Can Dogs See in the Dark

Can Dogs See in the Dark?

As dog owners, we are constantly fascinated by the many abilities that our furry friends possess.  It is also easy to compare their capacities to our own.  For example, we like to compare the difference between canine and human vision.  How well dogs see in the dark, and what they see is one of those topics dog lovers often ask about.  A study completed by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association stated that vision is the collective summary of the following:

  • Visual perspective
  • Depth perception
  • Field of view
  • Color vision
  • Visual acuity
  • The ability to perceive light and motion

The first step is to understand what the dog was originally evolved to do.  As natural predators, dogs are (or were) nocturnal hunters.  They are “crepuscular”, meaning they are active primarily at dusk and dawn.  They need to have the ability to spot movement in dim light to track and catch their breakfast or dinner.  An animal’s ability to see in the dark is also influenced by Flicker Fusion Frequency (FFF) (or threshold). This is the frequency at which flickering light no longer appears to flicker (meaning it appears as a constant illumination). The faster a species moves through its environment, the higher its FFF.

However, a dog’s secret weapon to have the ability to see in the dark is the part of the canine eye called the tapetum lucidum.  This acts as a mirror within the eye, reflecting the light that enters it, and giving the retina another opportunity to register the light.  So, dogs can certainly see in the dark, and other low-light situations much better than humans.  Adding to dogs’ special ability to see in the dark is their increased field of vision: Most dog breeds have about 250 degrees of field of vision. Compare that to ours, which is about 190 degrees.