When it comes to seeing in the dark, humans struggle, but dogs have the ability to see fairly well. Even though cats are better known for having excellent night vision, dogs are just a step behind. Scientists estimate that dogs are able to see five times better than humans in low-light or dark situations, while cats can see six times better than humans.
While it is probably pretty obvious that your dog can see in the dark by the way they act in the darkness, we are going to take a look at how dogs are able to see so much better than humans in the dark.
Signs Dogs Can See at Night
For most dog owners, it is very obvious that their pooch can see at night. Your dog probably has no problem romping around the backyard with only light from the moon. Your dog has never run into the giant stump in the middle of the yard or crashed into a fence post. These are great indicators that your dog can see in low-light and dark situations that would be much for difficult for humans.
Watching your dog navigate through the darkness, you may
notice that they become alert and stare at things, just like they would in the
light. Like in the daytime, your dog might also bark or wag when they see certain things. For instance, if your dog sees another animal at night, you
will probably hear them bark, just like they would during daylight.
History of Dogs Being Able to See at Night
Historically, it was extremely important that dogs were able to see at night. Since dogs would have to defend themselves against larger predators such as wolves, coyotes, and bears, dogs needed to be able to see no matter what time of day it was. Dogs that couldn’t see at night were at risk of being killed by these predators. Even without perfect night vision, dogs were able to see well enough to avoid being killed while fleeing from other predators. This is still an important skill for many dogs that live outdoors or close to wooded areas.
As a den-dwelling species, it was also important that dogs could see at night, because dens are known for being dark. The darkness protected the pups from being seen by predators, but their mother would need to be able to see the puppies to avoid stepping on them or lying on them and crushing them! If dogs were unable to see in the darkness, it is likely that they would’ve come up with a better living situation.
Science of Dogs Being Able to See at Night
Now that you know that dogs are able to see at night, it is important to understand how their eyes work to allow them to see without much light. The anatomy of a dog’s eye is different than that of a human, which is why dogs see better than humans do at night.
First, dogs, like many other animals including cats, have larger pupils than people do. Large pupils allow for more light to enter the retinas. Inside the retinas, there are tiny cells called rods that are light-sensitive. Dogs also have more of these rods than humans, which allow them to see better in low-light than we can.
Another thing to consider when thinking of your dog’s ability to see in the dark is its Flicker Fusion Frequency (FFF). The FFF is the frequency at which your dog no longer sees light flicker but instead sees the light as a constant source. The higher the FFF, the better the ability to see in the dark; dogs have a higher FFF than humans.
Dogs also have something called the tapetum lucidum. The tapetum lucidum is part of the dog’s eye that acts like a mirror to reflect the light that enters the eye back into the retina. During this process, the retina is given a second to register the light entering the eye, which gives your dog the ability to see more in the dark than you would be able to. This part of the eye also causes your dog’s eyes to glow in the dark.
Dealing With Your Dog Being Able to See at Night
Now that you know that your dog can see at night, it is important to understand a little more about what they can see. Since dogs don’t see color in the same way that humans do, it is likely that dogs continue to have a hard time seeing objects of specific colors at night. Red and green are not visible to dogs, so anything in those colors tends to blend in with other colors, and at night, this may be even more difficult for your dog. Keep that in mind next time you want to play a game of nighttime fetch and consider a glow-in-the-dark product.
If you are letting your dog outside in the dark, be sure that you do your best to keep him or her safe. A fenced in yard or a leash are necessary when letting your dog out at night. Just because your pet can see at night doesn’t mean that it will save them from predators or getting spooked and running off.
You should also take more precautions when walking your dog early in the morning or late at night when it is still dark. Consider a glowing leash or collar to make your dog more visible to others. Keep your dog leashed at all times during walks in the dark to prevent them from dashing into the street where drivers will have a hard time seeing them.
You can also make life at home a little easier for your pooch. If you are leaving your dog in a dark room, keep it clean and tidy. While your dog can see in the dark, you don’t want to make its living space a minefield of objects that your dog has to try to maneuver around.
By a Pomsky lover Chelsea Mies
Published: 02/15/2018, edited: 04/06/2020