Short Days Mean Dark Nighttime Walks

San Diego County by Anna West

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Walks are unquestionably the best part of your dog’s day, not only to take care of business but also to explore sights and sounds, meet other dogs, and get some good exercise. Dogs are creatures of habit, so it’s best to stick as close as possible to a regular walking schedule—that may mean adjusting for the hour we lost when we turned our clocks back this fall.

In the winter months, when the sun goes down as early as 5 pm, the days can seem very short. You go about your busy day and before you know it, it’s nighttime! And with these short winter days comes more walks with your dog in the dark. It just can’t be helped.

Make the best of this dark situation by practicing good safety habits and finding fun places to walk your dog that won’t make you feel so isolated.

Tips for After-Dark Safety

Besides finding a safe location to be out after dark with your pup, you should also take precautions that you might not necessarily take during the day. Visibility is diminished at night, meaning that not only will you not see all the obstacles and ground-level hazards, you will also not be as visible to motorists and other pedestrians, such as bikers and joggers, who may unintentionally invade your dog’s personal space. There are also the nighttime critters to consider. Raccoons, opossums, even the neighborhood cats that prowl at night—all can be distractions for your dog. Here are some helpful tips to keep those nighttime walks enjoyable for you and your pup.

Stay on the Sidewalk

This one is a given for almost all walks in San Diego, day or night, because of our ever-increasing population. All our roads are busy, and nighttime further diminishes visibility for you and for drivers. Keeping yourself and your dog on the sidewalk is a good idea for staying out of harm’s way.

Reflective Gear

This is something you can choose to outfit yourself, your pet, or both! Numerous companies make reflective gear for walkers and joggers, and dogs now have a wide variety to choose from, too. Doggy reflective vests, glow-in-the-dark leashes, or even small lights that attach to a dog’s collar are all simple precautions you can take to assure you and your pet are seen at night.

Stay on Paved Pathways

Depending on where you live, you may encounter more than just little critters at night. I know in my neighborhood, we are very prone to coyote sightings after dark. Staying on paved pathways won’t mean you’ll avoid them with 100-percent certainty, but it will help keep you in an area where it’s hard to be caught off guard. Coyotes don’t usually attack, and if you give them their space, they will give you yours.

Bring a Flashlight

Even if you do plan to stay where there are street lamps, a handheld light or headlamp is never a bad idea. Street lights can burn out and are sometimes placed far away from each other, which can leave dark areas. A little extra light is always welcome, and you can easily find a small handheld device that’s easy to carry with you.

Fun Places to Walk

Taking the same route on every walk can get boring for both you and your dog, and winter is a great time to break up the monotony and find a new place to walk. Especially at night, because if it’s dark on your normal route, you may want a brighter or more populated environment for your nightly walks. Try one of these fun spots for a whole new outlook.

Carlsbad Boardwalk. This beautiful area in Carlsbad is popular because it’s one of the longest paved paths along the ocean. It’s an excellent place to walk your dog, even when it’s dark out. This path is lit along the entire walkway and it’s very dog friendly, so you won’t be the only one out for a late-night walk. The entire boardwalk has complete ocean views, bathrooms, water fountains, and trash cans along the way.

Balboa Park. You really can’t go wrong any time of the day at Balboa Park, and it’s another great spot to walk Fido at night. The entire park is well lit and monitored by security guards, and it’s huge, so you can cover lots of ground. Balboa Park provides doggy bags in some areas, along with water fountains and trash bins. Parking is free, and you’ll have great views of the city and historical museums as you walk.

Pacific Beach Boardwalk. Known for its nightlife, Pacific Beach is another great spot for some after-dark dog walking. Anybody who is familiar with Pacific Beach knows it’s impossible to be alone even if you want to, but that’s perfect if you’re looking to feel safe after dark. If you venture down to the beach area of PB, you’ll stumble right onto the boardwalk. This area is completely lit and always bustling with people and their dogs. Bring a bike or simply take a stroll— this boardwalk has a lot to see and a lot of company to enjoy it with.

Don’t let the short winter days and early dark nights get you down or cramp your dog-walking style. Use them as an excuse to shake things up and try something new

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