No matter what climate you live in, the short days can put a cramp in your dog’s evening walk. From dark neighborhoods to icy streets, there’s a whole host of issues that can arise during the winter. As convenient as it might be, your dog can't stay inside after the sun goes down. You both need to stay safe and warm while your dog does its business on those dark winter nights.
To help you survive the season, here are seven tips for walking your dog in the winter.
Reflective gear is a must-have for making sure both you and your dog are visible at night. Ditch your current leash for a reflective option and look for coats that will make your dog more—not less—visible to oncoming traffic in the dark. Consider wearing a reflective jacket or put a reflective vest over your winter coat for added visibility.
You can also get your dog an LED collar to help increase its visibility on a walk. Most come with rechargeable batteries that typically last for 5-8 hours, and many are waterproof for rainy nights. Look for ones with bright LED lights that will really shine through the dark.
Stay on Leash
Walking off-leash can be a lot of fun, but dark nights are not the time to test your dog’s recall training. Always make sure your dog’s leash and harness are properly secured before leaving the house, and be sure to stay firmly in control throughout your walk. The last thing you want is your dog running off into a pitch-black night.
Stick to What You Know
When walking at night, be sure to take a route that both you and your dog are familiar with. This minimizes the potential of getting lost or encountering unfamiliar stimuli your dog might react negatively to.
Stay on the sidewalk and keep to well-lit areas whenever possible. This is especially important for older dogs that may be developing cataracts or any dog with vision impairments, as their ability to see in dim lighting diminishes and they may not see subtle obstacles, such as steps, or a rock in their path. In these cases, make sure to keep the leash short so you can help your dog avoid obstacles, and stick to paths that are as clear and well-lit as possible.
Wear the Right Gear
A fur coat isn’t always enough to keep a dog warm on a cold winter night. If your pooch is shivering, and/or is a short-coated breed, be sure to invest in a well-fitted jacket or sweater for your furry pal. While not all dogs require boots, be sure to check their paws regularly for cracks or bleeding to see if they could benefit from wearing them. Dogs in city environments where chemical salt lingers on the street are particularly at risk and should always have their paws wiped off after a walk.
Walking with a friend is a great way to make the last walk of the day a whole lot safer. Ask your neighbor and their pup to join you, or bring someone in your household along for a fun evening activity.
Keep Yourself Safe
Your pup isn’t the only one who needs to take extra safety precautions on dark walks. Make sure you also wear reflective materials at night, and always use weather-appropriate shoes with solid traction. Stay in well-lit areas when possible and remember to bring a flashlight when it’s not. Consider a headlamp for easy hands-free visibility wherever you go, and of course, always bring your cell phone in case of an emergency.