Lunatic Dogs: Are Dogs Affected by Lunar Cycles?

Dogs and Lunar Cycles: What’s the Influence?

The belief that lunar cycles can and do influence aspects of behavior has existed since Roman times. Do lunar cycles impact dogs? Despite recent attempts to establish the validity of this concept, none – bar one – has produced any convincing evidence to support it. The one affirmative study concluded that schizophrenics are more troubled at full moon than at other times. The results of this study were statistically significant. Most human studies, however, have concluded that there is little or no effect of the phases of the moon on behavior, so positive findings on this subject is, at best, few and far between. But what of our dogs? More attuned to their environment, as they are, might they be influenced, however slightly, by the phases of the moon? “Maybe,” is the answer to that question though no one has successfully demonstrated this influence.

Evidence Of Lunar Cycle Influence on Other Species

Some species do show a few signs of influence of the lunar cycle:

Why Dogs Might Behave Differently During Lunar Phases

Evidence Dogs and Cats May Be Affected by Lunar Cycles

There is no concrete evidence to this effect; however, anecdotes abound and some seem to have a reasonable explanation. For example, a client’s cat apparently sprayed a lot of urine when there was a full moon. The cat’s owners were lobster fishermen and were thus always highly aware of the weather and tides. Why might a cat spray more on a moonlit night? Possibly because of increased activity of outdoor critters facilitated by the moonlight or because of the intruders’ increased visibility to the indoor cat. Was the cat a lunatic? I don’t think so. It might have behaved differently during a full moon but there was a reasonable explanation for its increased agitation at this time.

Presumably the same might hold true for dogs. Coyotes and wolves are often depicted howling at the moon. One might imagine that hunting would be better on a moonlit night and that there would thus be increased activity of these wild canids under such conditions. Though they have excellent night vision, neither dogs, wolves, nor coyotes can see when there is no light, but full moonlight, creates virtually daylight visibility for them. Howling is a long distant communication, with members of a group signaling their location to each other by this means. Dogs may howl on moonlit nights because they sense increased movements of other animals and feel a greater the need to communicate their position. Others might anticipate the thrill of the chase and become generally more restless or agitated.

Even we humans can be driven to act by primordial instincts that we barely appreciate or recognize. Dogs probably have even greater genetically imbued subliminal agendas than we do. Perhaps dogs that howled on moonlit nights remained in better contact with their pack members and that this behavior somehow conferred a survival benefit. The precise benefit may have been linked to increased activity of prey on moonlit nights, hence a greater need for strategic communication on these potentially fruitful nights.