Jogging or walking your dog at night – safe!

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Ever since we adopted a dog, I have been walking my dog at night. It feels like a lot of that is after dark, due to daylight savings time changes and living where we do. For what felt like the most brief of summers, it wasn’t dark out. But now it is again by 5pm, and our nightly dog walks and jogs are in pitch dark.

Coupled with this is the fact we often walk across many intersections. We live in the avenues, and in a hilly area. Cars speed up to and right over crosswalks, ever so frequently never even looking for pedestrians. Sometimes they run stop signs not looking for pedestrians. It is treacherous out there, and myself and my dogs have almost been hit more than once. A couple times ever so narrowly.

Because of this, we have invested in a whole bunch of visibility enhancers: reflective vests, arm cuffs, flashing lights, and bright coats. This article shows you what you can use when you’re walking your dog at night – this is the equipment we use for nightly walks, and it has seemed to help a lot to keep us safe. We combine any number of the following to make ourselves known to the horrible drivers on our streets today!

Dog vest:

We have two vets – one is quilted and is a bit heavier, the other is thinner and waterproof. Both enhance visibility greatly, and neither of our dogs who wore/wear them seem to mind wearing them too much (or at all in Tigger’s case).

PooBoss K9 Utility Vest: Quilted or non-quilted

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Pros:

  • Fits great – the vecro strap at the neck is easy to adjust, and seems to prevent the vest from slipping from side to side.
  • Pockets – handy for everything from poo bags to keys. Poo bags can be stored in a custom pocket dispenser.
  • Reflective strips – enhances visibility.
  • Quilted and non-quilted options – good for variable weather (but must be purchased separately).
  • Zipper at the top to enable top-clip harness users to keep using their harnesses.

Cons:

  • None really, although the other vest we have is slightly more visible due to built-in lights.
  • Might be nice to have a version where the quilted part is a built in liner, so you could have “two vests in one”.

 

Ruff Wear Lighted Lab Coat

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Pros:

  • Lights!  Insanely bright and visible for 1000 feet – solid, or blinks too – making you extra visible. Also has reflective strips down the length of the coat.
  • Excellent quality – sturdy and well-built.
  • Waterproof, and extra length to help keep your pup dry.
  • Strap fasteners are in a position where they are very easy to fasten (off to the side instead of under the belly).

Cons:

  • Slides around a bit more on the dog. You need to make sure the straps are fit correctly to reduce sliding.
  • No pockets. I would love a small pocket to stash some spare “just in case” poop bags.
  • Expensive, unless you manage to find it on sale.

Ruff Wear Lighted Lab Coat with the Night Ize dog light:

Lights and other accessories:

There are many options with varying levels of brightness, quality, and size. You can look for lights that bike riders use, or you can look for those customized for dogs. This is one by Night Ize of our favorites which can be set to solid or blinking mode (see above video):

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It comes in plain white, red, blue, or even one of many colors. We found this light at a sporting goods store (in the dog section), and bought the white one instead of red since it seemed a bit brighter, however it is also easily found online.  We have also had other smaller “blinker” or “blinking” lights that clip to the collar, such as this one.  However, this light constantly fell apart. I had several, and every time it would unscrew and spill batteries everywhere – which would often be lost on a trail somewhere. I grew so tired of this, I never use these dog lights anymore.

We also have a lit leash for walks: Nite Ize Nite Dawg Leash

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Ours is not too bright, so I wouldn’t heartily recommend it as the best leash ever. It’s pretty good quality, and it’s way better than some of the reflective leashes I’ve used in the past that have shredded up in only a number of months. I think there are better options out there, such as ones made by this brand that I saw in a pet store recently. They had blinking LED lights that ran up and down the sides, looked much brighter than the one we have, and I believe the one linked there is the same type.  But anyway, the leash above is pretty good and certainly suffices for now.

But then some just look pretty darn cool ones luring around online: this lighted dog leash, numerous LED leash options, and many nice reflective options as well.

I have also seen leg bands for dogs, and I’m itching to try them out: Bright Steps Leg Bands for Dogs. I saw them at a pet store, but couldn’t remember which one – I’ve been asking around, and I’m pretty sure most people thing I’m crazy to inquire about such things…

 

A vest for the human:

There are many options out there for humans. The one common thread amongst them is many of those options are costly – bike and running gear seems to be at a premium. I was looking for a reflective, waterproof coat where I could zip off the arms. Suddenly I was looking at coats that were over $100!  I did manage to find a deal on an out-of-season style, but it took a lot of searching.

The main things here are to find something that is:

  • Bright.
  • Reflective elements on the front, arms, and back.
  • Waterproof (if necessary)
  • Adequate pockets for keys, poop bags, and so on. Many designs lack may pockets, and these can be handy.

And, it’s helpful to have a coat that can convert into a vest. Here are some options:

Cannondale Morphis (Women’s): I have an earlier version of this coat, which is excellent as you can remove the arms and fold them into a back pocket if you need to – so you have a vest and coat in one for summer/winter. It is waterproof as well, although it has that odd smell some waterproof coats have. This jacket/vest is super bright, and has reflective trim at all angles – cars can’t miss it. Or they shouldn’t anyway!

And a few other options:

There are obviously many other jogging accessories for the night-time. I also have some reflective cuffs, and have seen many other items like caps, stickers you can apply to clothing, and so on.

A good jogging leash:

The biggest improvement (apart from not getting nearly run over as much) was a good jogging leash. These leashes go around  your waist, and clip to the dog – also called a hands-free leash. You can also accomplish this with getting a shorter leash (3 or 4 feet) and using a carabineer to clip it to a belt or belt loop. The catch here is you have to have a belt or belt loop!

Since I typically don’t have a belt or loop, I invested in the Kurgo Quantum Dog Leash.  The leash can be configured six different ways – different lengths, over the shoulder, jogging, dual-lead, and so on. I was also impressed with the quality of this leash. I have only used it for over-the-shoulder, and hands-free, but it has worked well for both. This leash would be better for a medium (25lb) or larger dog, as the clips are fairly larger and the leash itself is rather wide. I couldn’t imagine using it on a toy breed!

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The fact that this lead has six different configurations is a benefit for you, so if you end up not jogging, wanting to use the same leash for all of your walks, or want to try an over-the-shoulder configuration while jogging instead, these options are also available.

Base layers:

Once it gets cold, good wicking base layers will be much more comfortable while jogging. Nothing to do with the dog, of course, but I have found myself much more comfortable when wearing something that wicks the sweat away from the skin. And it took me awhile to figure that one out!

Nighttime jogging/walking tips:

  • Never assume the car will see you.  Even if a car slows down, I either wait for them to continue passing through the intersection while I wait (I often turn my back and put my dog in a stay while looking at my dog, so they know to pass and there isn’t any confusion that I might start walking in front of their car so they continue on their way).  I have even had people give me eye contact, slow down, and after I took that as my cue to cross, they then speed up as I just start walking across a cross-walk in front of their car. Now I wait for cars to pass, regardless of right-of-way. It is crazy out there – be safe.
  • Start out with one hand on the leash, then move to hands free.  This gives both you and your dog a chance to get used to the speed, and how the leash will dangle between you two as you lead and your pup follows.  Your dog should get used to taking your lead on speed and direction, and as soon as this happens its easier to go hands-free completely.
  • Try moving the belt on your waist so the leash dangles behind you, like a tail. This will make it easier for your dog to quickly change sides, if the need arises (such as when you pass another pedestrian). You won’t trip or get tangled in the process.
  • Try to get your pup used to jogging on one side of you. Mine typically are off to the side, and behind my hip – so their nose is about at my knee. I have found that both dogs tend to always stick to the same side of the sidewalk, as opposed to consistently my left or right. One dog stayed closer to the street, and the other away from the street. I’ve left them to do what they are more comfortable with, as it has been preferable in both cases (my nervous dog is farther away from what she is nervous of – people in doorways, and garage doors! The other one was farther away from the street and cars.)
  • Don’t worry about treats. You and your dog should, in theory, get into a pace and stick with it. This should distract them from smells, other dogs, and other reasons why treats may be necessary. I have found that training the pups while on the walk did not require treats. They were so alert and attentive to me, they were willing to work just to continue the jog or receive some praise.  And the big one – passing other dogs – soon became a non-issue. After awhile my dogs would completely ignore other dogs, even when they hadn’t in the past. Jogging is a great distraction, including fears.

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About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. She likes to support local and national efforts for animal welfare and advocacy. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.

  • Fran

    I’m looking for a light for dogwalking at night… to light the way… hands free… do you have something like this??? Thank you. Fran

    • Jen

      You might want to look into head lamps (something like this: http://www.petzl.com/en/outdoor/headlamps/all-headlamps). When I was in India doing a dog training course some of us used these when taking the dogs out to do night searching, and they worked well. They’re commonly used for caving, but I reckon they’d work well for walks. I can’t think of something else easily found that might work well for hands-free lights. Good luck, and safe walking!

  • Drury Lane Labradors

    Keepdoggiesafe.com has all of the products you noted and more. Great company. Lots of LED items for dogs and humans. I agree, the larger Nite Ize SpotLit is the best of the clip on the collar LED lights. I color coded my black labs. When we play outside with the meteorlite LED ball at night, I can see ‘who’ is running around the yard !

  • Ruckus the Eskie

    That’s a great thing to have. Some lights on the vest. IT’s like Halloween tips for all year round!

  • Drew Roberdeaux

    I found a great way to increase my safety at night from pawpawproducts.com, attach a flashlight or deterrent to the handle of your leash. Allows you to control the light in order to light your pathway, alert others and vehicles to your presence.