Dog appears to be afraid of the dark

dirtboysdadAugust 10, 2007

We recently adopted a mix breed, about 4 years old. She's a wonderful dog but with one big problem: she seems to be afraid of the dark.

We get up before the sun does and she just refuses to go pee before she can see. I've put her on a leash to take her out (our yard is fenced so she can and does go out alone when it's light) but she sits down and refuses to budge. She did it this morning, refusing to pee until she could see where she was going. It's not much of a problem now as it's light before we go to work, but in a few more weeks it will still be dark and the dog needs to pee before we leave the house.

Any suggestions as to how to get her over this? (She does not seem to have vision problems, being able to spot a squirrel at 500 paces.)

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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I'm assuming you are turning on outdoor lights and bringing a flashlight?
I have similar problems with my jack russell who is scared of the bug sounds outside at night. I find that if I let her sniff some meat, then I throw it out in the middle of the yard, she has to go and find it (she watches me throw it), she might get interested in going to the bathroom while shes out there.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 9:16AM
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I assume you don't know her history? It's possible something in her past makes her apprehensive about being outside in the dark. I personally would walk out with her and make sure she feels secure- she may just be afraid that her new person is going to abandon her like the old one did? Maybe someone she trusted abandoned her at night? I bet once she's use to and secure with a routine where you go out with her, praise her when she's done, etc., it won't be very long before you can start transitioning out of it- i.e. stand 5 feet away, stand 10 feet away, stand at the door...

My mom adopted an owner surrender border collie mix a few years back and the dog would wail like a child when you put her in the car (it would bring tears to your eyes). We came to the conclusion that she trusted and loved the person who surrendered her and was scared that she was being taken back to the shelter by someone else she loved :( She did eventually work through it with a little love and patience.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 9:38AM
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Bumblebeez, yes the outside lights are all on. We've been feeding her just outside the back door in the a.m. so that the cats will eat inside. I'll start moving her dish further away from the door - she loves her food so much so that might just do the trick! Thanks for the idea.

Quasifish, we too had a border collie/Aussie rescue mix who was scared to death of cars, fire and passing vehicles when we were walking. We got him over the fire and were finally able to walk him easily, but he never got over his fear of the car. I know new dog's history and while it's not terribly traumatic, it could very well be that she was left outside at night and frightened by something.

Thanks for your ideas.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 9:50AM
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What scared the dog is of less importance than how the fdear is handled. Dogs do not become afraid a person is going to take them back to a shelter, or to a vet---they become afraid of the situation in front of them.

I have a scared young dog---loud or unfamiliar noises scare him. I make a lot of loud and unfamiliar noises when he is in a calm state of mind---and he sees no harm came to him---so that fear is tapering off. The other dog is terified of some storms---we just had a huge thunderboomer----was shaking the house---and Max was pacing. If I had tried to comfort him, all I would have been doing is enabling that behavior. So, for the duration of the storm, the other dog---who was usually sprawled out sleeping and I simply sat calmly, letting Max pace and come over near us. I even put them on leash---always a fun thing and we went out on the oorch to watch and get drenched.

Never did I comfort Max---just allowed my calmness and Louie;s calmness to guide him. This is the fourth or fifth storm and Max is getting better every time.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 11:03AM
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I would have the dog checked by a Vet Eye Dr. He could be suffering from night blindness or PRA.

Here is a link that might be useful: night blindness

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 11:15AM
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Night vision is often the first to go with PRA and other degenerative eye diseases. There are also several congenital eye diseases that affect night vision only. The lights may not be enough for your dog. I second annz in having your dog's eye evaluated by a veterinary ophthalmologist, or a vet with excellent ophtho skills (not all vets are good with eyes). OTOH, your dog may have a completely un-eye-related problem such as morning stiffness associated with arthritis, or just not be a "morning doggie." One of my dogs isn't a morning doggie and rarely does anything outside before 7:30am. Your dog just may need to get accustomed to her new schedule. But definitely get her eyes checked out, just in case. Some eye diseases can be corrected...

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 9:27PM
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I did not know that dogs could suffer from night blindness! It never crossed my mind. But, as a person who is night blind, I would definitely second (or third?) having that checked out. What you think is more than enough light is not enough for a person ( or dog I would think) who is night blind. My husband has been amused for years by the fact that he thinks there is too much light coming through the curtains at night, and I see nothing but black. If that is the problem, a strong flood light to light up the entire area she will use should work, it works for me. You will have to be sure it lights the whole area from the door to where she does her business, dark spots look like gaping wholes in the light, no one wants to walk through that! Good luck, I do hope her eyes are fine and she just needs time to acclimate to her new schedule. Let us know how she does!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 11:58PM
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