You’ve probably heard that dogs see the world in black and white.
Perhaps you’ve assumed that dogs see better than humans since their senses of smell and hearing are better than ours.
However, many of the things we believe about canine vision are actually built upon assumptions and myths.
In actuality, it’s more complicated than that.
In some ways, dogs see better than humans, but in others they don’t.
Keep reading to discover how dogs see the world!
Dog Vision vs. Human Vision
In order to understand the differences between dog and human vision, you first need to understand how your eyes differ from your dogs.
All eyes contain two different types of nerve cells that help brains process light and motion: rods and cones.
Simply put, cones process colors and light in the daytime, and rods help our eyes sense and process shapes, movement, and dim light.
Dogs have more rod types than humans, whereas humans have more cone types than dogs.
Both of these distinctions lead to significant differences between how dogs and humans see the world.
How Dogs See Color
The human eye has three types of cones, allowing us to distinguish between shades and combinations of blue, red, and green.
According to an article in Visual Neuroscience, canine eyes only have two types of cones, which means they likely can only see two color shades.
Most scientists agree that these colors are blue and yellow.
Objects that are not blue or yellow will either appear as a different shade of one of those two colors, or as gray.
So, dogs are technically colorblind, but they don’t see in black and white like the old myth suggests!
They’re vision is more like a human’s who has red-green color blindness.
However, a recent study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that many mammals, dogs included, can actually detect ultraviolet rays that the human eye cannot.
While humans may see color better than dogs, canine eyes do have a few advantages over human eyes that help them as a species.
Canine Night Vision
While cats reign supreme in the field of night vision, dogs are still able to see much better than humans at night.
Dogs are able to see better at night than humans for three main reasons
Having more rods means dogs are able to pick up color and movement more easily in low light situations.
Dogs also have bigger pupils, which allows their eyes to take in more light.
Lastly, dogs also have a special layer of reflective eye tissue called the tapetum lucidum
This layer of tissue sits behind the eye, and reflects light back through the retinas.
Between their large pupils and the tapetum lucidum, dogs are able to make the most of even the smallest bit of light in their environment.
Fun Fact: The tapetum lucidum is actually responsible for your dog looking ghostly when you take flash pictures of them at night. Their eyes look the way they do because you can actually see their reflective layer shining your camera flash back at you!
How Well Can Dogs See?
Because dogs have more rods in their eyes, they can see objects in motion much more clearly than humans.
They also can pick up on motion more easily in general.
Dogs also have better peripheral vision than humans because their eyes are set further apart.
However, human’s enjoy clearer vision at distances because their field of vision has more overlap.
While humans typically are expected to have 20/20 vision, dogs generally have 20/75.
This means that a dog would need to be 20 feet away to see something clearly that a human could see well at 75 feet of distance.
So, dogs are generally nearsighted; they can see well up close, but the further an object gets, the blurrier it becomes.
That being said, so long as something is close enough, dogs can actually pick up much more than humans when it comes to objects in motion.
Can Dogs See What’s On the TV?
Dog’s ability to pick up on movement better than humans actually leads to some interesting facts.
While you’re watching TV, you’ve probably wondered whether or not your snuggle buddy is also a fan of your latest binge watch.
Turns out, if you’re watching on a modern TV, they can!
The frame rates of older TVs flashed at a rate too slow, so dogs likely saw the screen as just a strobing light.
However, the frame rate was still fast enough that humans weren’t able to pick up on it.
On the other hand, the frame rates on modern TVs flicker faster, so your pup can snuggle up and enjoy movie night as much as you do.
If Dogs Can’t See Many Colors, Why are Their Toys So Colorful?
The thought has probably crossed your mind.
If dogs can’t see the full spectrum of color, why are their toys so colorful?
It might help to remember here that you’re the one buying the toys, not your dog!
Most pet toy designers make their toys based on what they think humans are most likely to buy.
So, next time you’re in the market for a new toy for your best friend, try buying something blue or yellow!
Even better, you can take your dog with you to the store and see what catches their eye.
Can I Test my Dog’s Vision?
For starters, any true examination of anything on your dog should be done by a vet, especially an eye exam.
That being said, a canine eye exam isn’t really going to look like a human eye exam.
For instance, your dog can’t read. So, your vet isn’t going to be able to give them a list of letters to read off.
According to MedVet, an eye exam at the vet may include:
- Checking tear production
- Measuring eye pressure
- A detailed examination of the front of the eye
- A close look at the back of the eye
Some dogs do see a decline in vision as they age, so it’s important to know the signs of potential visual problems.
If you see your dog is bumping into things more, or not noticing their surroundings, consider giving your vet a call.
If your dog’s eyes seem to be growing more and more cloudy, this may be a good time to call the vet.
However, sometimes cloudy eyes aren’t a cause for concern.
Lastly, if your pup’s eyes seem to be swollen, weepy, or irritated at all, you should take them to the vet.
Vision is a vital part of your dog’s health.
Knowing how their vision works, and how to notice when it’s not working right, will help you love your dog that much more!