When your dog needs to take care of business, they don't care if it's bright and sunny or way past bedtime. Many people opt to walk their dogs at night because it’s cooler, especially if your dog gets overheated easily. And most people try to walk their dog before bedtime so they don't have to hold it all night. No matter the reason, if you’re walking at night, take extra precautions to keep you and your dog safe.
How to Stay Safe When Walking at Night
When you go walking at night, you become virtually invisible to drivers unless you use smart safety practices. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most pedestrian deaths occur at night. So if you and Fido plan to go out after the sun goes down, remember to use these tips to stay safe and sound.
1. Wear Bright and Light Colors
A nighttime stroll is not the time to try an all-black look. Avoid dark sweats, hoodies, and shoes. Instead, wear bright or light colors, preferably with some reflective elements. If it’s raining, opt for a bright yellow rain jacket. When it’s cold outside, make sure to wear a lighter-colored coat and winter cap.
The same advice goes for your pup, especially if they have a darker coat. Consider getting a safety vest for your dog to wear when you go for a walk after dark. These vests are typically a bright color and also feature reflective qualities, which leads to the next tip.
2. Add Some Reflective Gear
In addition to wearing brighter and lighter clothing, add reflective gear to your ensemble. A reflective dog leash and collar are a must. These two items can make all the difference to how visible you and your pup are to drivers at night.
Many different accessories feature reflective elements, including hats, gloves, and belts.
If your budget isn’t viable for buying new gear, pick up some reflective tape and stick a few strips to your clothing, your pup’s collar, etc.
3. Know Where You’re Going
There are better times to explore a new street or find a shortcut than walking at night. It’s best to stick to what you know when you’re walking in the dark. Plan your route, and don’t deviate from your usual routine.
Since it's a familiar route, you won't need to focus your attention elsewhere, like looking at your GPS or reading street signs. You can direct all your focus to staying vigilant to your surroundings and the traffic. You also won't end up in a potentially questionable area after dark.
4. Stay on the Sidewalk
If there's a sidewalk available, stay on it. Don't walk in the street unless it's absolutely necessary. If there's a blocked section of sidewalk from repairs, walk around it on the side away from the street.
If a vehicle in a driveway blocks the sidewalk, it forces you to go around and into the road. Check for traffic, keep the leash short, and put your dog to the inside of you. As soon as you’re around the obstacle, get back onto the sidewalk.
5. Avoid Distractions
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimated drivers hit roughly 7,485 pedestrians in 2021, and the numbers are rising. These numbers are due to a combination of factors, including visibility issues as well as distracted driving.
It’s essential to stay proactive whenever you’re walking near traffic, whether it’s one car or thirty, day or nighttime. Therefore, remain alert and avoid anything that hinders your senses. Don’t wear headphones and stray away from texting or looking at your phone while you’re walking.
6. Go Against Traffic
Anytime you must walk in the street, walk against traffic so you can see what's coming. When you’re walking your dog, keep your pup to the inside, between you and the road.
If able, even when you're on the sidewalk, walk on the side that goes against traffic. Scan the upcoming horizon as you walk to avoid any potential conflicts, obstacles, or issues.
7. Have a Flashlight Handy
An important part of your nighttime dog walking routine is bringing along a flashlight. Not only does a flashlight help you find your footing if it gets extra dark, but it’s easier to handle the poop bags. (The last thing you want to do is play “find the poo” because you have no clue where your dog did their business.)
The flashlight on your cell phone works well in a pinch. But it's even better if you can go hands-free. Consider a headlamp or get a clip-on collar light for your dog.
8. Bring Identification
Even if you're only going around the block, don't forget your ID. Although it's unpleasant to think about, if a driver were to hit you, leaving you unconscious or disoriented, people could identify you.
Likewise, make sure your dog has an updated regular or digital pet ID tag. If you're involved in an accident, and your pet gets lost, this can help reunite you and your pup.
9. Carry Your Cell Phone (But Don’t Talk and Text)
Cell phones are a massive distraction for many drivers. Studies suggest that drivers are most distracted at night, between 6 pm and 11 pm. However, your cell also is a distraction for you when you’re walking. Avoid talking or texting when you’re walking your dog.
Once again, it’s all about staying alert and aware of your surroundings. But this doesn’t mean you should leave your cell at home. Bring it with you in case of an emergency. You can also use it for the flashlight and other various functions.
10. Always Use a Leash
One of the most important things to do when walking your dog, no matter what time it is, is to make sure your dog uses a leash. Even if your dog is super well-trained and responsive to voice commands, you never know what could happen. Plus, most places have leash laws anyway.
Using a leash significantly reduces the number of things that can go wrong. For example, your dog races after a squirrel, or your pup gets spooked and darts into the street. Keeping your dog on a leash keeps them safe and also ensures that others around you stay safe.
Are You Ready for a Moonlight Stroll with Your Pup?
There’s no denying that walking at night presents some extra safety risks and challenges, but don’t let that stop you. If nighttime is the best or only time you can walk your dog, go for it. But make sure to follow these smart tips for staying safe after dark.
For even more helpful pointers about raising happy and healthy pets, check out our Neater Pets blog. Your dog will thank you, and you’ll make many wonderful memories together.