Days are getting shorter as fall approaches, and that means that your evening walk around the block will soon go from twilight to pitch black. Keeping you and your dog safe during walks requires some planning and special equipment, but with the right gear both ends of the leash can be safe.
Wear Reflective Gear: All reflective leashes and dog collars are not created equal. Look for a dog leash that has reflective material on both sides rather than just one. Although some reflective material is better than none at all, to be truly visible the leash should shine on both sides. Lightweight reflective vests for both you and your dog increase the potential reflective real estate by adding thick bands of light-up material across the chest and back. Keep in mind that an outside light source is required for reflective gear to actually work, so if you’re walking on trails without the glare of headlights it’ll do you no good.
Consider LED: Thanks to small dog-safe LED lights you can now illuminate your dog like a Christmas tree. Small pendants that hang near your dog’s ID tags, collars, leashes and vests with LED material embedded within them and even light-up anklets ensure that your dog can be seen from a distance in complete darkness.
Don’t Forget the Flashlight: A small handheld flashlight can be helpful for finding nocturnal deposits that otherwise blend in to the darkness, or if you need to keep your hands free and you’re feeling like a spelunker, try a headlamp.
Watch Out For Other Animals: Darkness brings out a whole new crew of furry distractions. Nocturnal animals like raccoons, fox and skunks can present dangers that one normally doesn’t encounter during daylight walks, particularly during mating season when the animals are restless. It can be downright creepy to watch your dog reacting to something in the darkness that you hear rustling but can’t see (Is it a bear? A rabid possum?), so it helps to have your dog trained with a solid “let’s go!” cue. When you say the magic phrase – let’s go! – your dog understands that it’s time to move on with you and away from a potential confrontation.
Be Smart About Your Route: Consider the path you choose for nighttime walks, as some routes are more potentially fraught than others. Desolate twisty roads, city streets where bars are letting out for the night or dark paths with hidden moguls can obviously lead to problems.
Consider Your Own Clothing: Don’t trick your dog out in lights and forget about yourself! Avoid dark clothing, wear something reflective or LED, and keep your ear buds out during nighttime walks. You need to be visible and alert during evening strolls.
With some forethought and the right equipment, a walk in the dark can be a peaceful bonding time with your dog. Plus it’s a chance to stargaze with a special loved one!
Image via Shutterstock
Victoria Schade is a dog trainer, author & speaker who has contributed to The Washington Post, Martha Stewart, and other publications.