Have you ever observed how your dog behaves when you turn off the lights? Do they seem anxious, restless, or afraid? Do they whine or curl in a corner? You may be wondering “are puppies afraid of the dark”? “Can they be afraid of the dark?”
If so, you are not alone.
There are thousands of other people in the US who are wondering about their dog’s fearful behavior.
According to Dr. Mary Burch, dogs can see significantly better than human beings.
Dog’s eyes contain more light-sensitive cells (or rods) that enable them to see well.
Dr. Mary is an award-winning and certified animal behavior expert.
She is also the director of the American Kennel Club Family Dog program.
The simple answer to the question ‘are puppies afraid of the dark?’ is ‘yes’.
However, to understand this well, we will explore circumstances that may lead to this behavior in this article.
Let’s start with the obvious. If your dog has a medical condition, chances are that the dog may be afraid of the dark.
There is no single documented evidence pointing out that a dog suffering from a specific health issue is prone to being afraid of the dark.
However, there are numerous medical causes that dogs suffer from that make them queasy and uneasy all the time.
Turning off the light just amplifies this uneasiness.
This could some sort of a cognitive disorder or other medical issue.
Previous trauma or bad experience
You will most likely find this kind of behavior among rescued dogs.
Rescued dogs may have encountered some sort of trauma in their past.
There is a likelihood that this experience may have occurred at night when they were less alert.
They will associate darkness with trauma, making them fearful of dark environments. It is also very common for these dogs to be scared of loud noises.
This will make them anxious and uneasy once the lights are switched off.
Other dogs may have spent a lot of time alone in dark spaces or sheds.
They have learned to associate the darkness with bad stuff thus increasing the dog’s fear.
In turn, they cannot wait for daybreak when they get to have some fun.
You are likely to hear them whining in low tones when the lights are switched off.
When the dawn comes, they are eager to get out and enjoy the day.
If your dog has a record, you may be able to pinpoint what their trauma or negative experience could be.
For instance, if they were separated from their family at an early age, they may be feeling lonely or suffering from anxiety disorders.
They just want to be close to people or other members of the canine family.
It is a good idea to allow your dog to sleep with you or at the very least give them a dog bed in the same room close to you. This will help your dog feel safe.
Old age affects their vision
An older dog may have vision problems that affect its eyesight. This is a reality that won’t be lost on them as well.
Once they realize they have poor eyesight and cannot see in dim light or the dark as well as they used to, they may begin feeling uneasy and afraid every time you switch off the lights or they are in a dark room.
When old dogs develop cataracts, their vision becomes affected.
They are not able to see well in the dark. This may affect their movement, causing them to fall or crash into things.
If this is the case, the first thing to do is to consult your veterinarian.
If they have treated your dog before, they may be able to track what is making the dog lose its vision fast and offer recommendations on how to control this.
For fearful dogs with poor vision, you should try to keep your dog in a place where the light stays or at the least has night lights on throughout the night.
You should also use positive reinforcement to make the dog comfortable in this space even when there is darkness in the other areas.
Also, ensure that there are no items that your dog could bump into and harm itself close to where it sleeps.
Stress or separation anxiety
Just like human beings, dogs also experience stress, depression, and separation anxiety.
They are social animals that constantly crave the attention of their owners.
Some dog breeds with certain personality types crave this attention more than others.
For instance, a poodle has a higher chance of suffering from separation anxiety compared to German Shepherds.
When a dog is suffering from separation anxiety, they are likely to engage in destructive behavior.
This could be one of the symptoms that the dog could be suffering from separation anxiety.
During the nighttime and darkness, there is limited low light and movement. Scared dogs are likely to experience more anxiety and this will make them feel even more afraid.
It is advised for pet owners to be sympathetic and give extra loving attention. You can also find some time to engage them or take them out for a walk.
This might help alleviate your dog’s anxiety they may be feeling when darkness creeps in.
Ways to help if your puppy is afraid of the dark
You do not want to have a stressed-out furry friend in your home.
If your dog is afraid of the dark and stressed, it will be on high alert. And, you never know how they will react to different situations.
If you can, find ways to alleviate this anxiety.
Here are some of the ways you can help your dog overcome their fear of darkness.
Leave a light on for them
When night comes and to help with total darkness, simply leave one light on during the night.
Your puppy will feel safer and in more control of their environment if they can see what is happening around them.
For puppies that are afraid of the dark, keep them
Some dogs are very sensitive, especially at an early age.
The best way to help an anxious dog and their anxiety would be to keep them close to you.
You could create a safe space in your bedroom with a dog bed or mat at night time along with a favorite toy to sleep with.
They will feel safer knowing that you are just a few feet away.
Try calming products
There are numerous products you can use to make your dog relaxed before lights out.
You should probably consult your veterinarian before trying something new on the dog.
There are sprays, shampoos, and beds to help your dog relax.
Your veterinary will help you choose the best product and/or treatment plan for your dog.
Give them attention before bedtime
Maybe all they just want is some love and attention before they can retire to bed.
Schedule some playtime before bedtime every night.
This will help the dog spend the extra energy and be ready to sleep when the lights go out instead of spending time being anxious about every shadow they see in the dark.
Consult an animal behaviorist
If you cannot figure out what is going on with your dog and the fear of the darkness, you should seek professional help.
Animal behaviorists can identify the triggers and the cause of your dog being afraid of the dark and help you work out a behavior modification plan that will be beneficial for the dog.
Most phobias and anxieties that dogs face can be treated through proper training, attention, and medication.
Positive reinforcement can go a long way in assisting a dog who is afraid of the dark.
Only opt to use medication on the dog if all other remedies have failed.
Remember, just like a child, puppies afraid of the dark can be assured with love, patience, and understanding. Your new best friend will learn to feel safe and gain confidence.