Crazy Cheap Tricks for Walking Your Dog Safely in the Dark

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Does anyone like walking their dog in the dark or at night? I doubt if there’s anyone that enjoys it. But as the days get shorter our dog walking time gets shorter too and we are often forced to walk our pups in situations we would otherwise hit the opt-out button on. This then begs the question if there are cheap ways to walk your dog safely after dark.

walking your dog safely in the dark

Budget Tip: 

Yes, there are cheap ways to walk with your dog and be seen at night. I love the idea of reflective tape or even craft glow-in-the-dark paint. You can apply tape or paint to you and your dog’s accessories. Don’t forget a cost-effective LED flashlight. You may even want to take a spray bottle with distilled vinegar for any prey animals or loose dogs. Everything else you need to do, are all fairly routine. But they could save you and your dog from injury when walking after dark. They are definitely budget-wise tips for safe dog walking. 

Why do you need to take special precautions for walking your dog safely in the dark? 

Let me give you an example to fully illustrate this issue. A few weeks ago I heard cars screeching on my street when I was out with my dog, Henry for his first-morning pee break. It was about 6 am and still very dark. In case, you don’t know, I live in a more rural part of town. Cars go down my street as a way to bypass the city. Of course, they never go the posted 30 MPH.

On this early morning, I had Henry closely at my side on our property when I heard and saw a car break and then swerve around a woman and her darkly colored dog. The woman’s outfit was dark as well and I even had a difficult time seeing them. She had taken no safety measures to make herself or her dog more visible to cars.

Naturally, I wondered why. But she quickly scurried away unharmed. Thankfully, this was a near miss. Although, I began to wonder what should’ve been done by this dog mom.

Are there any items to purchase to make walking your dog in the dark safer?

Of course, there are items you can buy to put on your dog, such as a reflective harness or jacket. In fact, Henry has a great harness that is reflective. There are even reflective or illuminated leashes and collars. In addition, there are endless items you can purchase for yourself to wear from reflective shoes, pants, shirts, sweatshirts, and hats.

Is there a budget-friendly alternative to purchasing reflective items for walking your dog?

Since my DNA is to look at ways to do things for less, I dove into this one head first. Well, maybe not head first. I was excited to look into it though. What I discovered that works brilliantly on a tight budget is reflective tape. You can get a 15′ roll of reflective tape for $6 or even cheaper from a store like the Dollar Tree.

I would recommend applying reflective tape to your dog’s collar, and leash.  Plus, you can apply the tape to your shoes and jacket.

Is there another cheap option besides reflective tape?

Yes, and this option is even cheaper. Glow-in-the-dark craft paint is only $2 for 2 fl. from Walmart or similar type stores.

If you opt for craft paint, then you can easily paint a stripe down the middle of your dog’s leash. Additionally, you could paint a stripe on the sole of your shoes.

While I wouldn’t advise painting your clothes unless they are old and you don’t care. However, there is an alternative, which can go with any outfit. You simply need to paint two 8.5’x11″ pieces of paper. Then tape or pin them (as they do for marathon runners) one to the front of your jacket and one to the back. Or if you live in a warm climate, to the front and back of your shirt.

UPDATE: I forgot to include glow sticks. They are amazingly bright and readily available in packs of at least six at most Dollar Tree and similar type stores. 

Are there any other precautions to take for walking your dog safely in the dark?

As I mentioned earlier, I live in a more rural area of town. This means more prey animals are out in my area. Also, occasionally, there are loose dogs in the my neighborhood. With this in mind, I’m always very cautious when walking Henry, even on our property. I pay close attention to him and our surroundings. However, there are a few tricks you will want to keep in mind to be safe with your dog in the dark.

1. Pay close attention

This means don’t return phones, check emails, or listen to music while walking your dog. Be aware of your surroundings.

2. Take your phone

Always take your phone and make sure it’s charged in case you have an issue and need help.

3. Know your route

When it’s dark is not the time to go exploring a new path. Stick to areas you know and areas that are as lit as possible.

4. Take an LED flashlight

Turn on the flashlight and shine it on your path. Drivers should see your light and avoid you and your dog. If you don’t have an LED flashlight, you can pick one up very inexpensively at a Dollar Tree or similar type store.

5. Walk against the traffic

This is mostly if there are no sidewalks and you are using a cleared dirt side path or no path, which is the case where I live. You want to be able to see oncoming traffic and jump out of the way if necessary. This is not the way you would traditionally walk with your dog. But this provides the greatest way to defend yourself if needed.

6. Dog walks opposite of the traffic 

Again this might not be on your left side, which most dogs know as the heeling side. But you want to keep your dog safe and if you need to you can push your dog over further. I will often practice with Henry heeling on different sides so he can do both.

7. Walk with someone

This might not always be possible, but if you can, it’s great to walk with someone. This could be a neighbor, friend, family member, or someone from your dog community.

8. Notify someone

This is to let someone know you’re out in the dark and walking your dog. Make sure you give the basic direction you are planning to walk and the approximate time you plan to return. This could be a simple text. Also, don’t forget to let your contact person know when you and your dog are safely back home.

9. Defense item

No matter if you live in a rural area with a lot of prey wildlife, loose dogs, or a big city with a nearby dog park, think about some kind of defense item to take on your dog walk for safety. This could be distilled vinegar water, which when put in a spray bottle and squirted in the eyes or nose of whatever is coming at you and your dog, will stop them.

Or you can also look into items such as pepper or bear spray. Although, make sure you know the regulations for carrying such items in your area. Additionally, be cautious if it’s windy because you could become incapacitated if you discharge the spray downwind. Both of these options are very cost-effective.

10. Don’t dilly-dally

Walking your dog after dark is not the time to stop and admire the neighbor’s fence. Do that in the daylight when you can see better, traffic can see you better, and prey wildlife are mostly sleeping.

Can you simply skip walking your dog when it’s dark outside?

Remember your dog still needs a potty break, just like you do. Plus, your furry friend needs some sort of exercise regardless if you have a small dog, large dog, senior dog, adult dog, puppy, high-energy breed, low-energy breed, or even a special needs dog. Although, you should check with your vet for your dog’s specific needs. However, walking is one of the best exercises for dog owners and their best furry friend. So, it’s a good idea to walk your dog before bed, if possible.

Note: If you are nervous about walking your dog in the dark and this is your only option, then you might want to think about a dog walker. You could even ask about bartering your dog walker services.

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Summary of crazy cheap tricks for walking your dog safely in the dark

While you can certainly buy leashes, collars, and other accessories for you and your dog to walk at night, it’s not necessary, especially if you’re on a tight budget. You can easily make yourself and your dog visible with reflective tape or glow-in-the-dark paint and a good LED flashlight. Although, it’s also critical to know your other safety precautions such as paying attention and notifying others when you’re walking your dog in the dark.

unique tricks for walking your dog safely in the dark

What kind of tricks do you have to safely walk your dog in the dark? Will you try anything different for a late evening or early morning walk with your dog?

About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

10 thoughts on “Crazy Cheap Tricks for Walking Your Dog Safely in the Dark”

  1. We try not to walk our dogs after dark. Most of their walks are in daylight & we have a fenced yard for the last potty break at night. If we are out in the neighborhood at night I make sure to wear a bright color shirt or jacket. These are great suggestions, thanks! I also really like the glow sticks you can often find at the Dollar store, or Walmart & Amazon. They’re easy to spot in darkness.

    • Terrific idea for glow sticks, Cathy! I totally overlooked those marvelous little gadgets. I’ll add them to my list. Thanks so much!

  2. I always look forward to your posts as you take a great look and angle for helpful tips. I really like the suggestion of reflective paint on the soles of shoes, and the tape on the leashes & vests. When I had my five, they had their own “husky-proofed” yard, but when we relocated a couple years ago with our last two seniors, I had to leash walk them around my property for an entire winter until our fence was installed in a new area, so I had a flashlight, put on our floodlight, and used those light up orbs that clip on to the dogs’ collars: I did blue for my boy and red for his sister. I didn’t have to walk them on the road, but if so, I really like that reflective paint idea! Filing that one away for future use! Will be sharing this helpful post, especially with Halloween right around the corner.

    • Thanks, Dorothy for the words of encouragement! I really do appreciate them.

      Those light-up orbs are a great idea to clip on your dog’s collar or harness. They are fairly new to the market in my area, but I think they’re readily available for a minimal amount. I also like the different colors for your two fur kids. Great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  3. These are such important tips! One evening, my sister and I were walking our dogs (We had six between us.) Her black Pomeranian slipped out of her harness. It was tough to find her, even though the Pom was standing on the sidewalk 5 feet behind us. My sister bought an inexpensive light-up leash and a better harness so that wouldn’t happen again.

    • That can definitely be scary. I know my dog, Henry is dark-coated as well. When I take him out for his last pee break it’s difficult to see him. But I always have an LED light with me and our last pee break is just to the front grass area. He’s usually pretty sleepy by bedtime and that works for him. Although, one evening the LED flashlight battery went out while he was outside. I called him even though he was only a foot or so away. I couldn’t see him. The funny part was that he was sitting next to me wondering why I starting to panic. So, now I test the flashlight before I take it with me outside. Lesson learned.

  4. I’ve done my share of walking a dog in the dark for various reasons. Hated every moment of it–for various reasons 🙂 But sometimes in needs to be done.

    • I agree. I don’t think anyone enjoys walking their dog in the dark. We do what we have to do and do our best to make them and us safe in the process.

  5. Thanks for this info and all the advice. Actually, I have not walked with animals in the dark, but I think that someday, if necessary, I will use your advice about pinning colored pieces of paper. Thank you.

    • I’m glad you found this article useful. I like the glow-in-the-dark paint too. You could get very creative with that as well. Be safe with your nighttime walks and have fun with the glow-in-dark paint.


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