The days are getting longer now but still most of us are walking our dogs in the dark… It might not be a problem if you are based in the city and have well lit roads all around you but out in the countryside winter walks aren’t as peachy as one might think.
I got caught out one morning when I decided to go for a quick walk at 6am in the pitch black… black morning, black dog… you can only imagine where I am going with this… I got scared… re-call didn’t work and Bunk was nowhere to be found… he did come back finally (after a few minutes which felt in that moment like a lifetime) but by this time the seed of fear was deeply implanted. It was time to re-think my walking in the dark routine.
So I sat down and I thought about how to improve our safety, so I read a lot, I did my research and I come across a few pointers I would like to share with you.
Darkness is not the best time to go exploring. Pick a well known route which is familiar both for you and your dog. Walks along the side of the road are not ideal but if you don’t have any other options and this is the only walk route with lights along it – then pick it. Remember to walk against the flow of traffic and keep your dog on the side furthest from the road (i.e. your right hand side). Alternatively if you have a bit more time on your hands and have some well lit place which is away from home, then jump in the car and drive with your dog to that walking spot.
Keep control of your dog and do not let him/her off the lead unless you are in a well lit area. Your dog might be well trained but you never know what will happen and there is always a chance of something unpredictable happening so why be tempting fate? Unless your dog is extremely well trained avoid retractable leads. They are dangerous in daylight and can be deadly in the darkness (yes, I am not a huge fan of retractable leads and if you want to know why please read 10 Reasons Why Retractable Leashes Are Dangerous) Also if you are going to let your dog off the lead make sure you have your pockets well stocked with some yummy treats which will help you with that quick re-call if needed.
Walks in the dark are as much about your safety as your dog. If you are walking along the road make sure you wear something reflective. It might not be sexy but a high visibility vest is cheap and will make you stand out for all others road users. Yes, you can and should dress up your dog as well but if you are going to walk along the side of the road you are much bigger than your dog therefore much easier to see 🙂
Dog clothing + accessories
Nowadays there is a huge choice when it comes to reflective accessories for your dog. Pick something both you and your dogs are comfortable with. It might be a high visibility dog jacket or maybe just a reflective neck band; if clothing isn’t really your thing invest in a reflective collar, harness or a lead; if these choices aren’t “speaking” to you either at least get a safety light for your dog. A safety light is small and will clip onto any collar or harness. It will illuminate or flash depending on the program and it will help you easily locate your dog in the darkness.
Stay alert and wary of your surroundings. Listen to what is happening around you. You might follow all these tips and be ready for a walk in the darkness but you can also be sure that someone else might not be so well organized. Don’t be scared! If you are scared your dog will feel it and you really don’t want to be projecting fear into your companion.
First of all take a torch with you. I use a small LED head torch. The batteries last what seems like forever, it gives a really great bright light and most importantly of all it still allows me to have both my hands free.
Secondly take a phone with you. I bet most of us don’t go far without the phone but walking in the darkness is for sure not the time to forget it. You never know how the walk will end and you might need it to call for assistance.
Third – don’t go wondering in the darkness without anyone knowing you went out. Again you might not think it’s that big a deal in the city but there are many dangerous and risks, just watch the news if you doubt me. If you are going out for a walk in the countryside make sure someone knows you went out in case you get lost or injured and it could be hours before someone finds you to help.
These are my tips.
If there is something you would add to the list please share it with me.