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Stay safe in the dark this autumn

As the nights begin to draw in this September, evening dog walks become a little more challenging. Poorly lit areas and cooler temperatures can be a deterrent for some dog owners, but it’s important not to neglect your pooch as winter approaches. As we transition through the seasons, here are Bertie and Bella’s seasonal insights for staying safe while walking the dog in the dark.

Dress accordingly

Just as you wouldn’t ride a bike at night with no lights, you wouldn’t want to walk your dog without being seen! It’s important that both you and your dog are wearing appropriate reflective clothing, particularly if you have to cross or walk on roads at any point.

This could be a lead, a doggy coat or even this stylish reflective bandana – whatever works best for you! For owners, try a reflective vest or armbands.

Light it up

Christmas is calling, so when better to have your pooch lit up like a Christmas tree? Consider a small collar light or even a light-up leash that won’t impede your dog’s movement or comfort. The same goes for you too – a warm hat with a headlamp works wonders, or for more flexibility, a handheld torch is great – particularly if you’re walking through wooded areas.

Amend your route

While lights can be an immeasurable help, we’d advise staying away from areas with no streetlights if you can avoid it. Similarly, stay away from pubs near closing time and avoid main roads. Without proper lighting, these can all be an accident waiting to happen. If you do change your route, do it a few times with your dog on the lead, so they become familiar with the surrounding smells, noises and sights.

Walk against the traffic

If you do find yourself walking in the roads, make sure you are always walking facing oncoming traffic – this will help cars to see you better, particularly if you are wearing appropriate reflective gear and lamps, and for you to see them, enabling all parties to make fast and effective safety decisions.

Be wary of other animals

As winter sets in, nocturnal animals are more prevalent, such as foxes. This can be off-putting if you hear something rustling in the bushes that isn’t your dog! In areas that are likely to attract these animals, such as on housing estates when dustbins are out, keep your dog on a leash.

Ask for help!

Going out alone at night is a daunting task for anybody, so don’t be afraid to ask for a chaperone. If you are older or less abled, now may be the time to enlist the help of a dog walker (even if it is just a temporary measure) or use other mediums. Sites such as Borrow My Doggy allow dog owners to share their pet time with other dog lovers, so if you think that nighttime walks might be an issue, get to know people in your area by setting up a ‘walking dogs in the dark’ community and ask neighbours and friends too of dog walker recommendations. 

Change your timetable

With shorter daylight hours and some evenings seemingly exceptionally dark, with the weather conditions thrown in, it may not be feasible at all to take your dog out. If possible review your dog walking timetable, longer walks at the start of the day or through lunchtime, introduce a dog walker couple of times a week and do shorter walks and garden or indoor play in your time. With potentially decreased exercise time, consider reducing food intake to prevent obesity but not to compromise nutritional requirements and for toileting purposes let your dog out in the garden before you go to bed or a short walk out on the street, always carrying poo bags with you and picking up the dog waste and dispose of appropriately in bins provided. Always contact your vet or pet care advisor if you have any concerns over routine changes and your dog’s health.