Have you ever turned the light off and suddenly your dog gets anxious or scared? Can dogs be afraid of the dark?
We totally understand that darkness can be quite unnerving for children and even some adults. We can thank horror movies for that.
But what about dogs they haven't seen any horror movies so can they be scared of the dark too?
The answer might surprise you...
Can dogs be afraid of the dark?
It may surprise you to find out that dogs can actually be afraid of the dark.
Turning all of the lights off and leaving your dog alone in the dark can make them fearful, scared, anxious and unnerved.
This can also cause separation anxiety when you are nowhere near them, and your dog does not know where you have gone, or why.
This can sometimes be unexpected, because unlike us, dogs can actually see in the dark! Just like their wolf ancestors, dogs have great night vision and can see well in very low light environments.
Because dogs can usually see quite well in the dark, you may need to think about why your dog is afraid of the dark instead, and work to combat the issue.
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Why is my dog afraid of the dark?
Most of the time, being afraid of the dark just means that you are afraid of the unknown, and this is the same for dogs. They can feel unsafe or vulnerable when left alone in the dark, and will show signs that they are nervous.
In many cases, dogs who show symptoms of being afraid of the dark are simply suffering from separation anxiety. Many dogs become very attached to their owners, and do not want to be apart from them.
Your dog may try to follow you to bed, or jump on you and try to get your attention to show you that it does not want to be left alone.
Dogs like this can also whimper and cry and act out when left alone in the dark. You may also begin to hear pacing, sniffing or general signs that they are not able to rest or are anxious.
Another reason your dog may be afraid of the dark is because they cannot see. Like we said, dogs have impeccable night vision, but if your dog is having trouble with its vision, or is struggling to see properly, then being left alone with no lights on will be quite traumatic for them.
How to tell if your dog is afraid of the dark
There are a few telltale signs that will signify if your dog is afraid of the dark. The most common signs that you may notice are the body language of your dog.
If you notice that they are whining, crying, howling or cowering when left alone in the dark, then they are most likely scared and terrified of being left alone in the dark.
In addition, when you turn the lights off, your dog may start chewing, scratching or being destructive. Although this can be irritating if they damage your furniture, it is important to understand that these are just signs that your dog is very anxious and nervous. These are typical signs of a dog with separation anxiety and a fear of the darkness.
You may also notice a change in your dog’s posture, or if their tail is between their legs, this can also mean that they are afraid or nervous.
Dogs that are scared of the dark will also pace a lot, seem unable to relax and may even try to escape to get away from the dark, or to find you.
It is important to remember that different dogs and breeds react differently to fear, anxiety and darkness, and it is vital that you examine and watch your dog for signs of nervousness or fear.
Once you are sure it is darkness that is scaring them, you can work to fix the problem.
What to do if your dog is scared of the dark
If your dog is afraid of the dark, or suffering from separation anxiety when left alone in the dark, then it is probably a habit that you will want to break.
Although it can be heartbreaking to see your dog feeling scared, anxious and nervous, you will want to make sure that they can be left alone because you cannot stay by their side 24/7.
The best way to fix the issue is to gradually expose them to darkness and train them to get used to it.
When it comes to training a dog, it is all about praise. Celebrate the small successes and reassure them that they are fine and doing great.
You can expose your dog to darkness and get them used to it by using dimmer functions on your lights, and slowly making it darker and darker.
Similarly, if you are walking your dog at night and it is dark, then reassure them that you are there and they are safe, until they are used to walking in the dark.
Again, if it is an unfamiliar place, then give your dog praise, reassurance and treats as you enter darkness or new unknown areas. Speak in a soothing and relaxing tone to show your dog that you are both okay!
Another way to acclimate your dog to darkness is to play with them and have fun in the dark. This way, they will associate the dark as a fun activity and not something that is scary or unnerving.
Once your dog is used to being in the dark, walking in the dark or playing in the dark, they may no longer have fears and anxieties about the darkness and will be able to be left alone.
Finally, if you believe that your dog may have eyesight issues or problems, and that is the cause of the fear of the dark, then you should instead seek the advice and help of a veterinarian, to make sure that your dog is comfortable and living a happy life.
So can dogs be scared of the dark?
Yes, all the evidence points to the fact that dogs can be scared of the dark just like humans are.
The dark can make them anxious and afraid so you need to teach them it's nothing to be scared of by playing with them in the dark and taking them on night time walks so they associate darkness not just with fear and anxiety.