The earth’s moon has been the catalyst for boundless myths and theories, including the one that says a full moon influences the physical and mental well-being of people and animals. Centuries-old stories hold that a full moon can cause even the sanest to lose their minds, while others claim a full moon drives wolves to howl endlessly. Research, however, indicates both are fiction.
But, wait, what’s that you say about dogs? You swear your pet barks or howls at a full moon more than other nights? You’re not alone; many dog owners argue that the moon has something to do with this type of dog behavior. Is this just another fallacy? Let’s find out.
Does A Full Moon Affect Dogs?
A full moon can affect your dog, but not in the manner you might believe. Dog owners often claim their pets act differently around and during a full moon. Some dogs appear restless and agitated, while others seem relaxed. Research debunks most full moon theories; however, some studies show an increase of dog bites around and during a full moon. So far, science has not fully explained how or why this could be true.
What science can explain is that canines might not see as well during a full moon. Why? Because dogs navigate darkness with relative ease thanks to their eye structure. Dogs, like cats and other mammals, have large pupils compared to humans. In addition, dogs have more retinal light-sensitive cells (rods) than humans, which help them see in low light. One other distinguishing feature in many animals, including dogs, is a mirror-like membrane (tapetum lucidum) in the back of the eye. While you can’t “see” this membrane, chances are you’ve observed how it works. If you’ve been in a dim or dark environment and noticed your dog’s eyes glow green or yellow when caught by a bright light (think camera flash), that’s the tapetum doing its job — reflecting light. This membrane also increases a light’s brightness. The tradeoff for better night vision is that dogs cannot see fine details. Maybe having a difficult time seeing during a luminous full moon could help explain why one study found the risk for emergency room visits for dogs increased by 28% surrounding full moons.
Why Do Dogs Bark At The Moon?
What does it mean when a dog barks or howls at a moon? They aren’t barking or howling at the moon but instead communicating with other dogs. During a full moon night, you might notice your pet is a bit more vocal. Why? Think about it, most nights, when your dog goes out, it’s pretty dark; however, on a full-moon night, it’s very bright. Knowing how sensitive a dog’s eyes are to light, a full moon appears to be a massive beacon in what should be relative darkness, making it more difficult for your dog to navigate. His way of venting his frustration is to overindulge in barking or howling to fellow canines.
Dogs, like humans, are creatures of habit. You fail to stick to the daily plan they will let you know. This need for routine could also help explain your pet’s unusual behavior during a full moon. On a typical night, your dog is accustomed to going outside in the dark under a slight moon glow to do his business and to mosey about sniffing out a few nocturnal critters. However, a full moon changes up his game. Not only does a full moon alter his landscape visually, but it likely brings out more people, dogs, and keeps nighttime critters at bay. He knows things are different. Who dares do that? Let the barking commence.
Tips For Helping Your Pet Deal With a Full Moon
There’s no running from a full moon. Your best bet in addressing its effects on your dog is to follow a few tips during this type of moon phase.
- If you walk your dog before bed, keep nighttime strolls short.
- Maintain your normal sleep/wake cycle.
- Ensure your dog gets plenty of playtime and exercise during the day.
- Comfort your pet if he’s anxious. If your pet shows severe signs of anxiety, discuss possible anti-anxiety treatments with your vet.
- Use an ultrasonic training device followed by a quiet command to handle a dog barking “at” the moon.
Is there a connection between a full moon and your pet’s behavior? We may never fully know. But, as long as myths and science continue to focus on the moon’s powers well into the future, we say, in the meantime, it can’t hurt to be a bit more cautious with your pet around a full moon cycle.