Staying Safe While Walking with Your Dog at Night
Nighttime walks with your dog are fun -- and necessary -- but they can also be hazardous. Visibility is diminished, meaning that not only will you not see all of the obstacles and ground level hazards (e.g., sharp objects like rocks and glass), you will also not be as visible to motorists and other pedestrians, such as bikers and joggers, who may unintentionally invade your dog’s personal space. There are also the nighttime critters to take into account -- the raccoons, the opossums, even the neighborhood cats that prowl at night, all can be distractions for your dog.
There are so many useful and easy to find products for night walking that we only need to list them to get you started. Of course, the easiest and thriftiest solution is to get a roll of reflective tape and attach it to your dog’s collar, leash and harness. But if you want a product that has been specifically designed for nighttime visibility whether light is shining directly on you and your dog or not, there are plenty to choose from.
The most no-nonsense are the blinking light collars, leashes and attachable collar lights (similar in size to a typical collar tag), the latter which can be found in long lasting, far reaching lights -- as strong as a standard flashlight in some cases. Look for the products that have easy battery replacement to guarantee that you always have what you need.
- Collars and leashes with reflective strips and lights, so that even when a light is not shining on your dog, the lights will illuminate your dog in the dark -- blinking lights and steady lights are both available
- Clip-on blinking lights, to attach to your clothing and to your dog’s leash
- Collar tags with reflective coating
- Brightly colored and reflective vests for you and your dog
- Reflective leg bands for your dog
- Flashlights that attach to your dog’s collar, or onto your own head (e.g., the type used by mushers, climbers and miners)
- Lighted pooper scooper or combination flashlight waste bag holder/dispenser
- High pitched whistle
Even if you have outfitted your dog with the best lights and reflective gear, it is still best to carry your own flashlight to be sure that you are in control of your own field of vision. We recommend a headlight, the style worn by mushers and miners, so that your hands are free to hold onto your dog and clean up.
Other precautions to take at night are to walk against traffic if you must walk on the roadside (you should stick to the sidewalk otherwise). While walking toward traffic might seem counterintuitive, it enables you to see what it coming so that you can get out of the way quickly, if need be. Always stay aware of the sounds and movements around you, and be prepared to move quickly.
We are not advising an attitude of fear, just an attitude of awareness. There may be loose dogs, nocturnal wild animals, roaming cats, and in some places, troublesome people. There are also joggers and bicyclists who may not be paying attention and come up on your and your dog too quickly, startling your dog. And with these things in mind, always keep your dog on a leash, and always keep a firm hold on the leash. Nighttime is an especially bad time to lose your dog.
Don’t forget about what you are wearing. If you are wearing dark clothing, you will basically be invisible in the darkness. At the very least, you should have a light colored jacket to wear at night. Better is to have reflective clothing for your night walks. A reflective jacket and sneakers will improve your visibility tremendously, and if you reinforce the outfit with a couple of blinking clip-on lights and a head light, you can be sure not to be missed in the dark. Remember, you can always make your own reflective gear using a roll of reflective tape. Last but not least, make sure you have your cell phone tucked securely into your pocket.
Image: Kamal Hamid / via Flickr
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