Health Advocate Blog

Stay safe while walking your dog when it’s dark

Now that we are fully in fall and headed toward winter, the evenings get darker sooner. The cooler temperatures and darker evenings aren’t an excuse to put off your evening walk, though–especially if you have a dog who also looks forward to these nightly strolls. But it is important to keep safety top of mind for both you and your pup.

Here are some tips to help keep you and your dog safe when you venture out on your walks! These are good tips to keep in mind not just for evenings, but also for anytime.

  • Make sure you and your dog can see. Carrying a flashlight is always a good idea; however, when you have a dog, a leash, waste bags and other gear, it may not be practical. LED hats and headlamps are a good alternative when you want to be as hands-free as possible. You can also buy harnesses and collars with lights – whatever fits your budget.
  • Make sure others can see you. When it’s dark out, people in cars, riding bikes, or even runners and other pedestrians will also have a hard time seeing you, especially if the weather is bad. Wear light-colored clothing, accessories with lights on them, and/or reflective gear like vests or armbands, or shoes with reflectors. And outfit your pup with a reflective leash, harness or vest–maybe even some snazzy LED lights, too. The more lights, the better! This ensures that drivers, runners, and even other animals can easily see you and avoid you – and not perceive you as a threat.
  • Stay alert. If there are cars or bikes nearby when you need to cross the street, make sure they see you before you start crossing.
  • Keep your dog leashed – especially in the dark! Even if your dog behaves perfectly off leash, it’s important to keep him leashed when visibility is low. This will help prevent him from running off and getting lost if he gets startled or surprised by a person, loud noise, or other animal.
  • Stay on a familiar path. Early morning, dusk and nighttime are not the best times to explore new areas or terrains. Instead, take a familiar, paved route that you know is safe–this can help you avoid injuries or getting lost.
  • Walk against traffic. Walking against the flow of traffic allows you to see when a vehicle is approaching so you can adjust your position, if needed. Since you are likely to be more visible than your dog, take the path closer to the road, keeping yourself between the road and your pup. This keeps him away from the curb and vehicles and reduces the risk of him darting into traffic.
  • Dress for the weather. If it’s cold or the temperature is dropping, make sure you and your pup are dressed warmly in sweaters and jackets. Dogs can get cold, too!
  • Skip the headphones. Preventing yourself from hearing what’s going on around you is much more dangerous in the dark. Keep all of your senses engaged with the environment, and put yourself in a position to notice any drivers, bikers and other people who may come up behind you.
  • Carry – but don’t talk on – your fully charged phone. This gives you a way to call for help if needed, and the flashlight comes in handy if you don’t have LED or reflective gear.  

Now that you know the essential safety tips, go on out there and enjoy your walk!