Walking Your Dog in the Dark at Night
I was over in Deerfield Beach working with a new Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® client and his Labradoodle, Ginger. It took several days to install the system, but when it was done, my client was very happy with the system and even more excited at the results we were able to achieve with Ginger’s staying on his property. It had just switched from Daylight Savings to Standard Time, and my client told me that Ginger was having some trouble. Also being a dog trainer, I wanted to help with that too. Ginger was just turning one year old and my client she loved to go on walks in the evening. Because of her age, it just so happened that all of her walks took place during “Daylight Savings” when it stayed light until eight o’clock. They had always walked in the daylight. Now that it was dark before six, the walks suddenly changed.
To be our dog’s protector, care giver, and best friend, she needs to completely trust us and focus on our commands. This is a major factor in the healthy bond that creates our special relationship. Part of this process is socialization and consistency. When something new enters our dog’s world, we need to be there to let her know everything is still fine and to allow our dog to safely experience that new situation under our tutelage.
Over the last several months, my client had been walking Ginger around the same route in his neighborhood after work at about 7pm. Ginger had the opportunity to learn the sights and sounds of the walk. More importantly, it was light during the walk. This allowed her to see things from a far distance, before they were right on top of them. When she started to become too apprehensive as some distractions approached, my client (correctly) could redirect her before her fear and adrenaline began to inappropriately increase. The walk was a great time.
All of a sudden, things changed. It was now dark at 7pm. Because of that, my client adjusted the walk to a new route he felt was more appropriate for the “darker time”. When he took Ginger out for their walk, he understood that it was dark and he understood the new route; Ginger did not. All of a sudden, she was in a completely new and unknown situation. Walking at night was completely new to her. She couldn’t easily understand the environment because of the darkness. People and dogs would seemingly just appear out of the shadows. Her adrenaline spiked and her focus changed from being on my client to constantly “scanning the dark” for unknown distractions. Walking had turned into a jumping, pulling, barking circus.
I explained to my client that he had simply missed a “training moment” because of the new situation. It wasn’t that Ginger had turned into a crazy dog, she simply needs to be educated regarding the environment in the same way that my client educated her when he introduced “daytime walking” several months earlier. We simply needed to train Ginger regarding the new environment and things will be fine.
Here are the dog training tips I provided my client:
- As he is walking Ginger, make frequent stops and have her sit. Allow her to look around and sniff the air. Smells are very important to dogs and allowing her to update her “smell GPS” for the new walk will help acclimate her to the new environment.
- He must be far more vigilant regarding approaching people and dogs. As soon as he sees anyone approaching, he should stop and have Ginger sit by his side. This should preferably be in a lighted area not in the direct path of the approaching person/dog. Have Ginger focus on him as they approach and pass. Once they have walked past them, praise Ginger and continue their walk.
- Ask that people don’t come right up to them for the first week or so. He needs to build Ginger’s trust and having a person/dog come up to them while she is still unsure of the dark environment would not be appropriate.
- Try to avoid loud noises and areas with bright, flashing lights. These can be very intense distractions that Ginger my not easily understand. As time passes and Ginger becomes more relaxed with the other parts of the walk, he can reintroduce these areas, if appropriate.
- Always keep Ginger on a short leash while they are walking. This helps keep him in Ginger’s perspective.
- Change speed while they are walking. Again, this helps Ginger understand that he is with her and he is controlling the situation.
- Only give Ginger a “long leash” where she may potty or sniff in a lighted area where he can easily see anyone approaching from any direction. If anyone starts to approach, bring Ginger back to his side, have her sit, and focus on him.
- As he sees Ginger becoming more relaxed and providing him the same focus she provided when they were on their “daylight walks”, he can reward her with more freedom and sniff time.
Socialization is one of the major “gotcha’s” in improper canine behavior. We (humans) often overlook this as the cause for our dog being bad or misbehaving. Once we understand that our dog needs affirmation that all is safe and that the environment around him does not hold hidden dangers, things are normally find. We encourage you to get in touch with us with any dog fence and dog training issues you are experiencing by going to Dog Fence Training Help. Check out years of dog training articles at Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers Deerfield Beach South Florida. For the last eleven years Robin and I have been training dogs and their owners in South Florida. During that time, we have trained over 3,500 dogs (and their owners). For dog training help, please go to Home Dog Training Deerfield South Florida.