Can Dogs See in the Dark?

Dogs and vision in dark

If you hear bumps in the night, it’s probably not your dog! Healthy dogs can see in the dark better than humans, but not as well as cats. So how much can dogs see in the dark? The secret to dog night vision is all in the sight receptors that distinguish between daylight and dark.

How does dog night vision work?

Dogs do not have night vision in the sense that they can see when it's very dark or there's no light.

A dog’s eye is constructed of a cornea, pupil, lens, and retina which contains photoreceptors made up of rods that absorb light and cones to absorb color and brightness.

The secret of a dog’s night vision that allows them to see better than humans in low light situations is a large amount of light-sensitive rods found in the retina that collect light.  In dim rooms, light is captured by the pupil, which is the eye’s light control center.

The dog’s rod-dominant retina collects this light and using a thin tissue behind the retina called the tapetum lucidum amplifies and reflects the light back to the camera-like lens which focuses on what the dog is looking at.

Dogs may be able to see much better than people can in some situations, but be sure not to leave your dog in very dark rooms. He will see as little as a human eye can in pitch black areas.


What helps a dog see at night?

A dog’s vision has developed several ways to form a picture of what’s around them at night.  Since dogs do not have a large percentage of cones in their retina to capture brightness and color, the eyes rely on the following features for night vision:

  • Motion detection
  • Light sensitivity
  • Visual perspective
  • The visual field of view
  • Depth perception
  • Visual acuity
  • Color perception
  • Form /shape sharpness

6 facts about dog eye-sight

  1. Canines have dichromatic vision, which means that dogs see color although dull and mostly in blue-violet, yellow and shades of gray. The lower percentage of cones means that dogs have diminished color absorption and lose visual detail.
  2. A dog’s eyes glow green in the dark when light shines on then because it’s reflecting off the tapetum lucidum, which humans do not have.
  3. The position of a dog’s eyes on their head gives them a wider peripheral field of vision, which ranges between 240 to 270 degrees, depending on the breed.
  4. Due to the high volume of light-sensitive rods in a dog’s eye, dogs are able to detect motion much faster with up to 80 images captured per second versus 60 images per second for humans.
  5. Sight is not a primary sense for dogs, who rely mostly on their sense of smell to navigate the world.
  6. Unlike 20/20 vision of people, dogs have a visual acuity of 20/80 so something that pet parents can see clearly at 80 feet can only be clearly seen by a dog if it’s within 20 feet.

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