Find yourself getting home after dark and wary of walking your dog? Here are some expert tips to keep you safer when you take Fido for a stroll.
Finding time to walk your dog in daylight can get tricky – especially during the winter months when it’s often dark when you leave, and dark again by the time you get home. However, part of good dog ownership is making sure your pooch gets enough exercise (and let’s face it, your neighbours and couches will also thank you for it!) Here’s how to keep yourself – and your four legged friend – safer while walking.
Awareness is key
Obviously choosing the right time and place is important. Avi Yemini, founder of IDF Training, specialists in self defense training, says he would always recommend taking your dogs for a walk or run in a well lit popular park, at a time that the park is very active. In addition to that, being aware of your environment is also key.
“Keeping an eye open, walking confidently and not being distracted by looking at your phone, or having earphones in - which also restrict you from hearing a potential threat, will discourage potential attackers from picking you as an easy target,” he says.
Avi also recommends being on the lookout for things that seem out of place, and to trust your gut. “If something seems wrong, it probably is.” If you feel something is not right, move quickly to a safe location; for example, if you're on your home stretch and you notice someone following you, sprint home. Don't question yourself – he says it's better to over-react than under-react when it comes to your safety.
- Consider meeting up with other dog walkers – even if it means driving to a dog park or well-lit place so you can walk together.
- Plan your route carefully and make sure someone knows where you are heading and when you should be back.
- Download and use an app designed to let people know where you are.
- Avoid routine – don’t walk the same route or leave at the same time every day.
- Carry a personal alarm with you, which can be used to disorientate and shock an attacker.
- Never rely on your dog to protect you – stay alert and act as if you were alone should anything happen.
Technology to the rescue
While they should only be considered useful in an emergency and should not replace being vigilant and practicing safe behaviours, ramp up your security even more by downloading a personal safety app for your phone. Help Me, an app developed by the Daniel Morcombe Foundation allow you to press a button that sounds a warning and sends an SMS text to two nominated 'safety' numbers – the message includes GPS co-ordinates from where the text is sent.
And how about your pooch?
While your dog is unlikely to be attacked by a person, they are much harder to see, meaning being hit is a big safety concern for them – and not just by cars; bikes and joggers can also injure them if they run into them in the dark. A reflective jacket or collar can help them be seen by others. In the colder months, it’s also important to keep them warm, especially if they are smaller, older, or have thin coats – so choosing a warm reflective jacket will do double duty when it comes to keeping them safe!