Do Dogs Really Bark at Full Moons?

A full moon rises in the night and the dogs in the neighborhood go crazy, barking like there's no tomorrow. Myth, or reality? Turns out it's a little bit of both. While dogs have been known to bark at a bright full moon, the reasons they do so may not be exactly what you'd expect.

The Moon's Effect on Canines

Wolves, which are close relatives of modern dogs, are said to "howl at the moon." However, Robert A. Busch, author of "The Wolf Almanac: A Celebration of Wolves and Their World," says there is no connection between wolves and the moon. Wolves come out at night, he says, because they're nocturnal; they howl with heads pointed up to better project the sound. Your dog may "howl at the moon" for the same reason.

Full Moon Stats: A Warning?

Scientific studies have tried to determined, without much success, a statistical connection between a full moon and its effects on both animals and humans. One study by the Colorado State University Veterinary Medical Center found that emergency room visits were 23 percent higher for cats and 28 percent higher for dogs on days surrounding full moons. A study in the British Medical Journal said twice as many British people visited emergency rooms with animal bites during full moons. However, the reasons behind these observations are up for debate.

Other Reasons Your Dog May Bark at the Moon

Dogs may bark at a full moon because it is brighter outside, and some have speculated that dogs (who have far better natural night vision than humans) may find the brighter rays to be disturbing. Though not associated with the phases of the moon, dogs generally bark during the night due to their keen hearing coupled with nighttime's clearer atmosphere; sounds simply carry better then. Nocturnal animals, like raccoons and mice, forage for food and may attract a dog's attention. Finally, a dog might be trying to claim his territory, barking to remind other dogs in the neighborhood of their boundaries.

What You Can Do to Stop Nighttime Barking

While your dog's bark can protect you, incessant howling quickly can become a nuisance for your neighbors. In that case, keep your dog indoors where he can't see the moon (or other critters), and be sure to give him plenty of attention. Sometimes dogs bark just because they're lonely. If you must keep him outside, make sure he's comfortable, with plenty of water, and if he barks too much, always tell him "enough is enough."

By Debra Levy

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References
Live Science: Moon Myths: The Truth About Lunar Effects on You
K9 Loft: Why Do Dogs Bark at Night?
The Wolf Almanac: A Celebration of Wolves and Their World; Robert H. Busch

About the Author
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.