How not to walk a dog at nightWe all know that like us, dogs need regular exercise to stay happy. This applies even when it’s dark and cold outside and neither of us seems to want to go out, so we’ll skip today’s walk. And if we skip tomorrow as well that’s when boredom and behavioural problems, such as chewing, might kick in.

7 Tips for Safe Winter Exercise for Dogs

The short days of winter mean that sometime walks in the dark mornings or evenings are necessary and so safety becomes more important.

  1. Well-known route. The dark is not a good time to try a new route unless your usual route is badly lit. Even then it’s best to walk it first in daylight so that if there are any surprises, they are easier to understand and respond to by yourself and your dog.
  2. Well-lit. Routes should be well-lit to reduce the surprise element of other people and creatures. If you’re in the country then always walk against the flow of traffic so drivers can see you and be careful on the insides of sharp bends where they can’t. Always walk with your dog on the inside next to the hedge.
  3. Clothe the human in high viz. High viz may not be highly fashionable, but you’re bigger than your friend and are more easily seen by drivers. Also think about your companion as there are reflective collars and dog jackets available.
  4. Get a head torch and carry a phone. Head torches mean your hands are free and you can see where you’re looking. They’re easy to turn on and off as necessary and can alternate between a good beam and almost floodlights for the crisis. Your phone is there for emergency use only not for calls and messages.
  5. Stay calm. The dark is spooky and your natural response is to be more alert to noises. Don’t block noise with headphones, leave them at home. Your friend doesn’t have them and will hear the interesting sound that you miss or might be spooked by it and the first you know is the tug on the lead.
  6. Only let off the lead in a well-lit, well-known area. Facebook at this time of year becomes full of lost dogs where re-contact is prevented by lack of light or a spooked pet. Make sure your pockets are full of treats so your friend doesn’t run too far and consider a clip-on light for your friend to extend your sight. Otherwise always leash your dog when out at night.
  7. Team up with another dog-walker. This makes the dark less scary, increases visibility and fun.

Winter Alternatives

There are two other options to making sure your dog is well exercised in winter. The first is going on extended walks at the weekend including time off the lead well before dusk. The second is to use a professional dog-walker for day time exercise.

But whatever you choose enjoy the exercise and stay safe.