Walking the Dog in the Dark: The Best Safety Products for Two and Four-Legged Friends
Those who take an evening stroll in the park nowadays will occasionally see little bobbing chains of lights prancing through the area. These illuminated collars for dogs flash or light up continuously and signal to oncoming joggers, cyclists or cars that a four-legged friend is on the road in the dark.
In addition to collars, however, there is now a whole range of other safety accessories. From reflective leashes and safety vests for the dog to headlamps for their owners.
Which accessories do we recommend? Susanne Mittenhuber tested some out in the dark with her pitch-black dog, Laika.
They are available in bright red, cool blue or stylish neon green. Sometimes they blink, sometimes they shine continuously. I noticed that a luminous collar is not just a luminous collar when one evening a group of dog walkers approaches me. I couldn’t recognize the dogs, but I did notice all of the blinking, bright lights. A Golden Retriever with a bright blue collar was hard to overlook; a small dachshund on the other hand, whose collar only flickered red weakly from time to time, had no chance of being seen.
These small, flashing pendants for a normal collar are therefore not recommended. Security collars work better and are available in two variants:
1. as a real collar with a ring for the leash, which replaces the usual collar in the dark season.
2. as a kind of light ring, which is pulled over the dog’s head in addition to the collar.
Both versions work with LEDs. Many of these ribbons or rings have a rechargeable battery and can be recharged with a USB cable in an environmentally-friendly way. In addition, there are also powerful LED products that contain replaceable batteries.
A simple light ring, which can be cut to adjust the size
Visibility: 500 meters.
Light modes: Fast flashing, slow flashing, continuous light.
Power source: Lithium-ion battery, USB rechargeable.
Operating time: 5 hours in flashing mode, 2 hours in continuous light.
Conclusion: As my dog Laika wears a harness, the light ring does not bother her. Although I find the continuous light more pleasant for my eyes, I quickly notice that a flashing dog attracts more attention.
However, Laika also has short fur. The fur from dogs with a longer coat could potentially cover this light ring. In this case, additional reflectors could be useful.
Reflective Dog Scarf
The alternative for those who don't want flashing collars is a reflective neckerchief in neon yellow or neon green. It is fastened around the dog’s neck with velcro and is available in a wide range of sizes. At first sight, the triangular scarves seemed like just a nice accessory to me, but the large reflective paw patterns and stripes won me over during a test. Especially since these polyester scarves are really cheap and can fit in any jacket pocket.
Similar scarves made out of cotton are much more expensive. They also often have small reflective details, like little dog bones. However, these are inconspicuous and not very bright. In these cases, the aesthetic seems to be more important than the actual safety feature.
Classic triangular scarf with reflectors
Application: The cloth can be worn either over the neck or over the chest like a bib. Very important: pay attention to the size. If the cloth is too large or too loose, the dog may find it annoying.
Visibility: A large reflective paw pattern and wide stripes on the side.
Extras: Washable material.
Conclusion: The scarf is a real eye-catcher - not only when light falls on it. Laika stands out with the neon yellow scarf and cannot be overlooked thanks to the strong reflectors. However, the cloth usually hangs over the front of the chest. This means that the reflectors only shine if the light source is coming from directly in front of your dog.
A leash is an essential part of dog-walking equipment. So it’s obvious that investing in a lead which catches attention in the dark is a great idea! In the meantime, there are plenty of leads in bright orange. This method of visibility became popular among hunters and is now increasing among ‘normal’ dog-walkers. Because wild animals perceive orange and red as green tones, Scandinavian moose hunters, for example, have always used orange as a warning and recognition colour. Actually a good idea, but orange leashes don’t do much in the twilight (or in total darkness, for that matter). To really ensure visibility, reflectors are needed. The leash does not have to be yellow or orange. Even a black leash is fine, as long as it has reflectors. The more reflectors a leash has and the closer they are to each other, the higher the safety aspect.
Retractable dog leashes are also available in reflective variants
Dimensions: 5 meter belt for dogs up to 50 kilos.
Visibility: Neon-coloured belt with reflective elements and reflective stickers on both sides of the handle.
Handling: Comfortable, ergonomic handle. Brake and stop button easily operated with a click of the thumb.
Extras: A little box to carry poop bags can be integrated.
Conclusion: At dusk many dogs are in a hunting and playing mood - including Laika. That's why she stays on the leash. With the Flexi leash, however, she still has plenty of space. On the combined bicycle and footpath we are sure to be seen with the locked leash for cyclists. The reflectors shine bright and clear.
Warning Vest for Dogs
Everyone knows that warning vests are effective. Anyone wearing a safety vest will not be overlooked - whether on the roadside after a car accident or on a bicycle. Special warning vests for dogs provide additional visibility during an evening walk. Most warning and safety vests cover most of the dog's back as well as both sides and are equipped with reflectors.
This could also be the reason why so few dogs wear such a warning vest. I have to get used to the idea of not only "dressing" my dog, but also standing in the spotlight with him. Because one thing is clear: dogs with warning vests attract attention.
A lightweight nylon safety vest with a velcro fastener
Application: Two velcro fasteners to ensure a perfect fit on the neck and belly
Material: Soft nylon
Visibility: Strong reflectors on neck, back and sides
Extras: Water repellent. Can be washed at 30° in the washing machine.
Conclusion: Never before have I felt so safe as during this evening walk. Despite the pouring rain, Laika lit up every area. The advantage of such a reflective vest over a leash or collar is clearly the higher visibility. This dog-human team attracted attention - even from a distance.
Double visibility means double the safety. This is why I’m more than willing to contribute to our safety level. One easy way to do this is to wear reflective tape over your clothing. Especially practical are elastic reflectors that can be attached to the jacket sleeves with velcro. Usually, cyclists and joggers use this safety equipment, but they are also perfect for a walk with the dog. The safety straps should be at least five centimetres wide. If the straps are too narrow, there is a risk that they will be covered by the fabric of your jacket or coat. And because any extra visibility helps, reflectors should always be worn on both sides - one reflector per arm. Placement also plays a role; reflectors are most effective when they are attached as high as possible to the upper arm. This way, they are directly in the field of vision of car drivers or cyclists.
An elastic bracelet in neon yellow with reflectors
Application: 37 x 5 cm long straps with Velcro fastener, which can be stretched to 50 cm with 2 cm wide reflector strips.
Visibility: 400 metres.
Extras: Easy to wear over bulky clothing.
Conclusion: Easy to apply and effective - these safety tapes have convinced me. I find the people notice me much easier, especially when I'm waiting at the sidewalk to cross the street. From now on, the reflective tapes are always in my jacket pocket.
Walking in the park or forest is simply more fun than walking on the sidewalks. My dog and I agree on that. We don't let an early sunset stop us and need a light to allow us to walk in the dark. You can choose between a flashlight or a headlamp. I choose the headlamp because I like to have my hands free. I also have a more even, larger field of vision. Headlamps are more ideal when you're on your own. If you go in a group or in pairs, you will hardly make friends with this light source. Because you automatically look for eye contact when talking, headlamps can temporarily blind any fellow two-legged walking partners. However, folding the light downwards is a quick fix. Most models are swivel-mounted and can be individually adjusted. Various lighting modes are particularly practical. While the continuous light helps to find your way in the park, the flashing light provides visibility on the combined cycle path and sidewalk.
A functional and easy to use headlamp with Power-LED
Visibility: 100 meters
Light mode: Two gradations for continuous light and flashing light function
Running time: Up to 40 hours
Power source: 3 batteries (AAA)
Extras: Waterproof and dustproof
Conclusion: This headlamp is considered to be a beginner’s model. Other headlamps have a better range and even more power, but they also cost more. For my walk in the park, this lamp is ideal. It is bright and makes me plenty visible. What I find particularly practical is that I can switch it on and off or change the mode with one hand. After all, I always hold a leash on the other hand...