Can Dogs See in The Dark? How Well Can They See?

can dogs see in the dark

You’re out for a night walk with your dog on a chilling road with barely any lights on. You’re searching for your flashlight but your dog guides you to your home safely.  You might be perplexed and ask “Can dogs see in the dark?” The answer is YES, dogs can see in the dark. Your dog might not be able to see in pitch-black darkness but they can still see well in dim light areas. They can see even better than us in the dark with the help of a special tissue called Tapetum lucidum. This tissue is responsible for doing wonders by enhancing light entering pupils under low light conditions.

How Does a Dog’s Vision Work?

Dogs dark
Photo credit: Black dog project

According to Petsdoc, an image in a dog’s eye is the collective summary of:

  • the ability to perceive light and motion
  • visual perspective
  • field of view
  • depth perception
  • visual acuity
  • color vision

We all know that dogs were domesticated from their wild ancestors when they were nocturnal hunters. The wild canines that our pooches grew from were active primarily at dusk and dawn. So, vision in dim light conditions was their prerequisite for hunting.

Can Dogs See in a Pitch-Black Room?

Dogs surely have eyes with a great mechanism to illuminate; they can see better in low light conditions. However, they are not able to see in pitch black conditions. Their vision does not entirely depend upon their eyesight; their reflexes are equally reliable. If your dog can recognize where you are even in a pitch-dark room, it’s because of their reflexes and familiarity with the surrounding. In unfamiliar places, dogs may tumble and cause injuries to themselves, so it is not recommended that you leave your dog in such pitch-black rooms and dark spaces.

How Well Can Your Dog See in The Dark?

Taking the age and breed of your dog into consideration, in different levels of darkness, images that they perceive may be pretty well or just okay. But they can see better than we do in those conditions.  All canines have excellent vision in the night. However, this fact does not mean that they can see sharp pictures. Your dog sees images like grainy pictures in the dark, like one from an old camcorder.

How Do Dogs See at Night?

dark walk dogs
Photo credit: Glam Dogs

Dogs have larger pupils than ours so that in dim light conditions, light trapped will be maximized, and their sight in the night is optimized.

The other interesting thing is the dog’s rod-dominant retina that collects all of the light. Moreover, the retina uses a thin tissue behind itself (which is like the mirror in the lens of cameras), to focus on what your dog is looking at carefully. This delicate tissue is known as tapetum lucidum. This tissue is responsible for enhancing light for your pooch to see in the dark.

Can All Dogs See in the Dark?

dogs dark
Photo Credit: Dog’s Point

According to a research study published on Psychonomic Bulletin, all dog breeds roughly have the same spectrum of colors and have a similar capacity to see in darker scenes. But the structural differences, such as a longer snout or the position of the eyes, can cause slight differences in how different dog breeds can perceive color and see in the dark. A dog with a longer snout will have disturbance in the overlapping of vision of their eyes, but a dog with a shorter muzzle will have more of a binocular vision.

With cataract in your pooch, their eyes can’t create an image on the retina that further causes vision loss. However, the light may still pass through the lens, and your pet can see the light and dark but they won’t be able to see clear pictures. Seeing blurry images is also the main reason why your dog barks a lot at night.

Can Old Dogs See in the Dark?

senior dog
Photo credit: Pet Central

Dogs can see well when they become fully grown adults however, their vision gets worse with the coming of their old age just like in humans. The lens in a dog’s eye has many layers like an onion. After 7 years of age, it gets pretty hard for them to see in the dark correctly; their vision becomes cloudy and less reliable. It’s better to never leave your aged dog in dark places.

Can Dogs See Better in the Dark than Humans?

Yes, dogs can see better in the dark than humans because of their extremely organized eye system. Due to the lack of the fovea, they can concentrate on motion more comfortably than humans. Also, their field of view in general is more extensive than humans. But they see softer details and have a blurrier focus than us.

Can Dogs See in the Dark Better than Cats?

According to Animal Planet, research led by a professor of comparative ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison estimates that a dog can see in light five times dimmer than what the human eye needs. Cats, on the other hand,  need about one-sixth of the light humans need to see in darkness. So, cats are actually a step ahead than dogs when it comes to night vision.

Why Do Dog’s Eyes Shine at Night?

Dogs have those glow in the dark eyes that seem like independent flashlights which help them see in darker nights. When you point your torchlight in their eyes, their eyes shine like a green orb. It is known as the eyeshine phenomenon. This happens when unabsorbed light reflects off the eye’s tapetum lucidum, which is a mirror-like membrane. Go ahead and see those shiny green eyes while you go for a night walk.

Should You Leave Your Dog Alone in the Dark?

dark collar dog night
Photo credit: Pinterest

Dogs can see in low light environments, so should you leave your four-legged companion in the dark? No, none of your pets including your dog should be left alone in the dark for a long time. However, if you have to leave the house for a while in the evening, most dogs will do fine without lights until you get home.

Are you worried about your dog wandering alone in the dark? You can get your dog a glow-in-dark collar so that any vehicles passing by can clearly see your dog crossing roads and walking by at night. This collar will prevent your pooches from getting injured and also makes them noticeable for everyone.  You can get your own glow-in-dark color here.

Do Dogs Need Light?

dogs night light
Photo credit: Stocsky

If your dog is afraid of dark places and has separation anxiety, it’s best to keep a small source of light on. While sleeping, however, dogs feel comfortable in dark places. Perform experiments on different light conditions at night and follow whichever light condition your dog prefers.

In summary, dogs can easily see in low light conditions. However, we don’t recommend you leave your dog alone in the dark for long periods of time. They can rarely see clear pictures at night. Their capability depends upon their age, breed, and their upbringing. Have you ever left your dog alone in the dark? Let us know your experiences in the comments.

To find more information about your four legged friend, please visit our website.

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