Walking in the Dark

With the night drawing in, many of us are now being forced to walk our dogs in the dark. But, doing it safely, and comfortably, may not be quite as simple as just buying a few reflective collars.

Everything looks different

Your dog can see better at night than during the day, but that isn’t necessarily an advantage. There are strange shadows and blinding lights that weren’t there before, and this can be quite unsettling to an anxious dog. If your dog is worried about their strange, new environment, then take extra time to re-investigate things that concern them. Walking slower can also help as it can helps to reduce reactive behaviour and encourages investigative behaviour.

a husky type dog sits and takes a treat from a person wearing a baseball cap. They are in the background of a wooden area with sunlight shining down between the trees

You can’t see them

We definitely can’t see as well at night as we can during the day, so it might be time to reconsider letting them off the lead altogether. An LED collar will certainly help us to keep track of them, but it won’t help us to see what they might be sniffing or eating. It also might not help if they decide to go ahead and poop, and you might not be able to see other dogs, cyclists or joggers until it’s too late. Unless your dog can stay close when they are off lead, it might be better to keep them on the lead when it’s dark.

Check out my top tips for Walking Safely in the Winter

Picks up your anxiety

Never mind the dog, we are often more anxious when it’s dark. Even the most confident person can become quite jumpy and responsive to unexpected noises, strange shadows, and sudden movements. This is unsettling for us, but it also impacts the dog as they will pick up on our anxiety. If this is the case, then it might be time to relocate the walks to more brightly lit areas. Or if that’s not possible, then consider hiring a dog walker for the Winter months.


A dog walker might offer more than just a daytime walk. As the nights draw in, many dog owners change their habits and this means fewer and fewer dogs to socialise with. Of those that do go out, many spend more time on the lead, which isn’t great for socialisation either. If you can’t get out to meet other dogs, then a dog walker might be the answer.

its twilight as a woman and her collie dog walk away from the camera down a farm track. The dog is watching her hands very carefully.

What else can you do?

Reflective clothing and collars are great, but only if there is a light nearby for it to reflect. I prefer Using LED collars and bands as the light is more consistent wherever you are. Also, consider taking a handsfree torch such as a head torch so you can see where you are walking.

Stay alert and aware of your surroundings. It sounds obvious, but only last night I was out with Wilma and a girl walked past with big, chunky head phones on. I’m sure she would have had no idea who or what was about her.

Walk during the day, if you can or get a dog walker to relieve the pressure and maintain your dogs socialisation skills.

Or, even better, why not find a walking buddy or two. I doubt you’re the only one in your area that is having to walk their dog at night. And if there are a few of you, why not form a local group? The NextDoor app might be a good place to start looking if you are considering something like this.

You might also be interested in... Benefits of Pack Walking

What tips do you have for staying safe at night with your dog?

I’d love to know what you do to keep you and your pups safe on the shorter days, let us know in the comments!


I have more than 15 years experience solving all kinds of canine behaviour problems, at home and in rescue. A bad experience with a old fashioned dog trainer inspired me to learn more about dog behaviour, and it is because of him, that I wall never use harsh methods when training and rehabilitating dogs.

I work privately with clients in Dundee and the surrounding area with dogs of all ages, breeds and issues including anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity.

In 2009 I was proud to publish a book about dog behaviour and training. How to be the Perfect Pack Leader (by Caroline Jenkins) remains popular today and a follow up is expected very shortly.

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