Are Puppies Afraid of The Dark?

When you adopt a puppy and become a puppy parent, there are many things you need to learn. That’s acutely true if you’ve never owned a dog before. (It’s very similar to becoming a parent for the first time, only your pup is furry and has a tail.)

The thing is, unlike humans, puppies can’t tell you what they’re thinking, feeling, or want. Yes, a newborn baby can’t do that, but a toddler, 8-year-old, or teenager can. A puppy never will be able to do that, no matter how old it might be.

For that reason, you need to be a keen observer of their behavior to learn what your pup likes, dislikes, and enjoys. What it enjoys, frankly, is easy to see, but what it doesn’t might be a bit more difficult.

I thought about this the other day after a reader contacted me about their new pup. They told me how, since they first adopted him (a mixed-breed terrier), he was crying most of the night, even though he was in a crate in their bedroom.

The reader asked me a question I hadn’t seen in a long time: Are puppies afraid of the dark?

The answer, surprisingly, is that, sometimes, yes, puppies can be afraid of the dark. Depending on the breed, some dogs get very anxious in the dark, including in dark backyards, dark rooms, and even rooms with low light.

Some believe that puppies fear the dark because they can hear and smell so well and are on “high alert” when the lights go down. Also, some suffer from separation anxiety, which can be exacerbated when it’s dark.

Now that you know that, yes, puppies can be afraid of the dark, it’s likely you have more questions about this fear and others your pup might have. What are puppies most afraid of, for example, and how can you tell if your dog is scared of the dark?

For answers to those and several other questions about your pup’s fear of darkness, read on. I’ve got them below, important info that can help you calm your puppy after the sun goes down every day.

How Do you Stop a Puppy Being Scared of the Dark?

Dog experts recommend having your puppy’s vision checked if they’re scared of the dark, as that could be one thing affecting them. Once that has been ruled out, however, there are a few things that you can do if they still show fear of dark rooms and going out at night, including:

  • Staying with your puppy in a dimly lit room and assuring them everything is okay.
  • Give them plenty of TLC, treats, and positive reinforcement.
  • Put a night light near their sleeping area or crate.
  • If they aren’t sleeping in your room, allow them to do that. (In a crate is recommended.)
  • Extra training time to help them with their separation anxiety if that is what is causing their fear. 
  • Purchase your puppy a light-up collar. 
  • A dark room coupled with no noise can be problematic for some puppies. For that reason, leaving on a TV or radio is a great idea. Some type of show where people talk is best, rather than simply music. It’s believed that the sound of voices can be comforting.
  • Create a special spot in your home for your dog where they feel safe and secure. (Crates are excellent for this.) 

Should Puppies Sleep in the Dark?

Interestingly,  puppies and dogs are not nocturnal, nor are they diurnal. Instead, they are social sleepers that take their cue from the rest of their family, including their pet parents. 

Because of this, puppies don’t need it to be dark to sleep. During the day, it is just as easy for pups to sleep as it is with the lights off at night.

Also, since they were domesticated, dogs have gotten used to sleeping on the same schedule as their humans. In other words, they sleep better at night, and because most humans sleep in the dark, dogs do as well.

Sleeping alone in the dark, however, is a different subject. As a child, a puppy can be fearful by itself, especially with the lights out. A pitch-black room is even worse, so leaving on a small light for your puppy is best if they’re in a room alone at night.

How Can You Tell if Your Dog is Scared of the Dark?

Several signs will tell you if your precious puppy is afraid of the dark or not. They include:

  • Whimpering ceaselessly
  • Barking a lot
  • More than the usual amount of drooling
  • Pacing back and forth relentlessly
  • Not wanting to go in their crate at night 
  • Avoiding dark ooms, shadows, etc 
  • Nervous peeing
  • Chewing, tearing, or otherwise exhibiting destructive behavior when left in the dark.

Does my Puppy Need a Light On at Night?

As I mentioned earlier, puppies and dogs can sleep with lights on or off. However, the amount of melatonin their body produces is reduced when lights are on, just like humans. That can affect their sleep cycle.

However, if your puppy is truly scared of the dark, leaving on a small light can be extremely helpful. If your pup isn’t sleeping because of their fear, no amount of melatonin will help.

Can Dogs Become Scared of the Dark?

Some dogs that previously were not scared of the dark can start to have fear as they get older and start losing their senses, especially sight and sound. Also, a dog or puppy that has been through a traumatic situation might show signs of anxiety or stress after dark. 

Is it OK to Leave a Puppy in a Dark Room?

While it won’t physically harm them, leaving your puppy alone in a dark room could cause them quite a bit of fear and anxiety. For that reason, experts recommend not leaving your puppy alone in a dark room for long periods or at all.

If you have to leave your puppy alone, it’s best to leave at least one light on in whatever room they happen to be in. Remember, puppies can’t understand what’s going on, and even though they can see and hear well, those senses can actually exacerbate their fear.

One excellent suggestion is to have a timer connected to a light in whatever room your dog sleeps. If you arrive home after dark,  a light will already be on.

Where Should a Puppy Sleep at Night?

Dog experts and veterinarians recommend that, at least in the beginning, you have your puppy in the same bedroom where you sleep. Keeping them in your room will reduce their fear and anxiety and reduce the whimpering, whining, and barking that many puppies do if left alone.

Vets also recommend using a crate, which creates a “safe space”  for your pup. Also, crating your puppy will keep them safe and out of trouble at night while you sleep. Crating will prevent accidents, also, as puppies and dogs don’t like to go potty where they sleep.

Final Thoughts

As irrational as it may sound, puppies can be afraid of the dark. Remember, puppies are very similar to humans when they’re young, with irrational fears and anxieties. 

Some dog breeds can be very afraid of the dark, including dark rooms and backyards. Their powerful sense of sight and smell put them on “high alert”  after dark, and some have separation anxiety which can exacerbate the problem.

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog and that it answered all of your questions. If you have more or wish to learn more about taking care of your new puppy, please see my other blogs on the subject. I pack them full of interesting, important, and helpful information to help you raise your sweet puppy into a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted dog.