Dog Afraid to Go Outside at Night: Common Causes and Solutions

Is your dog afraid to go outside at night, howling, and growling at you when you try to take it out? Well, there are plenty of reasons for this behavior.

But luckily, there are also plenty of solutions.

Oftentimes, . If that’s the case, you should take it to the vet. However, there could be other causes of its fear, or the noise coming from that dark corner of the street.

Perhaps your front porch is slippery or there are insects that sting during the night.

Of course, it could be some old-fashioned trauma and the fear of the unknown.

Whatever the case might be, you can definitely help your dog through the ordeal. Gradually and slowly increase the limit to where it can go, so it doesn’t get overwhelmed.

And, if you can, get a nice light-up collar for the pooch to help with illumination.


Why is My Dog Afraid to Go Outside at Night

Is your dog afraid to go outside at night? If so, that makes you one of the millions of people worldwide who have that same problem.

And I can relate; after I moved, one of my old dogs suddenly stopped going outside at night, and it was an ongoing problem for weeks.

Back then, I had no real idea what I was doing, and the vet’s advice didn’t help much either.

But throughout the years, plenty of people, both expert veterinarians and regular dog owners, have studied the problem thoroughly.

Some of the solutions to that problem are in this article before you.

So, if you want to know why your dog is afraid to go outside at night, I suggest you keep reading.


Dog Afraid to Go Outside at Night: Potential Reasons

With that in mind, you need to look for the potential reasons for your dog being afraid of a night walk.

Here are some of the most common reasons for this sudden switch in behavior.


The Noises of Potential Danger

Dogs have powerful ears. They can detect sounds at an ultrasonic level, which we humans can’t pick up without special recorders or apps.

Now, imagine being a puppy in the middle of the night, and suddenly there are lots of new sounds that terrify you for some reason.

Your hound will act like a child in an old house, listening to the many creaks and crackles of aging wood, and being terrified out of its mind.

But the sounds that make your dog afraid to go outside at night don’t have to be ultrasonic. In fact, a very audible sound can cause your dog distress — the sound of another dog.

When they hear loud barking from the neighbor’s yard (or the streets, if there are strays), hounds may sense danger and refuse to step out of the house for their own safety.


Hazardous Terrain

Do you have floor tiles at the foot of your front door? ? Either one of these can make a mutt terrified to go outside at night.

Slippery tiles and stairs are usually not a problem for most dogs when it’s bright, and they can see where they’re going. But once again, put yourself in your dog’s position.

If you had to go out in the middle of the night and had to walk over slick, smooth tiles or barely visible steps, you’d be afraid too.


Fear of Nature

Fear of nature was the reason behind my own puppies nyctophobia. When I moved to a different state, the weather was horrible for the first month and a half.

Every single night, there would be a thunderstorm or a strong gust of wind.

So, when the weather cleared up, I simply couldn’t take my best bud out for a walk because he kept refusing to leave the house at night.

Of course, the elements are just one of nature’s many ways to make a dog afraid to go outside at night.

If the area you’re living in has a lot of insects, such as bees, wasps, and hornets, chances are that they might sting your dog.

If a dog gets stung at night, it might develop a phobia of going out at that specific hour. And yes, there are wasps and hornets that are nocturnal.


Fear of the Unknown and Lack of Socialization

By far, one of the most common causes behind a hound’s nyctophobia is the overall fear of the unknown.

Domesticated animals are creatures of habit. So, if you suddenly move a pup or an adult dog to a new location, everything might seem terrifying to them.

Moreover, if you combine any of the causes I listed above with this general fear of the unknown, you’ll have a pretty heavy problem on your hands.

It’s also extremely important for your pets to socialize.

If the pooch hasn’t been friendly with dogs (or even humans other than the owner), it will likely develop a fear of the dark.


Vision Is Key

Dogs have an extremely powerful vision, more powerful than even that of humans.

One of the reasons for this discrepancy is the tapetum, i.e., a special structure that’s located in the back of the dog’s eyes.

The tapetum helps the pooch reflect light into the retina. That light can come from any source, including the dimmest street light.

However, dogs can’t see anything in pitch-black darkness.

Without their “night vision,” dogs are as helpless during the night as you and me.


How to Deal With Your Dog’s Fear of the Dark


Gradual Desensitization

Exposure therapy is a good idea when it comes to any type of fear.

So, if you conclude, without a doubt, that your dog is afraid of the dark, your next step should be to expose it to your yard at night.

However, keep in mind that there is a right way to do it.

In order to help your puppy get used to the nighttime, start your exposure therapy at dusk.

It’s the perfect time to start since it’s dark enough not to be daytime but light enough for your dog to see everything clearly.

Expose your pet for brief periods of time every day, roughly 10-15 minutes each. But increase the periods gradually as the days go by.

It will take a lot of patience, but your best bud will be getting used to the darkness soon enough.

A good way to motivate your pooch into going outside is by using treats. You can leave a trail of treats up to a certain point in your yard during the night.

Slowly, the dog should start following the trail and, with some luck, end up outside. The more often you do this, the more your dog will start to associate nighttime with snacks.

But remember to do it gradually and to set a limit to how far the puppy can go.


Light-up Collars

Lots of pet owners I know use light-up collars and leashes.

As I mentioned earlier, any light can help the dog’s tapetum to “illuminate” the retina and provide the animal with a decent night vision.

So, a decent collar with an LED light or a reflective lens can do wonders.

More importantly, it will make it easier for cars and pedestrians to spot your dog at night and, if necessary, avoid it.


Food & Fun

Your pup might go from fearing the night to absolutely loving it.

Now, if your dog is afraid of specific sounds that come from the nighttime yard, you might want to provide it with some amusing sounds and toys.

Scatter the toys about the yard, as well as some high-value treats. Next, use prerecorded sounds or music as a conditioning tool for feeding.

Once the dog hears those sounds coming from outside, it will rush to them despite the darkness. The toys and treats will only benefit this process further.


See the Vet

Sometimes, your dog might experience issues that prevent light from reaching the retinas of its eyes. If you suspect that that’s the case, take your dog to a vet.

They will examine your dog’s eyes and tell you what to do.

More importantly, you’ll receive tips on getting your hound to go outside at night.


How NOT to Deal With the Dog’s Fear of the Dark


Flooding the Dog

As I mentioned earlier, there is a right way to condition a dog into not being afraid of the dark.

Naturally, there’s also the wrong way, and that includes making the puppy face the fear directly.

Sometimes, this kind of sudden exposure therapy can help. But it’s not recommended since it can also terrify the dog further.


Taking the Dog Out By Force

When you flood the dog, you will cause it so much fear that it might end up not wanting to leave the house at all.

The last thing you should do in this situation is to pick up the dog and take it outside. Remember, it is still afraid of the dark at this point.

So, if you, as its owner and provider, deliberately take it to a place it fears the most, it will lose its trust in you.

In extreme cases, it can even growl at you every time you try to pick it up or even approach it.



Hitting or yelling at a dog for not leaving the house at night is counterproductive. All you’re doing is causing your pet more trauma and fear.

Extreme cases of this behavior can even lead to outright animal abuse.

So, let me repeat that for emphasis — never, under any circumstances, try to punish your dog by hitting it or yelling at it because of its fear of the dark!


Dog Afraid to Go Outside at Night: Final Thoughts

More often than not, people who google dog afraid to go outside at night end up with conflicting results.

Sadly, that’s because there are still lots of people out there who do the things from my “don’t do this” list above.

So, is your dog afraid to go outside at night? If the answer is “yes,” remember to take its exposure therapy slow, one step at a time. Follow it at your dog’s own pace.

The pooch will definitely love you all the more for it.

The Training Dog Solution

Disclaimer: This website is reader-supported, which means we may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Visit our Affiliate Disclaimer page for all details.