All we as dog owners want is to understand our furry friends. We will never know how dogs see the world, but we can learn about their senses. We, people, are curious. So we often ask our vets – Can dogs see in the dark?
Your dog’s eyes get that greenish glow in dim light. But does that mean they see in the dark? Or is it just a neat feature that dog eyes have. And do dog eyes have better night vision than human eyes, or is that just a straight up myth?
Of course, your dog vision’s is different from the human vision. For example, they don’t see all of the colors that we do. But is that the only difference? Can dogs see in total darkness like we all wish we could when we go for our late night pee?
Let’s find out together all about how the dog night vision works and what the real dog ability is to see in low light situations.
Can Dogs See In The Dark?
Dogs are cute! They are fluffy and we love to cuddle them. But, dogs used to be night hunters, even though that may be hard to imagine looking at them now. Yes, the ancestors of your adorable Labradoodle used to hunt their dinner, even though your pup has the finest feast ready for him every night without having to move his paw.
The ancestors of our dogs used to hunt from dusk to dawn. They were active during the night, so they needed to see even dark objects. They had to be able to spot movements in the dark so that they could hunt for food. This means your dog can see in low light.
But to understand how well they see in the dark, we have to understand how their eyes work. Humans and dogs are the world in a different way, and while dogs do have better night vision, the human vision allows us to see more colors and have better visual acuity to differentiate finer details in different objects.
How your dog’s eyes look like
To understand how dogs see in the dark, we have to have a quick dog eye anatomy lesson. Because the anatomical differences are just too big to be overlooked. It will also help you understand why your dog may have nocturnal vision advantages.
Firstly, if you just look at your dog’s eyes you’ll see that they have larger pupils than us. Secondly, we have the retina. This is the structure of the eye that has light sensitive types of photoreceptors called rods. Dogs’ ability to see in the dark comes from those rods. And, your dog has more rods than you do! We can’t give you the exact number, because they will be different in different dog breeds, but on average dogs (and cats as well) have a significantly larger number than we do.
That, and the large pupils is what helps dogs see in the dark better than we do. Which is definitely more than reasonable when you take into consideration that historically speaking, cats and dogs were a prey species and they needed good night vision to go hunting and catch their prey even where there was no bright light to help the out in the middle of the night.
But the main thing that helps dogs see in the dark is the tapetum lucidum. That is a reflective layer behind the eye ( or to be exact behind the retina ) that increases the amount of light for night vision. It reflects light outward just like a mirror. It also allows the retina a second chance to absorb the light.
That’s why dogs see so much better in dim light than we do.
Why do dogs eyes glow in the dark?
When you take a picture of your dog in low light with the flash on, there is a green glow in their eyes. But why is that? Well, that glow is caused by the tapetum lucidum.
The shiny surface of the tapetum reflects back the light that was not absorbed by the retina. It also amplifies the light through a phenomenon called fluorescence.
This slightly changes the color of the light that bounces back from the retina. The color shift gives our dogs that greenish-yellow glow in their eyes.
Thanks to the tapetum, dogs are able to reflect up to 130 times more light than us. This helps them to see about five times better in the dark than we do.
A dog’s field of vision
Your dog doesn’t only see better in the dark than you! Your dog’s field of vision is much wider than yours too.
If you don’t know what a field of vision is. It’s how wide you can see when looking straight. Your dog’s eyes are placed on the side of its head. Because of that, your dog can see more than you. Your dog also has binocular vision. It’s where the field of view of each eye overlaps. This is needed for depth perception.
Experts say that your dog’s visual field is 240 degrees. But, your visual field is 180 degrees. I know this sounds a bit confusing. So take a look at the picture below. It will be much clearer.
Different dog breeds will have a slight difference in their field of vision, but generally speaking it will be better than the one of a human.
Can Dogs See In The Dark Yes, they can! But not perfectly. They won’t see you in a pitch black room, but they will have a better vision than you have in low light settings. However, the sad truth is that your dog’s vision isn’t the best. No matter if it’s day or night.
Dog eyes were designed to catch prey in motion on a wide field even in low light situations. The canine color field is much smaller than ours, and they see far fewer colors than we do. In addition to that they have a blurrier focus, and don’t see nearly as clear as we do (at least the ones of us who are blessed with good vision).
Your dog has dichromatic vision. This means they see the world in shades of violet-blue and yellow. Your dog can’t see green and orange. They also don’t have a clear vision. Dogs only see clearly within the distance of 20 feet.
But, don’t feel bad for your dog. Unlike you and me, sight is not a dog’s most important sense.
Dogs rely much more on their sense of smell and hearing. Even though your dog might not see you from a far distance, he can smell you. Even from far away. And Isn’t that pretty cool as well?
As you can see, there is no reason to feel bad for your dog. We can wish for a dog’s sense of smell!
And lastly, how dogs see is still a mystery for us. But, we know that dogs can see much better in the dark than we do. About five times better.
So, while you’re struggling to find the bathroom at night, your dog can do it in his sleep.