Do You Leave Lights on For Your Dog?

When you’ve gone out for dinner in the evening, have you left lights on for your dog? If so, then you’re not alone! Many pet parents do this. But is it really necessary? It depends.

Can Dogs See in the Dark?

Yes, in fact they can see better than we do in the dark. However, they don’t see as well as cats can in the dark. How can dogs see better than we do when there are no lights on?

First, you’ll need to understand how the eyes work. Our eyes and dogs’ eyes have cones and rods, which are light receptors inside the eye. Rods make it easier to see when the light is dim, while cones help us to discern colors.

Dogs have a different number of cones and rods than we do. They have fewer cones than we do, meaning they don’t see as many colors. While we have three, dogs only have 2; researchers aren’t sure what two colors dogs can see, but many believe dogs can see yellow and blue.

In addition, our canine friends have more rods in their eyes, which makes their night vision much better than ours. Dogs also have an extra layer of tissue in the eye called the tapetum lucidum, which literally means “tapestry of light.”

Have you seen your dog’s eyes glow in a photo or when the light hits just right? In a photo, you may see your dogs’ eyes flow yellow or green. That’s the tapetum. The tissue reflects light onto the retina, somewhat in the same way a mirror shines light. The effect is that dogs have more night vision. They can see in the dark and when there’s a limited amount of light.

Even though dogs can see better in the dark than we can, they’re not able to see when it’s totally dark.

Along with the ability to better in the dark, dogs also have 250-degree vision, compared to our 190-degree vision. This wider field of vision allows more light into the eye, making it easier for them to see in low-light or darkness.

What About Leaving My Dog in the Dark?

The answer depends on the circumstances. Just like us, dogs usually sleep at night, in the dark. They don’t need a light on in most cases. So, it may not be necessary to leave a light on for your dog when you’re home and in bed sleeping. Your dog knows the routine and will settle down to sleep.

If you go out for the evening and leave your fur baby at home, he may feel better if you leave the light on. Some dogs may feel afraid of the dark when you’re not there. This could be a part of separation anxiety. Other dogs may be scared of the dark if they were abused or neglected before you adopted them. Sometimes it may be difficult to tell if your canine companion is afraid because you’re away, or if he’s had reason to be afraid in the past.

Is My Dog Afraid of the Dark?

You may be able to test whether or not your pup is afraid of the dark. One thing to try is leading your dog into a dimly lit room and watching his response. Or you could pretend to be going out for the evening, leaving your dog in the dark at home.

Some people have found their dogs will become more vocal when left alone in the dark. Their dogs will bark, howl, cry and whine. These could be signs that a dog is afraid of the dark and/or experiencing separation anxiety. One more cause could be that he is experiencing vision troubles, so he can’t see very well in the dim light or the dark. This could be a problem that develops in older dogs, or dogs that have certain eye/vision conditions.

Dogs may also act out when they’re alone in the dark. They may become more destructive, chewing up anything and everything as a way to release their fear or anxiety. You may come home to find couch pillows in shreds scattered over the living room, or maybe your dog has knocked over and chewed the potted plants, etc.

Other dogs may hide in a small space, such as a bathroom or under a table or bed while you’re away. And they may be more sensitive to noises outside your home at night.

If you believe your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, then it’s a good idea to talk to the vet about this. Anxiety is a medical condition that can be treated with medications and/or behavioral modification.

Your fur baby may have a vision problem, which will also need to be checked by the vet.

Maybe your fur baby just doesn’t like being alone in the dark—that’s OK.

Ways to Help Your Dog Feel More Comfortable in a Darker Setting

There are some things you can do to help your dog feel more comfortable when it’s dark.

1). Use light timers or light sensitive bulbs: one solution is to buy some light timers or light sensitive bulbs. Timers will turn the lights on at a time you set. Light sensitive bulbs will turn on when the light becomes dim. Either method will turn on lights for your dog, so he can feel better.

2). Use night lights: for dogs that have vision problems in the dark, nigh lights can help the dog to see better. For instance, if your pup sleeps with you at night, but then goes to another room or downstairs, leave night lights along the route he uses. This way he’ll be able to see better and feel safer in the dark.

3). Leave a radio or TV on: this may be helpful for dogs that are suffering from separation anxiety. You may choose to leave the TV or a radio on while you’re away for the evening. This way, your fur baby will have some normal sounds in the background to soothe and calm him. It will feel like he’s not alone.

Did you know there are TV programs and YouTube videos that are made especially for dogs? These often work well for dogs who have separation anxiety. However, if your canine companion has a strong prey instinct, you may want to avoid programming that includes small animals like squirrels, etc. Your dog may get so excited he decides to chase that animal on the screen, knocking over the TV in the process!

Being afraid of the dark, experiencing vision problems in low-light, or having separation anxiety in the dark can be scary for some dogs. It’s OK to leave the light on while you’re away to make it easier for your canine companion to get around and feel more comfortable.

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