As a responsible dog owner, it can be concerning when your furry friend displays fear or anxiety towards seemingly harmless things like shadows or light reflections. However, rest assured that you’re not alone in this experience. In this article, we’ll delve into seven possible causes for this behavior and provide you with practical solutions to help alleviate your dog’s fear.
Here are the reasons why some dogs are afraid of shadows or light reflections.
Dogs may fear shadows or light reflections due to sciophobia, vision problems, “fear periods,” obsessive-compulsive disorder, lack of socialization, and past experiences. Possible solutions include cognitive-behavioral therapy, the “distract, redirect, praise” approach, proper socialization, desensitizing, and consulting a vet.
This behavior can occur for both normal and abnormal reasons. However, by understanding the root causes of your dog’s fear and taking steps to address them, you can help your furry friend feel more comfortable and confident in their surroundings.
Reasons Why Dogs Are Afraid of Shadows or Light Reflections
Walk through all the reasons in this article and try to figure out the one that best fits your dog. For now, don’t worry about solutions because we are going to discuss the possible approaches that can be taken to eradicate this issue.
Without future ado, let’s get started!
Generally, sciophobia means an extreme fear or dislike of shadows. This can be seen not only among humans but also among dogs.
The common symptoms are irrational panic and higher anxiety levels whenever the dog sees shadows. Moreover, this can also be defined as an anxiety disorder that can worsen if not treated.
2. Vision Problems
A dog with vision problems might be afraid of shadows or the reflection of lights. A dog with any deficiencies in their sight can have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is a shadow or light reflection.
The best thing to do is have a chat with your veterinarian. If this issue persists, consider consulting a dog ophthalmology specialist. Here are seven things you need to know about Dobermans and their eyesight.
3. “Fear Period”
Often, a “fear period” can be seen among young canines for a month or two. However, a dog can have multiple fear periods, especially young and less socialized dogs.
Generally, this period lasts about 2–3 weeks; the first one can be expected when your dog is 8–11 weeks old, and the following fear periods are most likely to occur when they are between 6–14 months old. However, a fear period may appear anytime within 6–24 months.
Dogs that experience this period tend to fear everything they encounter, including shadows and light reflections. Most dogs overcome their fear of many objects in their puppyhood.
4. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
If your dog is scared of shadows or the reflection of lights, they could be developing an OCD condition or have already developed it. If this is the case, it is essential to take appropriate action immediately to prevent the situation from worsening.
Here are the common symptoms:
- Tail spinning
- Circling behavior
- Overly licking body parts
- Eating inappropriate things
- Nibbling on things
- Barking consistently and incessantly
- Drinking a lot of water
- Chewing on shoes and other objects
If your dog exhibits most of these symptoms and fear of shadows or reflection of lights, they are most likely to have obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Try spending more time entertaining your dog. However, we are going to discuss the solutions more thoroughly later.
5. Other Psychological Issues
This issue can also be seen among dogs prone to psychological problems, including anxiety, stress, separation anxiety, and abnormal repetitive behaviors.
Watch out for the following signs:
- Repetitive yawning without succumbing to sleep
- Avoiding eye contact
- Being alone too much
- Sniffing the air
- Excessive licking
- Pacing back and forth or in circles
- Constant licking of the lips
Therefore, if your dog exhibits these signs and a fear of shadows and reflection of lights, a psychological issue has probably developed in the dog that needs to be addressed ASAP!
6. Lack of Socialization
Even though canines are intelligent, some don’t understand that not every moving object is alive. That’s why some dogs are afraid of instances like the following:
- Shadows moving across the walls
- Plastic bags skittering in the wind
- Garden water pipes
- Shopping carts
Lack of socialization can also be a contributor. But how can you tell whether your dog has missed their early socialization? Well, here are some things to look out for:
- Lack of common sense
- Lack of confidence
7. Bad Past Experiences
If a dog is highly fearful of shadows or light reflections, it could be due to bad past experiences, especially if you adopted or rescued your dog later in their life.
Because you don’t know what happened in their former life, perhaps their former owners neglected to give them any training, socialization, or other essential needs, resulting in many psychological issues.
Suggested Reading: Why does your dog bark at ceiling fans?
What Should You Do When Your Dog Is Afraid of Shadows or Light Reflections?
After going through all of the above reasons, it’s time to look for the possible approaches that can be taken to resolve this issue. I’ve seen a handful of canines with this issue, and I investigated that concern with their owners, and we got excellent results. Here are some of the solutions:
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
If you can spare a couple hundred bucks, delivering cognitive behavioral therapy may be the most efficient and effective solution.
CBT is cost-effective for the most part. However, the price range can vary from a few hundred bucks to several grand. Be sure to chat with your veterinarian before taking any such course. They might know some cheap (but still effective) contacts or CBT methods.
2. Distract, Redirect, Praise
Whenever your dog is afraid of a shadow or a light reflection, try to distract them, even though they may be anxious.
In the meantime, consider teaching your dog the “focus” or “look at me” command, and as soon as they look at you, redirect their attention toward something else that’s stimulating.
For instance, when the dog is afraid, immediately use the command, offer a high-value treat, and say, “Good boy/girl!” Then, providing their favorite toy or playing tug of war is excellent redirection.
When your dog enjoys it and appears to have forgotten about their prior fear, praise them and continue.
3. Provide Proper Socialization
As we discussed earlier, lack of socialization is one of the major causes of this unusual issue.
Therefore, consider providing good socialization without wasting any more time. Here are a handful of helpful points to consider:
- Walk your dog every day
- Try to meet with all varieties of people, including men, women, older people, children, toddlers, etc.
- Socialize them with other dogs, cats, and other creatures
- Participate in dog classes
- Take them for car rides
- Introduce new sounds
- Go to a dog park
- Go to the shopping mall
4. Train Shadow Games
After your dog’s fear of shadows and reflection of lights has somewhat subsided, consider engaging them in a “shadow game.”
Nothing fancy going on here. You will have to train your dog to look at a shadow or light reflection (a small mirror or reflective surface like a smartphone or watch would help here).
Click-and-treat whenever your dog looks at the shadow or that light reflection. If the dog is afraid of the shadow, drop a treat right on top of the shadow.
However, your dog’s fear may be too great for you even to attempt this exercise. In which case, consider the other solutions first.
5. Consult a Vet
If the issue persists and worsens, consider consulting a veterinarian.
Apart from the above five main solutions, below here I offer a few other minor solutions that may help:
6. Desensitize Them
Consider following these steps. 1. Provide calming exercises, cuddles, massage, belly rubs, at least 2–3 times a day. 2. Since the "focus" or "look at me" commands are handy during this process, consider training your dog in these commands at least three times a day for 10–15 minutes at a time, alongside self-control training. 3. Convert your dog's fear and obsession with shadows or light reflections into something more controllable. For instance, provide a nice toy to which he will get attached — perhaps a puzzle or chew toy. 4. Be consistent with training. After 3–4 weeks, consider providing calming exercises.
7. Address Psychological Issues
As I mentioned earlier, specific psychological issues can make a dog afraid of shadows and the reflection of lights.
Therefore, this issue can be eliminated to some extent by addressing psychological problems, and the rest can take over with positive reinforcement methods and other approaches mentioned above.
8. Provide Proper Obedience Training
Proper obedience training is critical to eliminating such fear from your loving pooch. It requires a handful of commands, adjustments, and activities.
Therefore, consider training them if they haven’t yet received good obedience training. There is an abundance of great training videos available on the internet. If you feel this is beyond your control, consider hiring a dog trainer, as they specialize in these things.
Things to Be Aware Of
Now that you know the most common causes and best solutions, give the solutions a shot whenever your dog is exhibiting fear of those shadows and lights. However, there are certain things you want to be aware of:
Vision care: Following best practices to keep good eye health is critical to avoid such issues in the long run. Discuss with your vet and check if your dog’s vision is okay.
Build up your dog’s confidence: Consider building up your dog’s confidence and letting them do things independently. Watch the following video if you’re unsure how to do that:
Cuddling: Don’t attempt to cuddle your dog when they are scared. Instead, follow the “distract, redirect, and praise” method.
Don’t drag them toward the shadow: When freaked out by a reflection of light or a shadow, never drag your dog toward it because their anxiety and stress levels will skyrocket. You may end up with a whole new problem.
Don’t overprotect: Overprotecting is one of the worst practices. Let your dog cultivate their independence by exploring things on their own terms.
Be patient: Eliminating fear is not an overnight process. It takes time and extreme patience to bring results. So, trust the process and stick with it. Moreover, don’t attempt to scold or punish your pooch during the process.
In conclusion, this article has shed some light on the issue of why dogs may fear shadows or light reflections and provided you with practical tips to address this behavior. By understanding the various causes and implementing the suggested solutions, you can help your furry friend feel more comfortable and at ease in their surroundings.
Remember to approach this issue with patience, kindness, and consistency, and don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance if needed. We appreciate your dedication to your furry companion’s well-being and wish you and your dog all the best.