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Should You Leave a Light on for Your Dog in the Night? Does It Bother Him?

Ed Malaker

By Ed Malaker

French Bulldog snuggling beside owner

Dogs are amazing animals that can do many things better than humans, including seeing in the dark. This causes many people to wonder if they should leave a light on at night when they go to sleep or leave the house. The short answer is yes. You should leave a light on for your dog, especially if you anticipate being away from home for a while. Keep reading as we explain why.

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Can Dogs See in the Dark?

A dog’s vision is much different than ours. Dogs typically only see in yellow and blue and usually have a narrow field of view of 30–60 degrees, while humans have a field of view of about 140 degrees. Dogs can also only recognize relatively close objects and usually have a vision rating of about 20/70. However, they can see quite well in the dark due to their large pupils and high number of light-sensitive rods in the retinas that help detect light. An additional structure in the eye called a tapetum helps reflect incoming light and makes it easier for your dog to use all available light so they can see better in low-light situations.

victorian bulldog waiting
Image Credit: Carrie Ann Kouri, Shutterstock

Why Do My Dog’s Eyes Glow at Night?

Dogs and cats have an extra mechanism in their eyes called the tapetum. It sits behind the retina and reflects light so more light is available to the photoreceptors, making it easier for the animal to see in the dark. This reflective layer shines at us when we see a dog at night and will also reflect the light from a photographer’s flash, which can cause a dog’s eyes to glow in pictures.

Do I Need to Leave a Light on for My Dog?

Yes. While your dog can see in low-light conditions, they still require a certain amount of light. If it gets completely dark, your dog won’t be able to see any better than you, and many dogs can become frightened when they can’t see, so we recommend leaving a light on whenever it gets dark.

What Are Good Lighting Solutions?


Since your dog only requires a small amount of light to see, a small nightlight will work well and won’t use much electricity. Many new lights use LED technology for increased energy savings and lifespan. They may also shut off automatically during the day.

man switching on light
Image Credit: Rasulov, Shutterstock

Sensor Lights

Sensor lights are ideal for providing light at night for your dog. They can detect darkness and turn on automatically, or they may detect motion and turn on when your pet enters the room. Motion sensors are good for areas of your home that don’t see much traffic, as you can save on electricity. Light sensors are best in heavily trafficked areas of the home.

Light Timers

A light timer can also be used to add light to an area. You can set it to turn on and off at a certain time regardless of ambient light or movement, which can help keep the light consistent throughout the day.

Is My Dog Afraid of the Dark?

While many dogs can tolerate complete darkness for a short time and often like to sleep in darkness, like humans, some dogs can become frightened when they can’t see and can behave unpredictably. So, make sure you always keep a light on if you notice your dog experiencing any of the following signs:

Brown and White Short Coated Dog Lying on His Bed
Credit Image: Albina White, Pexels
  • They’re constantly barking and whining when the lights are out.
  • They’re hiding in unusual areas, like the closet, when it gets dark.
  • They’re digging, scratching, or chewing pillows and furniture.
  • They have sore or injured paws from engaging in destructive behavior.
  • They’re increasingly irritable.

Do Dogs Like to Sleep in the Dark?

Yes. Most dogs like to keep a schedule similar to their owners and will usually sleep at night. Dogs often get better sleep in complete darkness, so you won’t need to worry about adding light by their bed, as long as the sun comes up shortly after they wake. Dogs also tend to deal with darkness better when their owners are nearby; they may only get frightened when their owners are at work and the house gets too dark.

doberman pinscher dog sleeping beside the bed
Image Credit: Best dog photo, Shutterstock

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You should leave a light on for your dog if you are away from home at night or if your pet spends time in other parts of the house. While your dog can see much better than any human in the dark, they need at least a little light, and many dogs can become frightened if you leave them alone and it’s very dark. Adding a small nightlight is inexpensive and will help your pet feel more comfortable, especially if you notice signs that they are afraid when you are not there, like damaged pillows or hiding.

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Featured Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

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