Walking your dog in the dark is a bit different than walking your dog in the daytime. First of all, it’s easier to lose your dog if they slip off the leash at night. The reduced visibility means it will be harder to find your dog, and you’ll both be more susceptible to accident or injury by cars or bikers who can’t see you. Not only that, but there’s wildlife, dangerous walking paths, and your dog’s special needs to consider.

But not to fear; with a little preparation and smart thinking, walking your dog safely at night is possible. And it can be a wonderfully enjoyable routine together with your furry friend. So here are 10 steps to safely walk your dog in the dark at night!

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10 Tips for walking your dog in the dark

1. ID your dog

First and foremost, before walking with your dog at night, make sure that your dog will be able to be identified in case they get lost. The last thing you want is to lose your dog in the darkness and then have no way to be reunited with them again.

Proper identification looks like:

  • an ID tag on the dog’s collar, with their name and your phone number clearly legible and
  • a dog microchip implanted by a veterinary professional, with up-to-date contact details in the microchip database.

Sadly, only 15% of lost dogs without ID tags or microchip are reunited with their family.

Source: American Humane

Keep in mind: It is not possible to track a lost dog in real-time with a microchip – a microchip only provides a form of identification in case the dog is lost and found again. However, you can track your dog’s every step with a GPS dog tracker.

2. Consider spaying or neutering first

Additionally, you may want to consider spaying or neutering your dog first, before you take them out on nighttime walks. That’s because uncastrated male dogs or female dogs in heat are way more likely to try to run away than neutered pets. A dog following their strong natural mating instinct will be ready to chase any opportunity they get for a little action!

If you do take your dog on a walk at night before they’re fixed, be sure to keep them on a leash. And don’t don’t forget to…

3. Invest in good training

It’s important to walk your dog every day, and your daily walking routine will be made so much easier if you have invested in good training for your dog. Whether you work with a dog training professional, or do it yourself, your time and energy will pay off when your canine pal can walk with you peacefully instead of pulling on the leash or chasing every squirrel. As any dog lover knows, training is an essential part of being a good dog parent. With a little training, walking your dog at night will be so much more enjoyable as you’ll be able to trust in your dog’s ability to follow basic dog commands. And this will keep both of your more safe on your nighttime adventures.

Dog walking in the dark

4. Walk your dog on a leash

For most people, walking the dog at night means walking the dog on the leash. Whether you want to keep your curious puppy from running away, or your old dog from wandering off, or you just want to respect passersby by keeping your dog in line, make sure to bring the leash on your nighttime dog walks. In many areas, leash laws require that you walk your dog on a lead. In some places a muzzle might also be required.

Of course, if you know of an area where it’s safe to walk your dog off leash, that’s fine too. If your dog does have free rein to roam, you can use a GPS dog tracker on their collar to follow their every step and give you peace of mind.

5. Dress for visibility

Low visibility at nighttime can expose you to many dangers when walking your dog in the dark, such as injury, loss and wildlife1. To minimize darkness-related risks, increasing your and your dog’s visibility is essential. Here are some visibility gear ideas for walking your dog at night:

  • Use reflective gear: This goes for you and your dog. Reflective dog scarves, collars, harnesses, leashes, vests, jackets and more are available. Reflective gear is anything that reflects light, increasing the visibility of you and your furry friend.
  • Lights save lives: Lights are also helpful to increase your visibility. Try a LED or light up dog collar and/or leash, and bring a flashlight or headlamp with you. This is especially important if you go walking in a dark area.
  • Glow-in-the-dark: Consider bringing glow-in-the-dark items with you, like the Tractive GPS Dog Tracker glow-in-the-dark sleeve or a glow-in-the-dark dog toy.
Dog with glow in the dark collar yellow
Dog with glow in the dark tracker sleeve

6. Consider your dog’s special needs

Next, don’t forget to consider your dog’s unique needs when walking together in the dark. For example, if you have a small dog that gets cold easily, consider a warm dog jacket or insulating vest on frosty winter nights. Make sure you’re dressed warmly while you’re at it. If you’re walking in a wet, muddy, or rocky area, dog booties may also be helpful for keeping those little paws warm, dry, and safe.

Does your dog have shorter legs or a smashed face? Do you have a senior dog, puppy, or one with a health condition? Then opt for a shorter walk over a long walk or run. Does your dog frighten easily? Keep that in mind and avoid exposing your dog to anything that could be too scary for them.

7. Understand dog behavior in the dark

Despite the fact that dogs can see better in the dark than humans, your furry friend’s behavior may be different at night. Normal objects during the day may be more frightening to your dog at night. Especially warmly-dressed people, who usually also wear a hat and scarf, can scare your dog in the dark. In such cases, your four-legged friend may react by attacking or running away.

The 4 Fs of fear in dogs infographic

Read more about fear in dogs.

8. Use a GPS dog tracker for safety

As we mentioned above, a GPS dog tracker can be a lifesaver when it comes to walking your dog at night. No matter how prepared you are, accidents can always happen. Be prepared for the worst with a GPS tracking device that fits comfortably on your dog’s collar. With it, you can:

  • Follow your dog’s every step in the app
  • See where your dog is at any time with LIVE tracking
  • Turn on the tracker light and sound to find your dog easier when visibility is low
  • Let your dog be a dog – the tracker is 100% mud, water and adventure-proof!
  • Set up a Virtual Fence – and get notified if your dog leaves the designated safe area
  • Share your pup’s live location with friends and family – in case you need help finding your dog
  • See how active (or lazy) your dog is with Activity Monitoring
  • Check out everywhere your dog has been with Location History

9. Be smart and prepare for the unexpected

Finally, keep in mind that there are likely other factors you need to consider on your personal nighttime dog walks. For example, on dog walks in winter, beware of ice-melting salts that can be dangerous for your dog’s paws. Is there a frozen lake nearby? Then keep your dog close. Is dognapping on the rise in your area? Then don’t let your dog out of your sight.

Choose a walking path that is safe, well-lit, and dog-friendly. Stay alert – surprises such as other people and dogs, cars, cyclists, or wild animals might greet you unexpectedly.

Dog with its owner jumping outside in the dark

10. Enjoy your nighttime dog walk and rituals

Most of all, enjoy the walk together with your furry friend. A dog walk together is an act of love and a routine that can bring you closer to your canine pal.

When you get home, show your dog some love by making sure they have plenty of water to drink and a warm clean bed to sleep in. Use wet towels to gently clean away any dirt or chemicals your dog might have picked up on the street, and then dry them off. If you want, you can tuck your dog into bed with you and say goodnight! And look forward to the next day’s adventures and snuggles together.

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