Can Dogs See In The Dark?

Can Dogs See In The Dark?
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You might have heard that dogs and other animals can see much better in the dark than humans. But is this true? 

There’s some truth to the idea that dogs can see in the dark, but plenty of misconceptions about dogs’ eyesight too … so let’s jump in and learn the truth about whether or not dogs can see in the dark. 

Can Dogs See In The Dark – Yes or No?

The short answer is yes … dogs can see in the dark. 

However, it depends what you mean by “dark.” Dogs see great in low-light situations, and even when it’s quite dark. However, dogs can’t see in pitch-black dark … when there’s no light at all.

In fact, no animal can see in true pitch-black darkness. The eye requires light to function properly. The retina is a layer of light-sensitive tissue in the eye that turns light into electrical signs. These travel through the optic nerve and into the brain, which processes the signals into images. Without any light, this process can’t work. 

So while dogs can see in the dark, they can’t see in situations where there is no light at all. 

RELATED: The eyes: window to your dog’s health ….

How Well Can Dogs See In The Dark?

Dogs can see very well in the dark, at night, and in other low-light situations.

Some people wonder “can dogs see in the dark better than humans?” It’s a great question. You can get a much better sense of how well dogs can see in the dark by comparing their night vision to other species, like humans. 

While dogs don’t have perfect night vision, they still see significantly better at night than we do. Dogs can see normally with as little as 15% of the light that the human eye needs.

However, remember the earlier point: in pitch-black darkness, your dog won’t see any better than you. So even though dogs can see very well in the dark, you don’t want to leave your dog in places with no light at all. 

How Do Dogs See In The Dark?

The structure of your dog’s eye gives him a few specific advantages that help him see so well in the dark. 

There are photoreceptors in the eye known as rods, which help dogs’ and humans’ eyes collect dim light and process images in low-light situations. Dogs have many more of these rods than humans, and that’s why dogs can see so well in the dark. 

Dogs also have a tapetum lucidum, which is that mirrored surface at the back of the eye that reflects light, and helps them see at night. Humans don’t have a tapetum lucidum. The tapetum lucidum is also what gives dogs’ and cats’ eyes that reflective green glow that you’ll sometimes see at night. 

RELATED: Read about carrots for eye health …

Can Dogs See In The Dark Like Cats? 

It’s also natural to wonder how a dog’s night vision compares to animals like cats. While dogs and cats both see well in the dark, cats have dogs beat in the night vision department. 

Cats have very large eyes and a vertical pupil that allows their eyes to take in more light. In fact, they need a seventh the amount of  light as humans to operate well in the dark. Like dogs, they have a tapetum lucidum … and in cats it reflects 130 times more light than a human eye.

In short: dogs see well in the dark, but cats can see in the dark even better than dogs. 

Can Dogs See In Color? 

Another misconception about dogs’ sight is that dogs can’t see in color. For a long time, it was thought that dogs could only see in black and white. 

It turns out this is a myth. 

Dogs can see in color, as they have color cone receptors in their eyes. However, they only have two of these cones: blue and yellow. While humans have blue, red, and green cones. This means that while dogs can see colors, their perception of it is very limited compared to humans.

Dogs have a particularly hard time distinguishing between the colors red, green, and grey … a bit like a colorblind human. This also means dogs can’t easily distinguish shades that contain red and green, like orange, pink, or purple. 

So while dogs have humans beat in the night vision department, humans have a much richer color spectrum than dogs. 

How Far Can Dogs See?

Humans also have better visual acuity than dogs … meaning we can see things that are further away more clearly than most dogs can. 

A human with perfect eyesight has 20/20 vision, meaning they can distinguish letters or objects from a distance of 20 feet away. By comparison, most dogs have 20/75 vision, meaning if they’re standing 20 feet from an object, they’ll see it as well as a human standing 75 feet away. 

So if you’re wondering “how far can dogs see?” … the answer is that most dogs can see about 20 feet away at most. 

Like many things, this can depend on breed, though. Labradors are often used as seeing eye dogs, because they have been bred for better eyesight over time. So they may see closer to 20/20 vision. 

So even though dogs and cats see better in the dark than humans do, humans have better eyesight overall, especially in higher light conditions. 

How Well Do Dogs See Movement?

Dogs are very good at seeing movement, because they have more rods in the retina than we do. Rods are sensitive to movement, as well as shape and dim light. So dogs can see moving objects much better than stationary objects, with 10-20 times better motion sensitivity than humans. 

This ability helps your dog spot moving prey. You can recognize it when you’re on a walk and your dog hasn’t noticed a rabbit who’s “frozen” still on the grass – but the second the bunny moves, your dog’s tugging at the leash to go after it! 

This ability also means dogs pick up on small changes in body posture and movement, and means it’s easy to train dogs with silent cues like hand signals.

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