Most of you will have already noticed that the nights are getting darker as autumn really takes hold. However, many will not take any steps to protect their dog from the hazards this brings. Walking your pet in the dark is not just a hassle - it can be dangerous!

Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself and your dog. Some hazards might be obvious, but others you might not have thought about - it is always better to be safe than sorry!

Visibility

On a dark night, you won't be able to see anything coming towards you until the last minute, while they might not be able to see you or your dog. Even just a cyclist or skateboarder can surprise you out of nowhere and potentially injure your dog, especially if they are only a small breed.

You should get into the habit of taking a torch with you. You can buy LED torches that you wear on your head to free up your hands, or just carry an ordinary one. These have the twin benefits of making it easier to see, while also making you more visible to others.

If you don't want to carry a torch, it is a good idea to at least make sure vehicles and their drivers can see you. Reflective clothing is a good idea, or even a flashing LED collar for your dog. These will keep you visible so you don't run into any accidents - and they don't run into you!

Ice

As the nights get darker they will also get colder, which means you may have to deal with frosts and patches of ice. If you're a regular walker you will know how hard it can be to spot a frozen area of ground in the daytime, let alone when there is no light around and your attention is focused on your dog.

While your pet is unlikely to slip and fall too badly on the ice, you need to be careful about hurting yourself. It is too easy to lose your balance on frozen ground, and if your dog chooses that moment to tug on the leash then you can end up going head-over-heels.

If you are especially worried about slipping on the ice, you might want to stay away from pavements and roads when you walk your dog. Stick to local parks, as the ice doesn't have a huge effect on grass or paths, so you have a much better chance of making it through the walk unscathed.

If you need to walk on paved areas, stick to well-lit ones. That way, you have a better chance of spotting patches of ice before you step on them.

Other creatures

At night, all sorts of animals come out that you wouldn't necessarily see in the day. Some of these are harmless, like moths, or you might even be lucky enough to find a hedgehog. However, some can present a risk to you and your dog.

Foxes, for example, can be nasty, as can badgers if you live in the countryside. The problem is often not these creatures, but your dog. If they see a fox, for example, they might feel the need to bark and attack it. Your dog might well be able to beat a fox in a fight, but not without incurring some nasty bites.

You need to keep a short leash on your dog when you are walking with them in the dark. Dogs can easily get frightened at night, because they can hear noises and smell things they can't see. As such, they could become jumpy and run after something with no warning. You must be prepared for this so they don't yank the leash out of your hands.

If you feel you are likely to encounter some of these animals on a walk, it might be a good idea to keep a whistle or something similar on you. A loud blast from this might be enough to scare off any animals that square off with your dog, preventing any unwanted fights.

Written by: Hannah