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By Josh Weiss-Roessler

As winter creeps closer, you’ve probably noticed that your afternoon walks with your dog are starting to feel more like evening walks — the sun drops below the horizon earlier and earlier and, with it, so do the temperatures.

Walking a dog at night is a lot different than daytime strolls, and it’s not just the chillier weather or the fact that you have to use the flashlight function on your smart phone to find their poop. Nighttime creates a number of dangers for your pup, and if you want to keep them safe, there are several things that you should start to do.

What you see is what you don’t hit
Probably the most important thing that you can do to protect your pup when they’re out after sunset is to ensure that others can see them. And we’re not just talking about cars. While they might be the things that worry you most — for good reason! — don’t underestimate the damage that a bicyclist or even a jogger can do to you and your pooch.

Potential options are reflective dog collars, tags, leggings, and other clothing. Reflectors are great if you can find them, but you can also buy small LED lights to wrap around your dog’s leash or collar or, better yet, buy an illuminated collar, like the new Bright Light Collar & Leash™, which is designed for safely walking your dog at night. The collar is solar powered and USB chargeable, and has two lighting options: a steady or flashing LED light.

Weatherize your pooch
If you live in a colder climate, you might already be dressing your dog up whenever you head out to protect them, but just because the temperature seems fine in the day doesn’t mean that it will hold up at night. Even in more temperate weather, the sun generates a lot of heat, and when it goes down and darkness comes, you can feel the difference. Make sure that you keep your pup warm during his or her walks, especially if they’re smaller or have short or thin coats.

If you think that it seems silly to dress up your dog, try stepping outside without your coat and see how you feel. It’s not about fashion; it’s about making sure your best friend isn’t freezing his tail off. As an added bonus, you can look into reflective jackets so that you’re not only keeping them warm but also visible in the darkness.

Creatures of the night
Depending on the area in which you live, walking at night may bring out a whole host of different critters from the ones you’d normally see during the day. And while it may be annoying when Fido or Princess yanks your arm out of its socket to chase after squirrels, it’s preferable to having them try to pick a fight with a raccoon or having to stare down that terrifying coyote that suddenly appears in your way.

Even the animals that aren’t really dangerous at night can cause problems, because most dogs are much more freaked out by strange noises coming from something they can’t see than from those they can. The best way to avoid problems when walking at night is to stick to well-worn paths that you know and which have plenty of light. Carrying a whistle is also smart, because you can use it to scare off potential dangers — both to you and your dog!

Really, keeping your dog safe during evening walks comes down to two things: Be smart, and think ahead so you can ward off dangers. Every area is a little bit different, so think about the potential problems in your neighborhood and what you can do to minimize them.

At what times do you walk your dog usually? Share it with us in the comments.

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