Winter is officially upon us. And, if you, like so many people, own a dog, this can mean having to head outside when the sun goes down.

No one likes leaving their pooch cooped up in the house when they go to work, but the reality is that around 19 per cent of dogs in the UK are left alone for more than five hours on a typical weekday. This means that many families are forced to tend to their dogs outside working hours, which can be a scary – and stressful – experience for both parties.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. To help you keep you and your dog safe in the dark, we’ve compiled some of our favourite tips and tricks. 

Light it up

It’s no surprise that pitch-black nights reduce your ability to see and be seen. That’s why a reflective collar or harness is an absolute necessity for evening walkies. Car headlights bounce off the collar, keeping your dog visible to drivers. If you want to go the whole hog, illuminating leads and dog coats are also easy to come by.

But it’s not just your dog’s wardrobe that needs tending to this winter. Investing in High-Visclothing or reflective strips will help to keep you both safe when crossing the road. Don’t forget to keep a torch and/or headlamp handy, too.

Plan your route

Before you drop that exciting four-letter word in front of your pet, you’ll need to get comfortable with your route. Try to follow familiar and well-lit places where possible (even if there is a shortcut down a sidestreet or across a pitch-black park, it’s safest to follow the direction of street lights). Also, make sure to scope out any new routes beforehand – if there are potholes, broken glass, open waters, or any nasty surprises lining your route, then you might want to reconsider. Steering clear of wildlife will help to stop your four-legged friend from getting spooked or overexcited.

As a responsible dog owner, you’ll also want to dress for the occasion. Just remember – you win no style points for being caught out in the cold in a pair of shorts, so wrap up warm and wear waterproofs. The same goes for your pooch.

Bring a friend

So, your pooch is lit up like a Christmas tree and you’ve planned your route, but what else can you do to keep safe on your dog walk? Find a pooch-friendly partner, of course.

Whether it’s a family member, significant other or friendly neighbour, having a partner will mean you’re less likely to be approached by someone. It also helps to have an extra pair of eyes and hands to look after your dog when they’re exploring. Even if it’s just to keep hold of the lead while you fish around in your coat pocket for a spare plastic bag, there’s strength in numbers.

If your friends prefer cats to canines, or you just prefer to go out on your own, always make sure that you have a fully charged mobile phone with you at all times; the last thing you want is a dud phone if you get lost in the dark.

For more advice on walking your dog in the dark, check out our top tips below:

Top tips

  • Dog walking 101: Be aware of your surroundings. Remove headphones and postpone phone calls with friends so you can keep a keen eye on your dog.
  • Keep your dog secure at all times – you don’t want the stress of losing them in the dark.
  • Try to follow pavements, ideally where flowing traffic is present. This way, you can use car headlights for extra visibility. Plus, if you get lost, you can ask a driver or follow a road map to find your way back.
  • If you’ve just bought a new safety accessory for your pet, make sure they are comfortable with wearing it. If they don’t like it, or it doesn’t fit properly, it could make them restless.
  • Perhaps most importantly, check whether your pooch is comfortable going out in the dark. If they are too anxious, let themout in a well-lit garden to do their business, or employ a dog walker to takethem out in the day. You should never force them to walk if they are nervous.

If you have any advice or tips for keeping your dog safe in the dark, get in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter.