If you have recently brought a new puppy home, then one of your foremost concerns and priorities is getting them to sleep. Particularly at night, when the sun goes down. But there’s a lot to consider here, right? Besides, you likely have a lot of questions about where and how your puppy should sleep – including whether they should be left to sleep in the dark. Could they be afraid of it, even? Does some light help? Well, today, I am going to be clearing up the lighting arrangements for you and your new pup, so you know exactly what is optimal and what is not.
So, should puppies sleep in the dark? Puppies do not necessarily need to sleep in the dark, though it’s fine for them to do so, too. Thankfully, most puppies can sleep under any lighting arrangement, whether during the day or night. However, some puppies may prefer a nightlight over complete darkness. In that instance, providing some light may be beneficial.
You see, there is no black and white answer here.
So what I did there?
The truth is, it’s going to come down to circumstances and your puppy’s preferences.
As we shall discover in the sections below.
We will also be covering what you need to look out for, and what arrangement you should have, given your circumstances, so be sure to keep reading!
Can My Puppy Sleep In The Dark?
Your puppy can sleep in the dark – you do not necessarily have to provide any lighting. Whether you choose to have the lights on or off is a matter of personal preference – to both you and your puppy and what makes you both comfortable.
Some people wonder if they can leave their puppy alone in the dark, provided he likes sleeping in those conditions.
Technically you can leave your puppy alone in the dark, but it may not always be a good idea.
You may need to be more cautious:
- If you have just brought your puppy home,
- It’s the first the first few weeks of his life when he is extra-sensitive to noises,
- Your puppy is sleeping in a new room, place or area,
- There are potential dangers, or things around that could cause them harm.
In those instances, a nightlight may be preferable.
Otherwise, they may be able to sleep in the dark.
Here is why.
Dogs Have Adapted To Human Habits
Puppies – and adult dogs – can easily sleep in the dark. Because dogs have been living with humans for many years, they have adapted to our sleep patterns and other human habits.
Even though dogs sleep longer than we do – about 12 to 16 hours a day – they don’t need darkness to sleep.
Puppies sleep for even longer – between 18 and 20 hours a day. There is no need to provide darkness for your puppy for all of that time!
Dog Vision And The Dark
Dog Vision In Dim Light
Usually, your puppy has good night vision because dogs have rods in their eyes that collect dim light. These rods help them see better in the dark.
Most dogs (except those with blue eyes) have the ‘tapetum lucidum’ as part of their eye makeup. The tapetum lucidum is behind your dog’s retina and is composed of reflective cells.
These reflective cells act like a mirror to reflect any light that enters your puppy’s eye, allowing the retina to register it and help your puppy’s night vision. Your puppy can find objects in the dark thanks to these cells.
The tapetum lucidum is also responsible for the glow you see in a dog’s eyes when a light is pointed at his face.
Dog Vision In Pitch Black
However, the reflective cells mentioned above are of no use when pitch black. Your puppy won’t see anything if there is no light to reflect.
If your puppy is used to being able to make out objects in dim lighting, he may become anxious in a situation where he can’t see anything at all.
It could be that your puppy feels vulnerable in this situation because he instinctively knows he is less able to protect himself.
His survival instincts could be kicking in to tell him he is in a potentially dangerous situation.
Are Puppies Afraid Of The Dark?
Most puppies aren’t afraid of the dark, although there are times when a puppy may find a nightlight comforting.
Some puppies appear afraid of the dark, but it isn’t because of the dark itself. Dogs are descendants of wolves, who sleep in the pitch black.
Whatever is causing your puppy to be afraid isn’t the dark itself, but rather what your puppy associates with the dark.
Signs Your Puppy Doesn’t Like the Dark
Here are some signs to look out for if you suspect your puppy is feeling fearful or doesn’t like darkness:
- Your puppy hesitates to approach dark paths,
- Your puppy moves to a different part of the room when you turn the lights off,
- Your puppy has his tail tucked between his legs or his ears pinned back when it’s dark,
- Your puppy usually comes to you if the light in his room is turned off,
- Your puppy tends to stay in areas with more light at nighttime.
Your Puppy Could Be Feeling Lonely
It could be that your puppy associates the dark with being alone. If he’s suffering from separation anxiety (and some pups do), he won’t like it when the lights are off because he’s decided lights off means time away from you.
Puppies can experience separation anxiety immediately upon being left alone. Other puppies become more and more anxious as the minutes tick by.
Puppies are accustomed to sleeping with their mother and littermates, so they have to make quite a big transition to sleeping alone.
Most people leave their puppy in a particular place when they go out or get ready for bed.
Going to a separate room for bed could be what’s causing your puppy anxiety – not darkness.
Should a Puppy Sleep With The Light On or Off?
Some puppies prefer the lights on, whereas other puppies find the light too stimulating and can’t sleep as comfortably. Some puppies find it difficult to switch off and sleep when there’s too much light, so they will continue to play. And then there are other puppies who find a nightlight comforting.
Find Out What Lighting Your Puppy Prefers
Puppies can sleep at any time and in any kind of light conditions, so you’ll need to find out what conditions your puppy prefers.
Puppies can prefer:
- Dim night lights
- No light at all
- A full night light
- Ordinary lighting (in other words, no particular preference)
Try different light settings when your puppy is tired, and see which conditions suit him best.
Pay Attention To Other Conditions
There are other conditions apart from lighting which can impact your puppy’s ability to sleep, such as:
- Whether he is in a room by himself or in your room
- Whether he sleeps in his own cage or enclosure or on your bed
- Whether there is any background noise (see below)
What Are the Optimal Puppy Sleeping Conditions?
The optimal puppy sleeping conditions depend on your puppy: some prefer peace and quiet, while others sleep better with a bit of noise in the background (human voices, etc.) Whatever the conditions, you’ll want to provide the amount of lighting (and other factors such as noise levels) that suits him best.
Is A Busy Environment A Problem?
You may be concerned that your busy household can cause problems for your puppy’s sleep. Some puppies prefer to have sounds in the background.
Other puppies, though, do best with peace and quiet because otherwise they can get overstimulated. Some puppies are more sensitive to various stimuli than others.
If you find your puppy likes a busy environment, you may wonder what you can do to provide background noise at nighttime when everyone’s asleep. You could try any of these ideas:
- Put the radio or TV on – but on a low volume. Talk shows and weather channels work well, as the constant conversation mimics familiar sounds of your family and guests
- Turn on a fan – again, on a low setting. Don’t have it blowing air directly onto your puppy, though
- Try playing quiet music for dogs in the background. There are many YouTube channels that provide quiet music that dogs enjoy (e.g. Relax My Dog)
Is A Dark And Quiet Setting The Best?
A dark and quiet setting isn’t necessarily the best for all puppies. Some puppies will prefer darkness, whereas others prefer to have a light of some kind.
If you notice your puppy is still awake even when he’s exhausted, look at the conditions around you and see what you need to change. It could be:
- Too much or too little light. Dark environments don’t suit all puppies
- Excessive noise. Some puppies need peace and quiet to sleep
- Not enough noise. There are puppies who appreciate a comforting sound of background noises, such as voices, the radio or TV, etc.
- A new environment, an additional family member, or another sudden change. Puppies like routine, so anything new can cause temporary stress as he adjusts to the changes
Consider A Crate
Remember that puppies – especially young, new puppies – do best in a well-prepared crate. Make sure the crate is comfortable – stocked with comfy blankets (and if they carry your scent, even better).
Make sure your puppy associates his crate with positive experiences (give him treats or favorite toys in his crate, for example).
It might seem cruel to put a puppy in a crate as it resembles a cage, but there are good reasons to do so:
- A crate prevents your puppy from getting into trouble. A crate is safer than leaving your puppy to sleep anywhere, as he can get into mischief and hurt himself. He may think nothing of chewing something poisonous, for example. Some puppies will eat things that aren’t poisonous but that can cause fatal damage if ingested, such as cotton balls, hair ties, or stuffing from a sofa or a pillow.
- A crate keeps him from being squashed. You might be tempted to put your puppy in your bed with you, but it isn’t safe for him. Puppies are fragile and it’s all too easy to inadvertently squash your puppy as you roll over in your sleep. As much as you love your puppy, remember he is small and delicate.
Your puppy will learn to appreciate the security of his crate, and you may find him seeking comfort there for his daytime naps if he wants peace and quiet.
How To Help A Puppy Who’s Afraid Of The Dark
If your puppy has a lot of fear around the dark – most often because of separation anxiety (see above), there are a few things you can do to help him cope.
Train Your Puppy To Deal With Separation Anxiety
Training your puppy to be able to be happy and secure while he’s alone is one of the best gifts you can give him. Here’s how you can do it:
- Choose a time during the day when your puppy is already calm and quiet
- Begin by leaving the room for only a few short minutes
- Gradually increase the length of time you are out of the room, building up to about ten minutes
- When you return to the room, make sure to do so casually. You don’t want to fuss over your puppy when you go back to him, because he’ll then see separation as a big deal
Teach Your Puppy To Enjoy The Outdoors At Night
Puppies have a lot of energy to burn, and although they can’t go on long walks when they’re small, they can still learn to appreciate some outdoor exercise at nighttime.
The advantage of giving your puppy some exercise at night is that it will help him burn off excess energy before he has to go to bed. The evening fun will help him sleep better – especially if your puppy tends to be anxious.
Make Sure Your Puppy Has Access To Your Scent
Whether your puppy is in his crate or on his daybed, make sure there’s a blanket, toy, or another object in his bed that smells like you.
Having your scent in his bed will reassure him that you will always be there. When your puppy smells you, studies have shown that the pleasure centers in his brain are activated.
Not only does he remember what you smell like, but that smell will help him sleep, whether it’s dark or not.
To light or not to light?
That is something only you are going to be able to decide.
Monitor your pup, get an understanding of their preferences and needs and simply go from there.
Other puppy sleeping guides you need to read:
- Should I Leave A Light On For My Puppy At Night?
- Can Puppies Sleep Outside?
- Why Is My Puppy Sleeping So Much? [Should You Be Concerned?]
- Why Does My Puppy Breathe So Fast While Sleeping?
- Why Does My Puppy Pee In Her Sleep? [And How To Respond]
- Should I Leave A Light On For My Puppy At Night?
- Why Does My Puppy Wake Up So Early? [& What To Do About It]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.