Nighttime safety for dogs is important any time of year, but even more so as the days get shorter and the Big Dark begins when fall turns into winter.
When waning daylight forces more people to take their dogs on walks in low-light conditions, it’s important to raise awareness that the pre-dawn and post-dusk hours are more dangerous for dogs.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for dogs to get hit by cars or sustain other injuries resulting from decreased visibility.
Although there are no official statistics kept about the number of dogs hit by cars per year, some online sites estimate more than one million dogs are hit and/or killed by cars on our roadways each year.
Regardless of the actual numbers, it’s safe to say that far too many dogs and cats are injured or killed by cars. Even in cases where a dog is spared a life-threatening injury, off-leash dogs can also cause car accidents resulting in injury or death to people.
The danger increases significantly at night. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrians are at least three times more likely to be hit by a car when it’s dark out. And that’s for people who, unlike dogs, understand traffic laws and patterns.
If you run with your dog on roads or commuter paths in low-light conditions, it's definitely a safety must-have for your dog to have reflective or light-up gear.
The pre-dawn and post-dusk hours are dangerous for dogs. It's not uncommon for dogs to get hit by cars or people commuting on bicycles.
Our Recommended Safety Products
LED Light-Up Collars, Harnesses, and Leashes for Nighttime Dog Walks
You can reduce the risk of serious injury and death by making it easier for drivers to see you and your dog. First, make sure drivers can see you by:
Carrying a flashlight or wearing a headlamp during your walks
Walking on well-lit streets and staying on the sidewalk (if available)
Walk against traffic so you can see what's coming
Wearing reflective or light-up clothing or accessories, such as a reflective jacket, hat, vest, or armbands
Next, make sure drivers can see your dog. Purchase a light-up or LED dog collar, harness, and leash, or have your dog wear their own reflective clothing. In addition to reducing the danger that your dog will be hit by a car, nighttime walking gear for your dog will also make it easier for you to find them if they manage to get away from you in the dark.
I’d also like to remind you to be especially safe when it's raining. The decreased visibility in the rain or even the glare from a rain-soaked roadway will further hinder a driver’s ability to see you and your dog. And, as if that weren’t enough, slick roads can be harder to stop on!
These are some of the self-illuminating and reflective dog safety products we recommend:
Light-up Dog Collars
Illuminated collars are a great way to make your dog much more visible and safer while taking walks at night. The best practice is to have the collar set to a solid glow. Don't have it set to flashing, as this can be irritating to your dog and, in rare cases, can trigger epileptic seizures in some people.
My top pick for a nighttime light-up collar is the Lunar Pooch LED Night Ring. It has tons of colors to pick from, along with a rainbow option. It's easy to size for your dog, just measure and trim to size. While not strong enough to clip a leash to, in my opinion, it makes an excellent addition to your dog's regular collar or harness for nighttime.
We also love the Illumiseen LED Dog Collar, which comes in six different colors and six sizes. It also remains illuminated for five hours off of a one-hour charge, and the easy-to-use clips make it a breeze to put on.
If you're looking for something a little more simple, our other two favorites are the Nite Ize LED Safety Collar and the HIGO LED Dog Collar. Easily adjusted to any size, water-resistant, rechargeable, and slip over your dog's head, making these two as simple as it gets.
Light-up Dog Harnesses and Reflective Gear
Light-up collars aren't always the best option for some dogs as far as visibility. If your dog is extra fluffy, then the collar will often be hidden by their fur. Collars also tend to be best seen on a direct or side approach to your dog. If a car is approaching from behind, then a light-up collar may not be enough. This is where a light-up harness or reflective dog gear can be your best choice.
The Noxgear Lighthound Harness is an all-around popular option (as is their light-up running vest for people). This vest is rechargeable, has 14 colors to choose from, and is made with reflective fabric along with the light-up portion.
I absolutely love using Lunar Pooch's Reflective Dog Hoodie with my dogs. While it looks grey in normal light, when car lights hit the material, it lights up like a rainbow! They even have a human hoodie or fanny pack to match. These are super fun and stylish.
Another Preventive Vet team favorite is from Ruffwear, a company dedicated to outdoor gear for your companion. They have a great all-purpose reflective jacket that is water and wind-resistant.
We took a quick stroll with Clover (wearing an older Ruffwear model) to see how well the coat reflected and it kept her dry during a rainy night.
Light-up Dog Leashes and Clip-On Leash Lights
Why stop at the collar when you can light up with more accessories! I prefer to follow the "more is best" advice when it comes to safety lights at night. I love to light my dog up like a disco ball!
Want a bright clip-on light for your dog's leash, collar, or even your keychain? Not only does this LED Leash Lamp from Lunar Pooch help drivers see your pup at night, but it also illuminates the way for you as you walk. I love it because it makes it easy to see where my dogs do their "business," so I can clean it up, and it has six color modes to pick from.
This Ruffwear Beacon clip-on light is lightweight and water-resistant. If you choose not to get a fully illuminated collar, this makes for a good, all-weather dog collar, harness, or leash addition.
Or, if you are looking to add to the illumination, you can always add an LED leash. The NiteDawg from Nite Ize provides five feet of bright red LED illuminated leash that can be seen from 1000 yards away.
And if you're looking to match your Illumiseen collar with more light, the Illumiseen LED Dog Leash is also available in six colors, USB rechargeable, and comes in two sizes.
More Nighttime & Low-light Walking Tips
Build Loose Leash Skills
Before you go for an early-morning or late-night walk with your dog, be sure that your dog has a good start on loose-leash walking. If your dog constantly pulls on the leash, you’re probably not having an enjoyable or relaxing walk. Plus, it’s a sign that neither you nor your dog is paying close enough attention to each other.
Teach your dog to walk safely at night by first teaching them how to walk safely during daylight hours. Bring along some treats. Say "yes!" and reward your dog every time they focus on you (i.e., eye contact). Also, mark and reward when your dog is in the sweet spot near your leg, leaving some slack in the leash without tugging as you walk. You’ll be more successful by rewarding your dog for walking properly rather than constantly tugging them back toward you.
Leash walking manners take lots of time to build, so be patient and practice, practice, practice.
Keep Your Dog Leashed
It's best to keep your dog on leash unless in a specifically designated off-leash dog area. Not only for safety reasons but also because it's polite to other people, dogs, and wildlife. But especially at nighttime, you don't want your dog running about off leash as this increases the risk they'll dash out into roads. Your dog doesn't understand the risks of cars in the roadway or know to look both ways. If they're chasing after a raccoon, they won't think twice about running across a busy road.
Avoid Retractable Leashes
Retractable leashes have many risks and are not recommended for regular walks by most professional dog trainers. Even if you use them during the daytime, skip the retractable leash at night. A retractable leash does not provide the best control of your dog, whether to keep them close to you or to prevent them from swerving into the roadway.
Take the time to add some safety features to your and your dog's gear to stay safe while you exercise at night – drivers will thank you!