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Walking your dog in the dark

Going for walkies in the dark is pretty much inevitable at this time of year. Sometimes it feels as though you’re lucky if you’ve fitted in the morning walk before the light starts to fade.

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 on 21 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, in towns, you’re on pavements that are slippery with leaves and often glistening with rain. Cars whoosh by with dazzling headlights, leaving you temporarily disorientated. Where does the kerb end and where does the road begin?

It’s not much better in the country. In late autumn, the countryside is essentially one ginormous mud bath. Mud sticks to your boots in enormous clumps, approximately doubling your weight, as you struggle to release one foot at a time from the primeval gloop. Your dog races 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 pitfalls, how can we make the most of walking our dogs in the dark? And maybe even enjoy it?

Get your footwear right

Close up of walking boots

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.

Stay visible

Don’t go out in the dark wearing head-to-toe black. Do a favour to motorists, pedestrians and other dog walkers by making yourself visible. Wear something that’s a light colour or, if you feel like it, a jacket with fluorescent strips.

Wear a head torch

Man wearing 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 bask in the glow 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 be officially hi-vis 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 your dog’s 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 / squirrel in the distance and hare after it. Better all ways round if you keep your dog 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. First, they’re so thin that they can be almost invisible and become a trip hazard to other people who are walking along in the dark. Second, 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.

Do you have any tips?

How about you? Do you have any brilliant tips for walking in the dark? Do share your thoughts with us on Facebook and Instagram. Plus, obviously, we’d love to see you and your pup dressed up in your best fluorescent clothing for night-time disco dog walks.

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