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Bonnie's Story & Safe Walkies

Advice on Safe "Walkies" with your Dog during the Autumn-Winter months

“Bonnie” was a lovely, brown, and white, twelve-year-old Collie. She had been brought into the surgery as she had had a very stressful evening the night before. Her owner relayed that Bonnie had become disorientated on her evening walk in the dark, and she had run off after being spooked in the park by boisterous, playful young Labrador. 

Thankfully, Bonnie had finally been found, she was heading out of the entrance at the other end of the park by a passer-by, looking very scared and confused. Other than being a bit stiff and muddy, old “Bonnie” was clinically well on her check-up at the surgery, and she was sent home with some pain relief. 

Bonnie couldn’t see very well in the dark now due to her failing eyesight, and she had become scared and quite disorientated. It was advised that she be rested up and certainly kept on the leash during her walks in dusk and dark, as this could have had much more serious consequences if she had run onto a road. 

"Be safe, be seen".  This is a very good safety tip to remember during these cooler, crisp, dark autumn nights, and mornings. We all love the autumn season, but the shortening days do mean that we do have to walk our dogs in the dark. Our four-legged friends do need to be kept safe too and there are many things we can do to keep them and ourselves out of harm’s way. 

Here are some dog walking tips that you may want to consider when exercising your pet during these shorter daylight months. 

Use a safe and been seen collar or vest on your dog. High visibility Glow-in-the-dark collars, vests and leashes and flashing collar tags ensure that you and your dog are easily seen and stay safe while walking in the dark. Traffic may not see you clearly so do wear light-coloured clothing yourself. You can also wear a high visibility vest or place strips of reflective tape on your own clothing or shoes, and these strips can also be placed on your dog’s lead, collar, or coat. This can help make sure you and your pet can be safely seen during walks in the dark. 

Remember to tuck a good Torch into your jacket or pocket when you go out for a walk and do check beforehand that it has a full charge. A good light source will keep you from walking into kerbs, ditches, and potholes, and will help older dogs with failing eyesight see their route more clearly. Also, a good torch will ensure that you can safely see your dog and your planned travelling route, help keep you and your dog safe from road traffic and see other approaching walkers and dogs that may not be on a lead or able to be seen at night.   

Do walk against any road traffic. This tip enables you to see traffic coming toward you and makes the odds better for them seeing you. Also, wherever possible walk on footpaths, verges, and pavements rather than on the road. 

Plan where you’re going to take your pet for a walk during dark mornings and evenings. Try to have a planned route, and if possible, let someone know where you are going and how long you expect to be. Keep to a route you know well, if you use paths that are familiar to both you and to your dog, you will have much less chance of any mishap. 

Keep a safe leash on your dog. It is okay to let your dog have more freedom when walking during the daylight hours, but in the dark, it’s important that you keep dogs on a shorter lead to prevent them from roaming off in the dark. Also reassure your dog, talk gently to them during your walk, some dogs particularly older dogs with failing eyesight may become scared and disorientated in the dark. If you do want your dog to run off lead, ensure that it is a closed, fenced-off, safe area, and you can purchase small flashing lights that are attached to your dog’s collar, so you can see where they are. 

Be alert yourself. Avoid wearing headphones and listening to music when you are walking in the dark. Staying as alert as you can of your surroundings and being able to hear what is happening around you is very important whilst walking out in the dark. 

Have your Poo Bags ready, opened, primed and handy and ready-for-use when required. Rather than hunting for them and trying to open them in the dark!

Carry some identification and a fully charged mobile phone with you, in case of any unforeseen problems or accident, where you may need some contact urgently. This is particularly important during the darker nights, for both your safety and that of your dog. 

Ensure your dog is Microchipped and has an ID tag on his collar with clear, up-to-date information in case the worst should happen, and he runs off, or gets lost in the dark.  Microchipping is compulsory for all pet dogs, so do make sure your Pet is Microchipped and tagged and that all your contact details logged are current.  

Be safe, be seen, and enjoy your Autumn walks with your dog. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health during the Autumn-Winter months, do contact your Veterinary practice for good, professional advice.

Alison Laurie-Chalmers,
Senior Consultant,
Crown Vets

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