I live in the Pacific Northwest, where the winter sun goes down before 5pm. Walking my dogs at night means navigating dark, slick sidewalks and busy city streets. It can be nerve-wracking to be a single woman walking my dogs alone at night!
But dog walking at night doesn’t have to be unsafe. From eye-catching reflective gear to safe sidewalk strategies, you can make nighttime dog walks fun and safe. Read on to learn how to safely walk your dog at night.
Always use a leash (preferably a reflective leash)
This one is non-negotiable. Even if you live in an area without much traffic, and your dog has an excellent recall, you should always leash up at night.
Just like humans, dogs get startled by people or animals suddenly emerging from the dark. If your dog gets scared while off-leash, she may run off, and it’s a lot harder to find a lost dog in the dark. Also, a leash will keep her from running into the road at night, where cars may not see her before it’s too late.
For the ultimate in nighttime walk safety, consider a leash like this reflective one from Pawtitas. It comes in a bunch of bright colors guaranteed to keep your dog visible under streetlights. For more ideas and options check out our list of the best reflective leashes.
Dress for the weather (and the dark)
In addition to a reflective leash and collar, make your night walks colorful with reflective apparel for you and your dog. During wintertime especially, it’s important to stay visible and warm! For humans, try a lightweight reflective vest that layers over your favorite winter coat. The highly-rated Viz vest provides 360° reflectivity, and comes in a few cute colors.
For your dog, a reflective coat does double-duty, keeping her warm and visible on your nighttime walk. This Kakadu fleece jacket is soft and warm, with a big, bright reflective stripe.
This post has even more tips on cold-weather walking gear for your dog.
Reflective gear is a good idea, but battery-operated lights are an even better way to illuminate your path and make you and your dog more visible. For yourself, a headlamp will help you navigate the night while your hands stay free for holding the leash. Amazon sells this waterproof headlamp for under $20.
For your dog, consider a clip-on collar light. They attach easily to your dog’s collar and shine bright so motorists, cyclists, and other walkers can see her coming.
Walk smart (and take a familiar route)
In addition to gearing up against the cold and dark, it’s important to use caution and common sense when walking your dog at night. You don’t need to be afraid, just cautious. Cars, joggers, cyclists, and other dog walkers may not be paying attention, and can startle your dog at night.
- Walk against traffic so you can see what’s coming.
- Ditch the headphones when walking your dog at night. You need to be able to hear what’s going on around you!
- Stay on the sidewalk along well-lit roads, and avoid shortcuts through dark lots or alleyways.
It’s best to stick to familiar routes when walking your dog at night. There’s no good time for a dog to get lost, but it’s especially dangerous in unfamiliar territory in the dark.
Walking on familiar, main streets won’t only prevent you from getting lost in the dark. It will also help prevent run-ins with other creatures who may be prowling around at night. Opossums, skunks, and raccoons come out to play at night, and while they may be cute in pictures, they’re no fun to encounter with a spooked dog.
Carry your phone
This is plain common sense: your phone may be a lifesaver in case of emergency. Be sure to keep it charged, and save the phone numbers for your local non-emergency police, emergency veterinarian, and a taxi service just in case, or ensure quick access to a ride-sharing service via an app.
In addition to being a safety necessity, your smartphone may have several features to improve your nighttime walk:
- A built-in flashlight to use as a backup light source
- Navigational tools to help you map your route in the dark
- Pet apps for fun and safety
Walking your dog at night doesn’t have to be scary. With a familiar route and the right accessories, your evening outing can be a walk in the park.
Stuck at the office late tonight? A dog walker will make sure your dog gets the evening walk (and loving attention) she needs.