We own a 10-month-old pug, which up until now didn't show any fear, be it loud noises, other dogs or simply darkness. One brave pup!

Today, while out for a walk late at night, he started to jump and even run away. After a while we realized he is actually afraid of his own shadow. For the rest of the day out, we had to carry him.

An hour later, he was still anxious and carefully observing shadows, jumping and trying to hide from them.

We're not aware of anything bad that has happened to him at all. Just yesterday he was perfectly fine. How we could help him to regain his lost confidence?

Thank you.

EDIT: The extreme fear lasted for about a day. One rough night with him jumping from sleep because something had moved. :) It proved to be impossible for us to do anything. We were ignored.

The following week, however, brought a better experience. Rewards for examining shadows and distracting with toys... well, it kind of worked. He mostly got through it on his own, though.

We realised the biggest issue was, he was not trusting us enough. Working on it. Thanks for your help!

5 Answers 5


Young dogs very typically experience "fear periods". It happens to the most confident of puppies even although I think the more confident they start out the easier time they have working through it. I think most dogs are done having fear periods by the time they are two. The periods only last for a month or two but they can go through it more than once.

Give your pup time to work through any fear issues that come up. Try to allow it to experience the thing that is scary from a distance that doesn't overwhelm them then move closer. Once you have helped your dog work through an issue you will get better at it and your dog will start to trust you. .. and therefore is more likely to believe you that the thing isn't scary.

Here is a great place to start if you want to learn more about fear in dogs and how to help them get over it. http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/fear

For shadows specifically I would find an edge of a shady building if you can where your dog can stand in the shade but observe shadows that are beyond the shade first. That way she may not feel like it is chasing her as much. After that if she is still having problems I would try counter conditioning by rewarding her for looking at the shadow.

  • 1
    Thank you. I'm trying to wrap my head around counter-conditioning. As usual, it is much easier to read about it than to do it. :) But it's a good start. Shadows seem to be off radar for now.
    – xius
    Dec 21, 2014 at 20:36

As mentioned above puppies go through several development stages that often cause fear of new, previously unnoticed 'bogies'. Overly protecting your puppy could exacerbate the issue. Conversely, every time a new fear is overcome a puppy builds resilience and self confidence that is more secure. I would also recommend reading what Patricia McConnell writes about dealing with fear. She is a renowned expert in dog behaviour and training whose writing is very accessible. Good luck!

  • Definitely gonna read through all of Patricia McConnel! Thanks.
    – xius
    Dec 21, 2014 at 20:37

Puppies go through phases just like human children. Since this is new as of today, it will probably pass. If he seems otherwise healthy, maybe give him a couple of days or a week, and if it's still a problem take him to the vet.


Fear of shadows is called Sciophobia it is a phobia which is a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational.

There are several types of treatments available for humans with the condition, but most are problematic for use on a being without high level language skills. The most effective treatment likely to work on a dog is Cognitive behavioral therapy. There are drugs available that may be of help, you would need to speak to your veterinarian about those.

Behavior modification can take many forms, and would need to be adapted as the treatment progresses. In short the idea is to create positive influences while approaching the fear causing thing. There are a few detailed solutions available on the web, here area couple of examples 1, 2 but you may also want to look for others, as each approach needs to specific to the provider (you) and the client (your dog).

  • The human condition described MUCH different than what is likly going on here. I will write a post later today.
    – Beth Lang
    Nov 13, 2014 at 20:45

The dog will figure out how shadows work eventually. I can't think of any way you can accelerate or dampen this process, although I will say trying to protect the dog from shadows as soon as he sees them sounds like a really bad idea.

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