How Do Dogs See?

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How Do Dogs See With Their EyesIf you’re a pet parent to dogs, you might have wondered if their soulful eyes can see better than our own. Maybe you’re wondering about the range of colors that dog eyes can see, or perhaps you assumed that canine vision is better because they have a better sense of smell and hearing than we do. However, this is a common misconception — in this article, we explore the secrets behind your dog’s vision and answer the question, “How do dogs see?” 

The Anatomy of Dogs’ Eyes 

It may come as a surprise but our canine companions actually have eyes that are similar to ours and share the following traits. 

  • Sclera: This is the white part of the eye. 
  • Cornea: A thin and clear layer in front of our eyes that can be easily injured.
  • Conjunctiva: Serves as the lining for eyelids that can be pink or inflamed when dogs have allergies or an eye infection.
  • Iris: The colored part of our eyes that controls the size of the pupil. 
  • Pupil: A black area at the center of the eye. 
  • Lens: Can be found behind the iris which can change in shape.
  • Retina: Located at the back of their eyes which contains different types of photoreceptors. 

However, dogs also have structures of the eye that aren’t present in human beings which include the following.

  • Tapetum Lucidum: This reflects light through the retina of their eyes which gives better nighttime vision.  
  • Third Eyelid: This is located at the corner of their eyes and helps to protect it from scratches as well as produce tears. 

How Do Dogs See? 

If you’re wondering whether or not a dog’s eyes have a better sense of sight compared to a human’s, there isn’t a simple answer. The truth is, their eyesight is both better and worse, depending on which aspect you wish to look into. 

What Kind of Eyesight Do Dogs Have? 

Normal human vision is known as 20/20 — the visual acuity of most dogs comes in at 20/75 which means that they need to be 20 ft away from an object to see as well as humans do 75 ft away. However, Labrador Retrievers have a much closer eyesight to 20/20 which is why they’re often used as seeing-eye dogs. 

Can Dogs See Moving Objects? 

Dog retinas have more rods compared to humans, which are sensitive to dim light, movement, and shape. This means that they can see small movements better compared to stationary objects, and also come with 10 to 20 times better motion detection than we do. 

Do Dogs See in the Dark?

Dogs possess many visual advantages that help them see better in the dark, such as: 

  • Larger pupils that absorb more light 
  • More rods inside the retina that lets them see under dim conditions
  • Closer lens to the retina for brighter images
  • The addition of the tapetum lucidum for better night vision

Do Dogs See in Color? 

Yes, dogs can see in color but have limited dichromatic vision which means they can only see two colors — shades of yellow and blue. They can also see different shades of gray but orange, green, and red aren’t included in a dog’s color spectrum which means they see fewer colors than we do. Scientists believe that a dog’s color perception is the same as a person with red-green color blindness thanks to the research conducted by Jay Neitz, an expert from the University of Washington. 

What is Color Blindness?

The first studies in congenital color blindness were performed by English scientist John Dalton during the 18th century when he learned that he and his brother couldn’t see some colors. Red-green colour blindness is the most common kind of color deficiency in people and occurs in up to 0.5 % of women and 8% of men in Northern Europe. The cause for this is known as an abnormality in color-detecting molecules and light receptors.

As such, dogs may see things differently from us; because they can’t really see green light, they may not be able to differentiate green grass from a green ball. 

Do Dogs Have Side Vision?

Because a dog’s eyes are spaced further apart compared to a human’s and rest at a 20-degree angle, a dog’s vision has an increased field of view and better peripheral vision. However, the breed of the dog may also affect what they can see — for example, Borzois will have a narrow face with eyes at the sides of their heads that allow for good depth perception. Pekingese, on the other hand, come with shorter faces that give them great binocular vision.  

How Do I Help My Dog with Colors? 

A dog’s vision will see different wavelengths of light and different colors compared to humans, so it will be beneficial to provide our pups with products that feature colors they can see. This is why the most popular colors in dog toys today are blue and yellow, and you probably shouldn’t buy red objects for your dog to play with since they will only see it as a gray blob. If you want to play with your dog, make sure that one item is blue and the other item is yellow — choose a color apart from red if you don’t want it lost around the backyard.  

How Do I Check My Dog’s Vision?

Because dogs can’t read eyecharts, they don’t really need great eyesight so checking for their vision is pretty basic. If your dog is able to walk inside a room without bumping into the door or make their way through an obstacle course under dim and bright lights, it’s known to have good vision. Veterinary ophthalmologists are trained to conduct eye exams, check vision, and perform surgery when needed.  


While dogs can’t see the world the way humans do, what we know about their vision can help us solve many illnesses and mysteries about the human eye. Research on dog blindness has helped to assist medical professionals in treating blindness in children and will continue to do good in the medical industry. So even if dogs can’t see in color the way we do, they will always bring brightness into our lives one way or another.