Help! My dog is afraid of the dark!
(Q) How can I help my three-year-old German Shepherd overcome his fear of the dark? He becomes scared of his own shadow and hyper-vigilant when out on dark evenings.
(A) Behaviourist Claire Arrowsmith says: This fear may be associated with something specific, such as noise, the inability to identify people or objects until they are very close, or with a particular incident.
Is your walking routine the same? Do you feel as relaxed in the dark? Can your dog cope in the garden in the dark? Do you see a change as the dark nights begin to draw in, and does your dog have any other fears?
Positively encouraging all calm behaviour will be essential and it will probably be necessary to do any walking before dark to start with and then gradually, as he learns to cope, introduce slightly later times/reduced light. It may be necessary to stop the dark walks altogether and focus on mental stimulation indoors instead. This would allow you to focus on reinforcing just a few steps outside before returning, and then gradually increase the time and distance spent outside.
He may benefit from wearing an Adaptil collar. Address any underlying issues to minimise this winter's problems.