Safety Accessories for Winter Dog Walking

Published: 20th March 2012
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Winter is a hazardous time for dog walkers. Dark mornings, early dusks and often gloomy, misty or foggy daylight hours put dog walkers at greater risk of being run into, or run over, by other pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles. However, for many dog owners, work or family commitments mean that they have to walk their dog during the hours of darkness, especially during the winter months.

Whether you walk your dog in an urban or country setting, the key to reducing the risk of accidents is to make sure that you and your dog are as visible as possible to other highway or footpath users. Fortunately, there are various affordable, hi-tech accessories that you can use to increase your dog's visibility and they are broadly divided in to two types of visibility aids. Reflective accessories make the dog more visible when light from vehicle headlights or bicycle lights shine on it, whereas light emitting devices generate and transmit light, making them effective in all conditions, including complete darkness. So, which safety accessory will best suit you, your dog and the conditions in which you walk it?

LED Collar Safety Blinker
One of the least expensive and most effective accessories for increasing the visibility of your dog after dark is a collar safety blinker. This is a tiny battery-powered plastic LED torch which attaches to your dog's collar and produces a flashing light. The blinker is highly effective as a means of alerting other pedestrians and cyclists to your presence. However, for situations where vehicular traffic is the main hazard, it's best to consider using one of the more sophisticated safety accessories.

Battery Powered LED Dog Collar
The LED dog collar utilises the same technology as the collar blinker, but incorporates a number of LED light sources positioned along the length of the collar. The LED collar's multiple light sources help overcome one of the problems of the collar blinker, where the single LED can be obscured in thick fur or become hidden by the dog's neck. This makes the battery powered LED collar suitable for dog walking on pavements and footways adjacent to roads, where the collar's flashing lights are visible at a distance of up to 800 metres. Rather than relying on the LED lights alone, many safety collars are made from a combination of fluorescent and reflective materials, giving an additional degree of protection when dog walking near to traffic. The only downside to battery powered LED collars is that changing the batteries can be a slightly fiddly task, requiring nimble fingers and good eyesight to unscrew the battery cover and replace the button battery.

Rechargeable LED Dog Collar
The ultimate in LED dog safety accessories is the Vividô flashing collar because it does away with the need for batteries and can be recharged either via the mains or a USB. It offers four different light settings, including a revolutionary light-sensitive mode which means that the collar will come on automatically in the dark, without any human intervention.

Reflective Dog Leads
A useful adjunct to a reflective or LED safety collar is a reflective dog lead. This will alert motorists not only the presence of the dog, but also the dog's position relative to its walker. The last thing you want is a driver swerving to avoid a dog and running over its owner instead, which is why visibility for the dog walker is as important as for the dog.

Dog Coats
Owners tend to buy coats either as fashion accessories for their dogs, or for the protection that they offer from the extremes of weather, whether it's cold, wet or very hot. Some of the more sophisticated dog coats, such as the range made by Ancol, incorporate safety features which include reflective stitching and coat edging. These combine the benefits of weather protection and enhance visibility in the one garment.

Hi Vis Jackets
Hi Vis dog jackets are designed to give maximum visibility day or night, combining fluorescent yellow fabric that can be seen from considerable distances during daylight, with reflective stripes on both sides for increased visibility after dark. Hi Vis dog jackets are probably the most effective safety accessory for situations when there are high volumes of traffic, but fashion accessories they are not and your dog may look as though it belongs on a building site!

So, whether you walk your dog occasionally or regularly in the dark, there's a range of affordable safety accessories which can help significantly reduce the risk of accidents.

Laura Smith is a partner in The Waggy Tails Store, which sells dog accessories online and at country shows. Waggy Tails dog safety items include dog safety blinkers, Vivid flashing collars and the full range of safety enhanced Ancol dog coats.

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