Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Pet Expert: Walking Your Dog Safely At Night

My favourite times to walk with my dog have always been early in the morning and late in the evening. In the early morning, with my best friend at my side, I get to bask in the peace and tranquility of the day that has yet to begin, and in the evening I can clear my head and decompress from the busy day that was.

As the end of summer grows closer, daylight times are becoming shorter, meaning I have to think about safety for my dog and myself during times of low light and poor visibility. This is especially true for avid hikers and forest walkers, like myself, as dense forest canopies can significantly reduce light levels on the trail.

To remedy these low light problems, one may simply suggest changing the times of your outings. While this is good in theory, bustling work schedules, busy family life, and high daytime temperatures don’t make it easy to simply grab the leash and go throughout the day.

For now, there is still plenty of light to go around, however it won’t be long until night begins to fall in the late afternoon/early evening hours. If you plan to walk your dog after dark, first consider your route. This will make it easier for drivers to see you, and will also make it easier to see potential threats, such as off-leash dogs, nocturnal wildlife (like skunks!), and more.

For optimal low-light safety, staying on well-lit sidewalks whenever possible is ideal. Sideroads can be very dark at night and offer poor visibility. Hiking trails can be too dark at night, and are home to a wide variety of night-loving wildlife, too. Additionally, the eerie nature of the wild at night can easily spook a weary dog.

That’s not to say you should not go walking in the dark. You can still have an enjoyable outing at night and stay safe at the same time. The market is full of high visibility aids for people and pets alike. Reflective products like vests, collars, and leashes are great for roads, sidewalks, and areas with low light. For darker areas with little light (like a hiking trail), consider a rechargeable LED collar and leash combination for your dog. These products provide maximum visibility in all conditions, and are a favourite among avid hikers like myself.

Carrying a flashlight is also an important tool to have on you at all times during low light outings. Not only will this help you to see where you are going more clearly, it will also make you highly visible to others, as well. Flashlights will also help you better find your dog’s poops, too! We can’t have that being left behind simply because it’s too dark to see.

While this may seem like a common sense solution to a silly problem, it is important to recognize where elevated risks are most prevalent. In the case of dog walking, the risks of walking a dog at night are greater than during the day; skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and more are most active at night.

By doing a little bit of advanced planning, low light outings with your best four-legged friend can be an enjoyable bonding experience. Enjoy your walks, and let’s be safe out there!

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.

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