An evening walk with your dog can be the ideal time to relax and shed the stresses of the day. Plus it’s a great way to let your pet get some much-needed exercise. But if you’re walking your pooch after dark, there are some general guidelines you can use to help ensure your pet’s safety—as well as your own.
Plan your route
If you plan to walk your dog after dark, choose a familiar route. This will help avoid any potential confusion, for both you and your pet. Dogs, like humans, are creatures of habit, and a regular walk schedule and route helps reinforce those patterns in your pet’s memory. Planning your route also lets you avoid places (such as unlit parking lots or secluded roads) that might be less safe at night.
Gear-up for Visibility
Visibility is essential to outdoor safety after dark. Ideally, both you and your pet should be visible to motorists, cyclists, and other pedestrians. Fortunately, the marketplace offers a wide array of reflective gear for dogs and their owners. Here are a few items that may be worth the investment:
LED collar, leash, or harness. A brightly lit collar, leash, or harness alerts others to your presence and reduces the chance for accidents.
A reflective safety vest (for you or your pet) can also help ensure that you and your animal are clearly visible after dark.
An inexpensive headlamp can also help you see while keeping your hands free to manage your pet.
Bring your Phone
Your phone is a must-have resource for the nighttime dog-walker. Not only does it provide quick access to emergency numbers (like 911 and your vet), but it also provides handy maps (for route planning) and an easy-to-access flashlight, if you forgot your own.
Prepare for Nocturnal Wildlife
It’s important to remember that we share the world with a broad array of other animals, many of which are nocturnal. Even in urban areas, it’s not uncommon to encounter raccoons, possums, skunks, and other nighttime foragers—while in rural areas you may need to be watchful of coyotes, wildcats, and other predatory species. No matter where you live, it’s essential to share the night, as well as to protect your personal space. Here are a few tips:
Bring a flashlight to increase your nocturnal visibility.
Carry a whistle to scare off unwanted animals (or people)
If you’re walking in wooded or mountainous areas, bear spray may also be a helpful deterrent.
Be Street Smart
If you’re an urban dog walker, you’re going to want to use your street smarts. Stayclear of poorly lit areas, desolate parking lots, secluded woods or parks, or places where people linger. Keep moving at a good pace. Walking with confidence andpurpose has been shown to reduce the likelihood of becoming a crime victim.
Bonus Tip: Avoid Retractable Leashes
While retractable leashes can be a great help, especially when walking multiple dogs, they can be problematic at night. Most retractables are made of black nylon and are nearly impossible to see in the dark. This increases the likelihood of you or your pet becoming tangled while boosting your fall risk. A basic 6ft. leash, wrapped once around the wrist, should be sufficient to control your animal without the need for a retractable leash.
We hope you find these tips useful. At FIGO we care about your pet’s health. That’s why we’ve developed a wide array of health insurance packages—so you never have to choose between your pet’s health and household expenses. Don’t let an unexpected veterinary emergency crash your budget. Contact us today!
Karyn Wofford is a “Mom” to her fluffy, sweet dog Halli. She spends much of her time traveling and advocating for Type 1 diabetes—and Halli sometimes accompanies her on her adventures. You’ll find Karyn’s work on sites like Mother Earth Living, and in magazines such as Diabetes Forecast.