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Are dogs afraid of the dark?

Dogs can be afraid at night but perhaps darkness is not quite what they fear, as we explain in this article

As the nights start drawing in and we approach Halloween, we want to find out if dogs are afraid of the dark. Whilst a fear of the dark in humans is very common, it’s not easy to determine in dogs. Are dogs more afraid at night? The simple answer is yes, they certainly can be.

What would make a dog appear afraid of the dark?

Whether it’s late night walks or getting your dog to answer the call of nature at night, you may have noticed your dog acting cautiously. Dogs may show signs of being more anxious than usual. We’ve noticed with our Lhasa Apso that she will take several steps into the garden at night, but then just sit on the patio staring into the darkness. During the daytime, she always sprints to the end of the garden without a second thought. What’s going on here?

Superiority of sight

A dog’s anxiety in the darkness of night may not be all that it seems. After all, dogs have very special abilities. Let’s first talk about the Tapetum Lucidum. It’s a layer of tissue in dogs that reflects light back into the retina. Humans do not have one, which means that dogs have much better night vision than we do.

If dogs have superior night vision, surely the fear of dark itself is more unlikely. It may actually be the case that their superior sight allows dogs to see things that alert their suspicions, such as nocturnal animals.

Sounds and smells of the night

Other factors come into play when it is dark. It is well known that dogs have super sensitive hearing, which is far superior to that of humans. Also superior, is the dog’s olfactory cortex which is loosely referred to as the “nose brain”. A dog’s sense of smell is their primary sense.

Taking these abilities into account it is likely that dogs have a heightened sense of their surroundings, including the different sounds and smells of night. Dogs may perceive some sort of threat at night because there are a variety of small animals active and looking for food.

See a vet if you are concerned

Given that dogs are blessed with exceptional eyesight, their eye health is important. If you suspect your dog has become more anxious in the dark or their behaviour has changed significantly, don’t hesitate to speak to your vet as this could be a sign of sight problems.

Every dog is different

The Lhasa Apso is a watch dog with a very suspicious nature. This is a dog breed that does not readily accept strangers and remains alert at all times. Some dogs may be wary of the dark and others may feel quite confident. Every dog has its own personality and may react differently to the experiences that nighttime brings.

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