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Can dogs see in the dark?

on Tue 3 Jan

Can dogs see in the dark?

There are many things that might go bump in the night, but will your dog be one of them? Well, some dogs can be delightfully clumsy, but the question we want to ask is can your dog see in the dark? 

Let’s find out!

What big eyes they have

Before we get into the specifics around canine night vision, we need to understand how a dog’s eyes work when compared to our own. When it comes to determining colour, dogs are not particularly good at this. While we humans can see a large chunk of the light spectrum, from red to violet, dogs can only really see in tones of yellow and blue. What’s more, they aren’t very good at depth perception which is why your dog might miss the treats that have been thrown for them or miss the tennis ball completely.

So things aren’t looking good for doggy eyes right now, which isn’t surprising given that they rely far more on their senses of smell, taste and hearing, but what happens when we turn out the light?


Dark eyes, dark vision

If you’re looking for a logical answer, it’s worth travelling back to the times when dogs were wild animals rather than our faithful friends. These pack animals hunted and moved around the most during the hours of dusk making them Crepuscular (the Latin name for animals that prefer to work during the twilight hours). So logic dictates that they would have to have some ability to see in the dark, even if their nose was doing most of the heavy lifting for them. So do they still have this ability?

Yes, they do. Very much so in fact. Like many Crepuscular animals, they have a membrane of reflective cells inside their eyes called a Tapetum Lucidum. Have you ever taken a picture of your dog at night and seen that strange glowing light in their eyes? Well, that’s the tapetum lucidum at work, which is highlighting all of the shapes in the darkness for the dog to see. This, combined with several other factors tells us that dogs have very good night vision indeed. So if you do hear something go bump in the night, it’s probably not the dog!


Interested in reading more? Why not explore the Fur Family Tree Blog here