 Lumens
- Reflective safety shirt (also for humans!): OccuNomix Classic Standard Short Sleeve Wicking Birdseye T-Shirt
- Flashlight: GearLight LED Tactical Flashlight
- Sweater: PAWZ Road Plaid Flannel Hoodie
- Dog Waste Bags: Paw Lifestyles Dog Poop Bag Holder Leash Attachment
There are some other safety precautions you will want to follow when walking your dog at night. Again, it is better to prepare or uncertainty than to be caught off guard.
Remember that your dog has much better eyesight than you and may be able to see things you cannot, such as other people or animals in the distance.
He also can smell much better than you and will be easily distracted by various scents. Be very aware of your surroundings for your safety. For example, don’t just stare at your phone for the whole walk! Even if you are in your own, familiar neighborhood, it is better to be alert than distracted. This remains especially important if you are walking in an unfamiliar area. A new place is full of exciting scents for a dog, so pay attention to your surroundings. You should try to plan your route so that you know where you are going even in the dark.
You should also be prepared for altercations with other dogs.
Consider carrying a spray bottle with water or even pepper spray with you. If you and your pet are approached by an aggressive dog, it is best to be prepared for the worst. If another pet owner with a dog approaches you, consider moving to the other side of the road or waiting for them to pass. You never know how another dog or even your dog will react when seeing another pet. It is best to avoid confrontation, especially at night.
And if you feel unsafe for any reason, it’s best to simply turn around and go home. Your dog won’t mind; he’s just happy to be with you.
As always, if you have other concerns about walking your dog at night, don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet with any questions. You can also ask for product recommendations at any pet store. They will help you choose a product that is right for your specific breed.
If you follow these tips and use some of these products when walking your dog at night, both you and your dog should have a safe and stress-free experience. Use a proper harness and leash and reflective gear, and you and your buddy will be good to go! Use common sense and trust your gut when walking at night; if something doesn’t feel right, it may be best to turn around and go home. Stay safe, be smart, and enjoy your late-night dog walks.