Can Dogs See in The Dark? How Well Do Dogs See At Night?

can dogs see in dark

Dogs are fascinating animals, and their owners are always wondering about the many extraordinary abilities that their canine friends might process.

Abilities like their exceptionally sharp sense of smell, clear vision, their age in human years as compared to dog years, agility, and strength among other things.

One such hot and much discussed topic among dog lover has been the ability of dogs to see in the dark. Can the dogs see in complete darkness and how well is their vision when there is no light?

As per the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, vision in dogs is a combination of the following;


  • Ability to detect motion and light
  • Perception of depth
  • Visual perspective and acuity
  • Field of vision
  • Color vision


Can Dogs See in the Dark?


The simple answer to this question is that the dogs are able to see in low light conditions instead of complete darkness. Dogs possess limited night vision, and in contrast to humans who require proper lighting to see clearly, dogs can see things in dim or low light situations. This means that the dogs are just as blind as humans in pitch black darkness.


The anatomy of a dog’s eye is a lot different from a human eye. Like other canines, dogs have bigger pupils that allow more light to enter and help them see better in the dark. In dogs, the retina is shaped like rods, and have wide structures ‘tapetum lucidum’ behind them that can make them glow in dim light situations.

The anatomy of their retinas allows the light to move in twice through mirror like structures. The excess light is reflected and it leads to the phenomena of glowing eyes in the dark. It is called fluorescence where the light is amplified by up to 130 times.

In the same process, the wavelength of the light is also changed, that’s why the glowing eyes often have different colors like a prism. This also offers an explanation to why the dogs seem to be more sensitive to bright lights as compared to humans.


While there are humans who have a 20/20 eye vision, our canine buddies boost a 20/75 vision. This mean that a human eye is able to pick up details over 75 feet away that a dog will not be able to see even at 20 feet distance. What a human is seeing in all of its details at that distance, a dog is only getting a softer, blurry version of the same item.


Apart from difference in anatomical structure, dogs possess better vision at night because of their increased field of vision. While a human eye is limited to only 190 degrees of a division, most of the dog breeds can see up to 250 degrees. As dogs used to be nocturnal hunters before domestication, common consensus is that the ability to see things in dim light is a remnant of their wild genes when they used to hunt during the golden hours.


How to Help Your Dog See in Dark?


Dogs cannot see in complete darkness; a night light would be greatly helpful. It will keep your house dim lit, and give your dog the light needed to easily move around and keep themselves entertained.


Are Dogs Afraid of the Dark?


Another commonly asked question is, are dogs frightened of the dark? Like humans, most dogs are not fearful of the darkness, and the emotional relationship that a dog has with the darkness can differ from usual uneasiness to absolute dread, just like in their human friends.


To find out whether your dog is scared of the dark, you need to see if it depicts any of the following indicators:

  • Distressed or anxious when left on its own in the dark
  • Awful behavior, like getting into the garbage can or chewing stuff up
  • Seeming unusually distraught when you get back home really late
  • Restroom accidents
  • Cracked claws or trying to dig in the house
  • Trying to hide when it is dark
  • Excessive barking while left alone at home


Dogs can see in the dark, but occasionally dread of the dark can outspread to anxiety during the day if left unattended for long time. Try fitting night lights with sensors that light up after dusk to help your canine buddy see comfortably during the dark of the night.


Related: Are Dogs Color Blind and Can They See Colors?

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