Published: October 23, 2017  

Last updated: July 18, 2024  

It’s dark outside but you need to take the dog for a walk. Let’s gear up to ensure you and your dog stay safe during these nighttime walks. 

When we lived in town, I’d walk our dogs every evening after dinner. I love watching the sunset on our walks. The summertime is wonderful; it’s warm, bright, and sunny until almost 9 pm. But in the fall and winter months, it gets dark so early; we bundle up and walk under the light of the street lights and moonlight!

These days we still head out after dinner, but it’s in our pitch-black backyard… and I still use many of these tips and gear.

These are the tips I use and recommend for anyone walking their dog at night.

A woman walking her dog at night in the dark under streetlights.

Safety tips for walking the dog at night

Before heading out the door tonight, review these tips for keeping you and your dog safe.

1. Take a familiar route

Opt for a walking path you have taken in the daylight many times before, somewhere you easily know your way around. Walking alone in an area you don’t know can get confusing very quickly at night. The last thing you want to do is get lost at night walking your dog.

2. Stick to well-lit areas

This not only ensures better visibility for you and your dog but also minimizes potential dangers lurking in the dark. You know what I’m referring to… those situations that give you the creeps and want to run straight home.  

3. Vary your walking routes

Even though you always want to be familiar with the route, you should switch it up so the bad guys can’t stalk you. We’ve all seen those crime shows where stalkers watch and track their obsession’s schedule! Don’t let that be you.

4. Be aware of your surroundings

Knowing where you are is helpful, but also be aware of other people and dogs around you. Keep your eyes wide open, always scanning your pathway. Keep a confident posture because criminals are always looking for an easy target.

Dog laying on the sidewalk wearing an LED collar.

5. Walk with a friend

Safety in numbers. Like I said above, the bad guys are looking for easy prey. Walking with a friend when you’re out with your dog at night is like having an extra set of eyes and ears, which enhances safety. You can watch out for each other, share any concerns, and help each other navigate through any unexpected situations that may arise. 

6. Always carry your phone

In case of an emergency, having your phone allows you to quickly call for help. It also enables you to easily contact friends, family, or veterinary services if needed. Additionally, your phone can serve as a navigational tool if you find yourself lost or in unfamiliar surroundings.

7. Keep the headphones at home

By keeping your ears free, you can listen for any potential dangers like approaching vehicles, barking dogs, or unexpected sounds that might signal trouble. It also allows you to better communicate with your dog and respond quickly to their needs. Plus, walking without headphones lets you fully immerse yourself in the experience, enjoying the sights and sounds of the night while staying safe.

8. Keep your dog on a leash at all times

Keeping your dog on a leash at all times during walks is crucial for their safety and the safety of others. Even the most well-trained dogs can get distracted or startled by unfamiliar sights and sounds in the dark. A leash ensures that you have control over your dog, preventing them from running off into potentially dangerous situations like busy roads or encounters with wildlife. It also helps to prevent them from approaching other dogs or people without your supervision. Just because your dog is friendly, doesn’t mean the other dog is.

9. Use a shorter dog leash

For nighttime walks, I love our 6′ LED leashes. I get compliments on them every time we use them. I strongly advise against using retractable leashes because they can be dangerous when walking your dog at night. The long black thin line is impossible to see at night, which can cause tripping, your dog getting wrapped around a post, or lunging at something in the distance!

10. Use safety and reflective gear

Before heading out the door, dress appropriately with bright colors and proper gear to keep you and your dog safe while walking at night time. Reflective gear, such as vests, collars, and leashes, make you and your dog more visible to passing vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, reducing the risk of accidents. Below is more detail about what safety gear we use and recommend. 

Three dogs wearing LED dog collars at night.

11. Check the weather forecast before heading out

Knowing what to expect in terms of temperature, precipitation, and wind conditions allows you to dress appropriately and prepare any necessary gear, such as raincoats or extra layers. Being aware of any potential weather-related hazards, like thunderstorms or icy conditions, enables you to adjust your route or timing accordingly.

I will never forget the day I got stuck out in a sudden thunderstorm while walking the dogs. I was at least a mile away from home! Thank God my husband was home and picked us up. 

12. Be cautious of wildlife encounters

Keep an eye out for signs of wildlife activity, such as rustling bushes or glowing eyes in the darkness, and be prepared to react calmly if you encounter any animals. It’s essential to keep your dog on a leash and under control to prevent them from chasing or startling wildlife, which could lead to dangerous situations for both your dog and the wildlife. 

Have you ever watched Dr. Poll on TV, where he removes porcupine needles from a dog’s face? Or what about the stories of dogs getting skunked? Both of my worst fears when letting my dogs outside at night. 

13. Watch out for toxic substances on the ground

Keep an eye out for common hazards like discarded food wrappers, spilled chemicals, or plants that may be harmful if ingested. Sadly, some people leave litter in public areas… I’ve come across half-eaten food, cups filled with who knows what, and substances I don’t want to know. 

Ensure your dog stays away from any suspicious items and if you can, clean up any trash you come across. If it’s safe to do so, I use an extra poop bag to pick it up.

14. Ensure your dog is comfortable with walks in the dark

Some dogs are afraid of the darkness. If your dog gets spooked at night, start by practicing walks in a well-lit area and then gradually transition to darker environments. Use positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, to reinforce good behavior during night walks.

15. Keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date

Keeping your dog’s vaccinations up to date is crucial for their health and well-being, especially during nighttime walks when they may encounter various environmental factors and potential hazards. Vaccinations protect your dog from contagious diseases and reduce the risk of them contracting illnesses from other animals they may encounter outdoors. 

16. Have emergency contacts readily available

Make sure to have important numbers saved in your phone, such as your veterinarian, the closest emergency animal hospital, your local non-emergency police, and a trusted friend or family member who can assist you in case of an emergency. 

Walking dogs at night with a LED Dog Leash.

Gear for night dog walking

There are many options when it comes to visibility and safety products for nighttime dog walking. These are the best products for walking your dog at night based on what I use for our dogs.

You can find all my recommended products listed in my Nighttime Gear for Walking in the Dark with Your Dog Amazon Shopping List.

1. LED light-up or reflective leashes

I bought our LED leashes several years ago and LOVE them! They are rechargeable via USB connection so no worries about battery replacement. Simply charge it for one hour to enjoy at least 5 hours of illumination. I go for two weeks without having to charge our leashes, and we walk about 45 minutes every night.

2. LED collars or harnesses for your dog

Now that we live in a rural area we don’t take walks at night. But I still use these LED collars so I can see where the dogs are in the yard. They are also great for walks, but I still like the leashes for that more. 

3. Reflective vests for you and your dog

An LED safety vest is the perfect gear for night walks. Compared to reflective vests that only work when car lights shine on a reflective strip, a dog vest has LEDs that work ALL THE TIME, regardless of an external light source.

Be twice as bright if you wear an LED Reflective Vest along with your dog. They are usually marketed for runners but would be a great tool for walking your dog in the dark.

4. Dog poop bags with built-in light

Have you ever tried finding dog poop in the dark? You think you know where it is, but it’s so dark you can’t see the poop! I’m always pulling out my phone to use as a flashlight, but these dog poop bags with built-in lights can ensure that you leave no mess behind.

5. Flashlight

Yes, I usually opt for my phone’s flashlight, but it has its limitations. Having a good flashlight with you can help you see other dogs, people, and things in the distance. 

Did you know they make special flashlights just for walking at night? Not that you need anything other than a standard flashlight, but these options can make it a little easier to shuffle a flashlight and your dog.

6. GPS tracker

If your dog were to become lost or wander off, a GPS tracker allows you to quickly and accurately pinpoint their location, making it easier to locate and retrieve them. This technology can be particularly useful in low-light conditions when visibility is reduced, ensuring that you can track your dog’s movements even in the dark. 

7. Reflective strips

I think the LED or reflective vests are a better option, but reflective stickers for your clothing can help enhance your visibility in the dark. You can put them on your coat, pants or even the dog harness. 

A small dog and its owner standing in the grass at night.

8. Whistle or noise maker 

In the event of an emergency or if you need assistance, a loud whistle or noise maker can help you quickly signal for help. These devices can be used to scare off wildlife, other dogs, or people. I’ve tried a few noise makers, the Doggie Don’t is my favorite. 

9. Pepper spray or mace 

Pepper spray can be a useful tool for self-defense during nighttime walks with your dog. In the event of an aggressive animal encounter or a threatening situation, pepper spray can help deter potential attackers and create a safe distance between you and the threat. 

It provides a non-lethal means of protection, allowing you to defend yourself and your dog without causing permanent harm. I recently bought this pepper spray for my daughter. 

10. Insect repellent

Insect repellent can be a helpful addition to your nighttime walking routine, especially during warmer months when bugs are more active. Applying insect repellent to yourself and your dog can help keep pesky mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects at bay, reducing the risk of discomfort and potential insect-borne illnesses. Never use toxic chemicals on your dog. 

Rescue Dogs 101’s recommended products: Nighttime Gear for Walking in the Dark with Your Dog.

Be Safe, Be Seen

Use common sense and be safe while walking your dog at night. The low visibility brings safety concerns we don’t always think about. You and your dog’s safety is the priority.

I use the LED leashes, bring my phone, walk in the areas around my neighborhood, and am always hyper-aware of my surroundings. I use my phone as a flashlight instead of carrying a separate flashlight, so I can see when I have to pick up the dog poop.

If you live in an area where it isn’t safe to walk at night, then it’s best to arrange your schedule so you can walk during daylight hours… even if you have to wake up earlier in the morning. And if that’s not possible then opt for indoor activities instead. 

I would love to hear how you stay safe when walking your dog at night. Let me, and the Rescue Dogs 101 Community, know in the comments below.

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About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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  1. Hello Debi, thank you very much for your useful tips about walking at night. I live in a safe neighbourhood but it is always good to know what to take with me and look out for.
    I am new to your side and found already helpful information. I adopted a puppy of 12 weeks of age and we are learning the ropes of toilet training, avoid getting bitten with its sharp teeth and are in awe how quick our little guy has grown in just 2 weeks he is with us. We also will attend puppy school which starts in 1 week time. We are happy that this little guy came into our life and looking forward to seing him growing up into a wellbehaved companion, his name is BRUNO

  2. Walking at night with your dog can be a great way to bond and get some exercise, but it's important to take some precautions to ensure your safety and your dog's safety.

  3. Walking your dog at night doesn’t have to be a scary experience. With the right tools and preparation, you can make sure both you and your pup are safe. Flashlights are essential for illuminating paths, while reflective accessories can help others easily spot you in the dark. A pepper spray deterrent is also beneficial in warding off any potential predators. Finally, it’s always wise to walk with a companion or in well-lit areas if possible.

  4. I always bring a flashlight to pick up my dog’s poop at night. Plus I bring my cell phone. I used to walk very long distances (3 miles) with my dog at night and no one ever bothered me even though my neighborhood is not the safest. I’ve noticed that people stay away when you have a dog. When camping, I like to use an led collar so I can see where my dog is at all times.

  5. Perfect timing! My daughter and her wife just adopted their first dog. I was just trying to figure out what type of light to buy them for walking at night.

  6. I was just talking to my parents about them walking their dog at night since they’ve put a small trailer on my sister’s large farm. She was talking about how dark it was when the sun went down and that she had difficulty seeing. I’ll share these ideas with her.

  7. I like walking at night because it’s typically quieter than during the day and there are usually fewer cars and need to follow a few more of your tips. I have seen the light up collars before but the leash is definitely more appealing that way people can see that there is both me and my dog not just her.

  8. Thanks for these great tips. We just moved to the country and will DEFINITELY need a flashlight , reflective vests and maybe some pepper spray for the bears!

  9. You covered all the best safety precautions when walking your dog at night! I kept thinking of these things then POOF you had it on the list! You even had a couple I didn’t think of! Thank you – we have to be sure that we and our pets are safe!

  10. I walk Layla at about 10 everynight but we stick to main roads so am not that concerned. She wears an LED collar, I wear an armband with a flashlight on so people can see me, I carry a whistle on my key ring for emergencies. I will not take my phone with me as there has been too many people mugged for phones by just having them in their hands. When I take Layla out I live in a busy area with restaurants etc so there are always people on the sidewalk. One thing I will not do is walk down dark alleys or side streets.

  11. This is so appropriate because I have the Illumiseen leash and still I’m kind of afraid to walk my dogs at night because there’s not much of a sidewalk in our neighborhood (and coyotes). I was thinking last night as I pulled into the driveway at dusk that I should get a vest for myself to go with the leash. Nice re-cap!

  12. Some great advice. I have trouble finding reflective leashes etc that aren’t too heavy for the 3.5 pounder! Or a light that isn’t too heavy. We stick to daytime if possible and well light spaces and I wear the reflective gear. One thing though … as an emergency expert… changing your route often is actually recommended to avoid being predictable and ambushed. Don’t be a mark….

  13. I see so many people with headphones on when walking their dog and it amazes me! This is one of those times when I get to really interact with my dog. I talk to him while we’re walking. I point out things he might be interested in seeing/doing, etc. We do like to vary our walking path for more interest, but only do this during the day and only in areas we know well. One other tip if someone is walking their dog alone at night is to be sure someone knows where you’ll be walking and when you’ll be back.

  14. Good tips! Must admit, we very rarely walk at night. Our neighborhood is not well lit, and in many spots we don’t even have sidewalks, and the streets are narrow and winding, so I just don’t feel very safe from the crazy drivers around here. But since I work from home and make my own schedule, we can always manage to get out on our walks during the day.

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