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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Jilly Beattie

NI specialist's personal safety advice to lone dog walkers

The lighter nights are stretching ahead making life a bit easier for dog walks.

And with most households dealing with hectic schedules, often the weekday walkies are done solo, day or night.

We are repeatedly told to get out, get moving and enjoy ourselves in fresh air to boost our physical and mental wellbeing but sadly, we know that can come with some risks too.

Read more: The reunion of two old ladies split apart by Putin's war

So we’ve asked personal security expert Tim Mercer of First Rock, to share some safety measures we can bear in mind when walking our dogs alone.

Tim says attacks are rare but he has ideas on how to minimise your risk if walking alone with your dog (DogsLive)

He talks about the best style of clothing, whether to wear jewellery or not, danger signs to look out for and how to try to get to safety if the worst happens.

The good news is that he believes people walking with dogs are less likely to be targeted for personal possessions but explains what to do if it happens.

And he says not to panic, daylight attacks are much rarer than we may imagine and there are plenty of ways to minimise risk.

Take the lead:
Decent equipment allows you to maintain control over your walking partner, your dog.
A strong lead that is four to six feet long that is attached to a properly fitting collar or harness. Wrap the lead around your palm so it does not slip out of your hand. Retractable leads give dogs a little extra freedom but are not good for street or town walking, or the best restraint if you are exercising together.

All the gear:
Wear the proper exercise attire. You will need sturdy walking or running shoes to protect your feet and allow you to move as quickly as possible if you need to. Look after your dog’s feet too, especially in hot weather. A good rule of thumb to follow is if the walking surface is too hot for you to place your hand or bare foot on it for 10 seconds, then it is too hot for your dog to walk on.

Know your path:
It’s a good idea to know the area you plan to walk through alone and avoid areas where there are trees or lack of escape routes or places where you could come upon someone unexpectedly.

Carry ID for you and your dog and your phone:
If you become separated, at least you know your dog can be identified and reunited. If you feel you are walking into a difficult situation you can make a phone call to a friend or if necessary, the police. Do not walk with the phone or other valuables in your hand, but have it tucked away out of sight.

Let someone know:
If you are walking alone, it’s a good idea to message a friend or family member and let them know - then let them know when you are home again. It takes a few seconds.

Be seen:
If you walk early in the morning or late in the evening, it is important to make sure that both you and your dog are visible and reflective gear is great for this.
remember it may appear lighter to you when you are out on the walk than to those inside under artificial light. Small, clip-on lights can be found in sports or outdoors shops and pet stores carry light up collars and clip-on lights for your pet’s collar. Also check online.

Avoid risk.
Do not walk into isolated areas with hide or vantage points you cannot clearly see. Avoid anyone who is acting suspiciously. Trust your gut - if it doesn’t feel right, get out of there as quickly as possible. But don’t panic. If you feel anxious, walk big and try not to attract attention to the fact you feel vulnerable.

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