Now that the days are getting cooler, the hours of daylight are starting to wane. By the time you get home from work to walk the dog, it might already be dark outside.
Even letting the dog or cat outside at night in the backyard can be dangerous. Whether your dog is directly under your supervision in the dark, or headed out alone for a last potty break before bed, keep your pet safe from things that "go bump in the night."
The main safety issue, for walking early in the morning or after dark in the evening, is visibility. We're not talking about what you and your dog can see; we're talking about people being able to see you.
It might be good to increase your visibility and sound you and your dog make to ensure wild animals know to take a different path.
If you have a black dog, visibility products are especially important, as dark fur makes it nearly impossible to spot a dog in the inky blackness. Keep that in mind for your own clothing choices. Lighter colors are a good idea.
To make yourself more visible, it's a good idea for you to wear a jacket with reflective features. You can buy reflective tape and make a few modifications to your coat. While this may not be aesthetically pleasing, at least you won't be hit by a car. A construction visibility vest might be worn over your jacket for maximum visibility.
Making your dog visible in the dark with reflective features is also important, particularly if you use a retractible leash, or your dog is off leash. We have collars with reflective materials in them so you never have to think about whether or not your dog is visible or not.
I had a friend who bought a reflective collar from us for her black lab. She and her neighbors live in a cul-de-sac and the kids and dogs all play in their somewhat private street area.
In spite of the nice family-friendly location, Stacy wanted to ensure that Bella was wearing something that would be easily seen. Kids and dogs can dart out behind parked cars, and a wayward vehicle or neighbor coming home could accidentally hit someone.
Since the happy-go-lucky Labrador was likely to be tagging along with the kids, she was also providing a visibility service to the kids.
Bella is also a hunting dog, so the reflective feature was also helpful in those circumstances.
Coats with built-in-reflective tape. For a coat that does double duty for visibility and keeping your pet protected from the elements, we have several models to choose from. I personally like the ease of use of our Nor'easter Dog Blanket Coats. One side has a rain-resistant shell with reflective edging and a reflective bone. The inside is fleecy and also has the reflective trim in case you want to reverse the look. The coat goes on easily with two velcro straps.
The drawbacks to reflective material are that it might not be seen until a light is shining directly on it. By the time the headlight beam gets close enough to light up your reflective gear, it could be too late for a car to stop.
For even more visibility than with passive reflective materials, you'll want to look into products that have LED lights built into them. These bright little lights don't use a lot of energy, stay cool, and still manage to provide a good amount of visibility, even from far away.
We carry small LED clips to snap to your dog's collar. There are versions for both small and large dogs. That's a quick and easy addition to make nighttime walks more safe.
We like the LED leashes so that people can easily see both you and your pet.
As I'm writing this, I'm listening to a singing coyote behind my house. I like hearing them, especially when it's just a lone howler. But some nights, you get to hear the eerie sound of escalating high pitches from a pack, and you know it's the sound of excitement from a kill. I know they have to eat too, but I always hope that they didn't find someone's pet for their dinner.
In our area, we've heard stories of coyotes becoming increasingly bold in their attempts at taking pets for a meal. They're not as intimidated by humans or homes, and they will travel up the greenbelts in neighborhoods, looking for an inexperienced domestic animal to take.
Owls are also another predator to look out for. I often see them swooping down under the street lights for a presumed appetizer of bugs. But bugs aren't likely to satisfy a large owl's hunger. They'll be looking for smaller mammals who haven't taken cover for the night.
I had a friend who was told to put her Yorkie in really bright and sparkly outfits when she was outdoors to prevent hawks from taking her. His theory was that these embellishments made the dog not look like a prey item they would eat.
I'm not sure the same thing is true for owls. Would reflective tape say, "Eat here!"? Or would it confuse a predator? Either way, it will help you keep a better eye on your pet. Having a slippery, puncture-resistant material on a reflective coat will protect your dog from talons.
Due to all of the predators that are on the hunt, we suggest keeping cats indoors at night.
As for dogs, the best solution for keeping your pet out of harm's way in the dark is to supervise them and keep them on a leash. A short leash that isn't retractible is best. If you hear rustling in the bushes or glowing eyes in the distance, pick up your small dog. A larger dog might be safe, but it's still best to keep some distance from wildlife.
It's best to take paths you're familiar with in the dark. Cracked sidewalks, holes in the concrete or dirt, exposed tree roots and landscape edging can be dangerous for both you and your pet.
In your own yard, fill any holes with dirt, cover the knife-like lawn edging with safety covers, and cover or cut exposed roots. Those window well covers that prevent children from falling in are also helpful for the furry kids.
These precautions can save you and your pet from twisted ankles and even broken bones.
Another simple tool? Use a flashlight. This might not be necessary for your own backyard, but it is helpful for walking in the neighborhood.
Are there things you do to protect your pets in the dark?