[UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2023]
Walking your dog in the dark
Going for walkies in the dark is pretty much inevitable at this time of year.
Between morning walks in the early hours before work, and evening walks once you get home, it can feel lucky if you get to see a glimmer of daylight at all, while exercising your pup.
Right now, the light is dwindling and there’s less and less of it each day. The sun doesn’t start creeping back until after the Winter Solstice in late December. Until then, we’re in the dark.
The dangers of night-time walkies
As dog lovers, we can be forgiven for not being entirely jubilant at the prospect of the current daily ritual of walking the dog in the dark.
At this time of year, there are various hazards to be mindful of when going for your usual walkies.
In towns, you need to be on the lookout for slippery pavements, often covered with leaves and glistening with rain. Cars are liable to whoosh by, with the sudden illumination from their headlights being potentially disorienting.
It’s not much better in the country, either. In late autumn, the countryside may essentially become an enormous mud bath – with the primeval gloop sticking to your boots and forming a slipping hazard. Of course, your dog is likely to race ahead, joyously unconcerned with your predicament, leaving you alternately skidding and staggering along in the dark.
How to make the most of your night-time walks
Given all the potential pitfalls, how can we make the most of walking our dogs in the dark? And maybe even enjoy it?
Get your footwear right
You know those annoying people who say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing? Well, they’re right. And they’re especially right when it comes to footwear. In the deep dark of an autumn night, whether you’re in town or in the country, you want solid waterproof footwear with a good grip. Some people like wellies, although more seasoned dog walkers may prefer hiking boots or some of those knee-high waterproof country boots that laugh in the face of British mud and rain.
Check your glasses
It’s a small point, but when it’s dark outside, it’s hard to see at the best of times. This situation becomes even more complicated when you fish in your pocket for your spectacles and find you’ve brought your sunglasses with you by mistake. Before you go out, make sure you have the right pair of glasses with you.
Don’t go out in the dark dressed head-to-toe in black. Help motorists, pedestrians, and other dog walkers to spot you from a mile away, by making yourself as visible as possible. Wear something that’s a light colour or, better yet, a hi-vis jacket, or one with fluorescent strips.
Wear a head torch
Now, it takes a bit of panache to carry off wearing a head torch. But you can do it. Plus, what looks dafter? Wearing a torch on your head, or falling over a log that you failed to see in the dark? Exactly. Plus, no one will be able to see who you are because they’ll be dazzled by the light. Just pretend you’re at a festival and revel in the satisfaction of being able to see exactly where you’re walking.
Make your dog visible
This is the fun part. Dress your dog up in a reflective jacket, collar or raincoat, or use a fluorescent lead. Your dog will officially be a hi-vis hound, and easy to spot. This is particularly important if you have a black dog who will otherwise blend into the shadows. You can even get flashing collars and leads that will lend a disco vibe to your evening walk.
And if you can’t bear to wear a head torch yourself, one alternative is to get your dog a PupLight, a super-bright LED light that goes around their neck to illuminate the way ahead.
Keep your dog on the lead
This just makes sense, really. Your dog probably has much better night-vision than you do, so they could easily spot a rabbit, cat, or squirrel in the distance and bolt off at a moment’s notice. Better by far to keep them on the lead, so you know where they are at all times. Here's our advice on the different types of leads.
Don’t use an extendable lead
Extendable leads can be dangerous at night. Firstly, they’re so thin that they can be almost invisible in the dark, and may be a trip hazard to other people who are out walking. Secondly, your dog might get so far ahead of you that they alarm unsuspecting motorists, or other people on foot.
Stick to familiar routes
When you have your dog with you, you may feel invincible. But after dark is not the time to explore new routes. Save those fascinating-looking bridle paths and byways for daylight hours when you’re less likely to get lost or sink knee-deep in mud!
Whether it’s spring, summer, autumn or winter, our dogs still need to be taken for regular walks. It’s important for their health and wellbeing, and it’s probably a healthy habit for you as an owner, too. If your dog could use a bit of extra joint support to help them continue leading an active life year round, we recommend trying YuMOVE Joint Care – our original triple-action dog joint formulation.