“My dog barks at people he sees at night!” “My puppy acts different at night, does not want to go for a walk.”
These are common complaints I hear from dog owners this time of year. As the days grow shorter, some dogs behave differently on their evening walks. It’s important to keep in mind that a dog’s vision is not the same as a person’s vision. Aside from dogs viewing the world from a different height, their perceptions and senses are different. Additionally, young dogs go through periods where their confidence fluctuates.
Some strategies can make walks in the dark easier for your pooch. If possible, head out earlier, when it is not quite as dark. I have noticed that once winter settles in, many dogs get used to the darkness and are less reactive. It’s that transitional season that seems to be hardest for some dogs. If you have to go out in the dark, walk faster or jog if possible. Try unusual patterns of movement, it is hard to freak out and think about your feet at the same time. Also passing by something quickly may prevent some dogs from focusing in on something scary. Carry really extra great treats to distract your dog, ask for a simple behavior like “touch” to refocus him or her. Be cheerful and act silly! Bring toys and be playful on the walk. Acting silly can be a powerful training tool. Last but not least, skip the neighborhood walk and do a play session indoors or in your yard instead.
Keep in mind most dogs are not nearly as excited about Halloween as I am (it’s one of my favorite celebrations). It’s perfectly appropriate for your dog to lay low in a quiet room or crate with a long lasting chewy during the holiday.