Dog Vision: How Well Do Dogs Actually See?

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jack russell terrier with poor dog vision wearing glasses

When you look at Fido, what do you see? Probably that cute face of theirs and love and excitement gleaming in their eyes. But have you ever wondered what Fido sees? Maybe you’ve heard that dogs see everything in black and white and shades of gray. Yet, that’s not true! Sure, dog vision is pretty different from ours, but their eyes are much more complex than that. Keep reading to learn more about your dog’s eye view and how it differs from yours!

Dog Eyes: How Do Dogs See?

Dogs’ eyes have evolved over millions of years to how they are today. They’re pretty complex! Granted, they’re not as intricate as ours. After all, human vision is more sensitive to color. On top of that, a human retina is also better adapted to depth perception. We can more accurately tell how far a certain object is. Dog vision doesn’t really allow that.

On the other hand, dogs are great at seeing things we can’t. Whereas we’re blind in the dark, they can see pretty well. That’s an advantage they have on us. The differences don’t end there.

Dog Vision vs Human Vision: What’s the Difference?

Think of the eye chart with random letters and numbers at a doctor’s office. The doctor will ask you to read the letters out loud to see if you need glasses. It tests your visual acuity. If a dog were to take that test, they’d fail miserably. Their eyes can’t see things very sharply. The world is sort of blurred out of focus to them. If you have 20/20 vision, your dog would have 20/80 vision.

We’re also much better at seeing color than our canine pals. We’ll get into that in a bit. For now, know that dog vision is not as sensitive to different colors. To us, a rainbow is a beautiful and colorful display in the sky. To pups, rainbows are significantly more boring, bland, and dull. Not as fun, right?

how do dogs see close up image of dog's eye

What Do Dogs See That Humans Can’t?

Don’t feel bad for Fido. They don’t “miss” seeing colors or knowing precisely how far away their favorite toy is. Dog vision serves them just fine! In fact, dog vision beats human vision in a bunch of ways.

For starters, dogs have night vision. We’re like blind mice in dim light, but they can see everything that’s going on. In the dark, their eyesight has no visual impairment: it is 20/20.

Secondly, pups have a wider field of vision. Their peripheral vision is much better than ours. Because of it, they can track prey. It’s what makes hunting breeds a hunter’s best friend.

All that combined with their acute sense of smell makes dogs well aware of their surroundings. Sure, they can’t tell if your sweater is bright green or dark yellow, but do they need to?

Dog Color Vision: Are Dogs Colorblind?

Inside a dog’s eye, there are color receptor cells. These cells are also called cones and you can find them in the retina. When compared to humans, dogs have fewer and weaker cones. That’s why it’s hard for them to see a variety of different colors. We can easily distinguish between green and red, but Fido can’t. This means Fido is color blind.

That isn’t to say dogs are completely blind to color. They’re not! Most healthy puppies have selective color blindness. That means they can see some colors, but not others.

What Colors Do Dogs See?

There’s a myth that dogs can only see black and white and shades of gray. That’s not true. Puppies have a decent color vision. Their visual perception of pink, red, and green is pretty bad. But they can see yellow, purple, and blue. The cones in their retina can pick up those three colors relatively easily.

dog color vision two dogs looking at image on screen

Can Dogs See TV?

Have you seen those videos of dogs intently watching and barking at the TV? Some puppies do like watching TV—it’s not just the internet playing tricks on you.

In normal light conditions, dogs can watch TV. Their retina picks up moving images on a screen quite well. Many dogs will even realize when there’s a dog in the shot. They can even recognize barks as TV-dog sounds!

Do Dogs See Color on Screens?

Since dogs have dichromatic vision, they can see some colors on screen. They see most things in a mix of yellow and blue. You and Fido might be watching the same show. But your different visual color perception will make it seem like you’re watching two different shows.

Dog Night Vision: Can Dogs See in the Dark?

Your pup is like a secret spy with cutting-edge technology: they can see in the dark. But they don’t need any fancy accessories. Their retina is more sensitive to light than ours. It picks up small amounts of light decently, whereas ours can’t do that. That’s why dog vision equals night vision.

Funnily enough, in bright light dogs see the world blurry. They have a harder time focusing on sharp images. That’s called a weaker visual acuity. To them, the world is like a blotch of dull colors. But their sense of smell and night vision more than makes up for it.

what do dogs see pug wearing reading glasses

5 Fun Dog Eye Facts

  1. Dogs have great peripheral vision. That means they have a wider visual field. It makes it easy to track fast-moving prey.
  2. Pups aren’t great with depth perception. If you see Fido walk into a door during the day, that’s why.
  3. Visual acuity isn’t a pooch’s forte. They tend to see things blurry, even if they’re not too far away.
  4. Older dogs see worse than young puppies. With age come various eye problems. Cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, and retinal degeneration are just some of these vision problems.
  5. Too much exposure to harmful UV light can lead to vision loss. We wear sunglasses to protect our eyes, and so can dogs.

Common Questions on Dog Vision

Do dogs see everything in black and white?

Can dogs see with no light in the room?

Do dogs get eye problems like we do?

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