I know, that evening walk around the block is a lot harder and somewhat scarier this time of year. It becomes very dark so early in the evening and with the snow, ice, wind, and those scary noises that turn out to be the bunny under the bush, it is easy to just say “we’ll go tomorrow, Fido”. Here are some suggestions that will help give you the confidence to go ahead and take your dog in the dark for a nice evening stroll.
Wear Reflective Gear
Both you and your dog should wear something reflective. Remember that reflective means it requires an outside light source to work. Items like reflective collars, leashes, and vests work best when used on the sidewalk or wherever headlights will illuminate you and are not much help if you are walking on a nature trail. Be sure that the leash you choose has the reflective material on both sides to be very visible.
There are some very cool, small dog-safe LED lights on the market now. These work in different ways (some push on while some twist) but they all easily attach to the dogs collar and hang near the ID tags. Some of the above mentioned gear also have LED lights embedded within them. The LED lights are very bright and can be some from a long distance in complete darkness.
Cold Weather Gear
Even the toughest dogs who love this type of weather can still feel the effects of the cold, snow and ice. Be sure to protect your dog’s feet with pad cream (be careful though as this might make slippery conditions a little trickier), or with the many different varieties of snow booties available today. These come in a range of sizes, styles, and prices but if you go out hiking often in this weather, you may want to invest in some. Fido may walk a little funny at first but will get used to them very fast. A jacket of some type is also recommended for our dogs that have little hair or are very sensitive to the cold. Beagles, Boxers and other short haired dogs will thank you for the extra layer. These also are available in a ton of different styles and prices but if you shop around you will find the right one in no time.
Now, we have Fido all decked out and ready to go but don’t forget yourself! Always wear reflective or LED as well and avoid dark clothing. You have to be as visible as your dog. Also, we’ve all heard about dressing in layers. Try to wear a few lighter layers with material that will wick away the moisture if you get wet (or work up a sweat) closest to your skin. Don’t forget your warm hat and gloves and always wear warm socks with your safest walking shoes. Remember that nobody will care what you look like and this is not style competition.
Always bring a flashlight. A small but bright flashlight can be helpful for finding those nighttime deposits that Fido leaves on the neighbor’s lawn and can also assist in visibility with other nighttime strollers. You might try a headlamp if you need your hands free.
You know they are out there. Those nocturnal animals that the darkness brings out create a whole new set of distractions. In the day time you are ready for the squirrel, rabbit or cat that might cross your path but at night you also get raccoons, fox and skunks. This is also where that flashlight can be helpful. Please have good control of your dog as well. A little sniffing and investigating can turn into a fight with something wild and possibly rabid so it is best to have already taught your dog what “leave it” and “let’s go” mean as well as have good leash manners.
Please be careful when considering and choosing your path for your nighttime walks. There are routes that are just more tricky in the dark than others. Stay away from those desolate roads, dark paths, very busy city streets or those parts of the city that just are not as safe at night for you or Fido. It is recommended that you stay in a familiar area or where other nighttime dog walkers are out and about.
Don’t worry. With the right gear and some planning, you can be sure that both you and your dog enjoy your walk and are back in the warmth and security of home with no problems. It can be a quiet and bonding time for you and your dog and you might come home with a great story to tell about that attack rabbit!