Can Dogs See in the Dark?

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Introduction


You have probably heard a lot about how people think dogs see. Most people believe that dogs are colorblind, which isn’t entirely true. When it comes to seeing in the dark, you probably think of cats, but dogs actually see pretty well in the dark, too. It is believed that dogs can actually see five times better than humans can in the dark, while cats can see six times better than humans.

While humans don’t have great vision at night, many animals do. It has everything do to with the anatomy of the eyes for different species. Let’s take a look at how and why dogs see in the dark.

Signs Dogs Can See in the Dark

It is hard not to notice that your dog seems to move around just fine in a dark room, while you are stubbing your toes and running into walls. Many people are surprised at just how well their pets can navigate through the darkness. Fortunately, there are many signs that show just how well dogs are able to see with very little light.

One of the most obvious signs is that they don’t run into things in the dark, but you may also notice that your dog can find things like treats and toys in the dark, too, so it is obvious that they didn’t just memorize the layout of your home.

Other indications that your dog can see in the dark can be found in your pet’s body language. When your dog is in the dark, they will exhibit the same signs they do when they see something in the light, because dogs don’t really care if it is light or dark. Since their eyes work in both situations, they are likely to act the same way. If you have a dog that frequently barks at squirrels or dogs as they pass your home during the day, they will likely do the same at night. This is a really good indicator that your dog can see just fine. 


Body Language

When your dog is in the dark, they will exhibit the same signs they do when they see something in the light, because dogs don’t really care if it is light or dark. Since their eyes work in both situations, they are likely to act the same way. If you have a dog that frequently barks at squirrels or dogs as they pass your home during the day, they will likely do the same at night. This is a really good indicator that your dog can see just fine. Here are some body language cues that show your dog can see in the dark:

  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Wag tail
  • Running

Other Signs

A few other signs that your dog can see in the dark include:
  • Being Able to Chase Things at Night
  • Finding Objects with Ease
  • Avoiding Furniture in Dark Rooms

HIstory of Dogs Being Able to See in the Dark

Dogs used to be wild animals, and their domestication eventually led to a much more comfortable and safe life for the species. When dogs were still wild, however, they had a number of predators that they had to watch out for. Large predators like bears, wolves, and coyotes all would’ve posed a danger to wild dogs. Since dogs couldn’t control when other predators would hunt or fight for territory, it was important that they could see in the dark.

Even though dogs don’t have perfect vision in the dark, they could see well enough to run through the dark wooded areas and hopefully escape from the predators.

Dogs also would’ve needed to be able to navigate in their dens. It isn’t likely that a species with poor vision in the dark would choose to live in dark, unground dens. In these dens, dogs housed their puppies, and it was important that they could see, so they didn’t kill their young.

Science Behind Dogs Being Able to See in the Dark

Now that we know why dogs need to be able to see at night, let’s take a look at just how they do it. Dogs eyes may look similar to those of a human, but they are built differently, and these differences allow dogs to see in the dark better than humans. 

The first big difference is that dogs have larger pupils than humans. These larger pupils allow more light into the retinas of a dog’s eyes. Inside the retinas, there are these tiny cells called rods. Rods are light sensitive and help your dog see with very little light. Dogs have a higher number of rods than humans, which give them better sight at night.

Another factor of a dog’s ability to see at night is the tapetum lucidum, which is part of the dog’s eyes that reflects light back into a dog’s retinas just like a mirror would. The tapetum lucidum gives your dog’s eyes a second chance to process the light in the room or outside when it is dark, which gives them a better chance to see things. The tapetum lucidum isn’t present in human eyes. This is also the part of the eye that makes your dog’s eyes glow at night.

Dealing With Your Dog Being Able to See in the Dark

While humans are definitely at a disadvantage when it comes to seeing in the dark, that doesn’t necessarily mean that dogs have better vision than people. In daylight, humans see a lot that dogs can’t. 

For instance, dogs are extremely nearsighted, while people with perfect vision can see much further into the distance than dogs. And while dogs aren’t colorblind, they can’t see the full spectrum of colors that humans can. Dogs are limited to just seeing yellows and blues, which means that shades of green and red aren’t visible to dogs. Instead, they see objects of green and red in yellows and blues.

This lack of ability to see the full range of colors can also make it difficult for your dog to see certain things at night. For example, if you throw a green toy in a grassy area at night, your dog will have a difficult time finding the toy. Help your dog out by using glow-in-the-dark toys at night.

If you let your dog outside at night, take extra precautions. You should consider only letting them out on a leash or in an enclosed backyard. A spooked dog can take off, and it will be difficult for you to find your dog in the dark. Also, drivers will have a hard time seeing your dog, which is why you should always keep your dog leashed on nighttime walks. Consider also using glow leashes and collars to make your pooch more visible to drivers and other walkers.

Safety Tips for Dogs Seeing in the Dark

  • Keep your home tidy so your dog is less likely to get hurt in the dark.
  • Take extra precautions with your dog outside in the dark.
  • Buy glowing products if you will be out in the dark with your dog often.