Can Dogs See in the Dark?

Can Dogs See in the Dark?

You arrive home later than you thought you would, leaving your dog in a dark house for hours. You hug them and tell them sorry over and over. They must have been so scared.

Can dogs see in the dark? Turns out that they can actually see much better than humans in pitch-black conditions so your dog was fine. There are certain dogs that do get scared in the dark but only under the right conditions which we’re going to go over. 

Check out this guide to find out how well dogs can see in the dark and if it’s okay to let them be in a pitch-black house by themselves. 

Can Dogs See in the Dark?

Most people are under the misconception that cats are the ones with superior night vision but dogs can see just as well. Dogs have enlarged pupils which allows for more light to pass through their eyes than humans. 

Dogs only have two cones in their eyes so they can't detect that many colors but they do have rods. Rods are light-sensitive and give them a sight advantage once the lights go out. 

Dogs have something called the tapetum. The tapetum works as a mirror that rests at the back of your dog's eyes. It reflects light and gives their retinas an extra boost.

Your dog's ability to see in the dark is measured by their flicker fusion frequency. To explain what this is, you must know that light has the tendency to flicker. If a species has a high FFF it means that light is no longer flickering and so they have less trouble navigating through difficult, dark areas. 

How Does a Dog's Vision Differ From a Ours? 

We've talked a little about how a dog's vision is different than a human's but we're going to get into a little bit more detail. You don't see the same as your dog and vice versa. Since a dog's eyes are located on the sides of their head, they have a 250-degree range of motion. 

Humans only have a 190-degree range. This means that in the dark your dog's peripheral vision is going to be 60 degrees better than yours. They only have two cones that allow them to perceive color though, where humans have three. 

Does Their Breed Play a Factor in Their Ability to See? 

Most dogs can see the same spectrum of sight and color. There are some breeding factors that could come into play and alter your dog's eyesight. It depends on where their eyes are in correlation to their snout. 

For example, if your dog's eyes are close together and they have a short snout, they may suffer from some vision obstruction vs a dog with spaced-out eyes and a long snout. 

Dog in the dark

How Well Can They See in the Dark?

The answer to this question depends on what breed your dog is and how dark the room is. Your dog has low light vision. This means that their eyes use the little bits of light being let into a room in order to see. 

The best way we can describe this is by looking out the window. If you and your dog are both looking out the window in your living room, your dog is going to be able to see a lot more than you can due to the light that's being reflected by the moonlight and street lamps. 

What if it's Pitch Black Out?

Just like you, your dog may have a little bit of trouble trying to navigate through obstacles in pitch-black darkness. Again, they have low light vision but if no light is being reflected into the room, they're not going to be able to see that well. It's in these instances that your dog stops using their eyes and go off of memory. 

Even if it's pitch-black in your living room and your dog can only get a grainy picture of the place, they'll still be able to navigate through it fine. This is because they have a vivid memory of how the place looks during the day. Your house is their world so it doesn't take too long for them to figure out where everything is.  

Why Do Their Eyes Glow?

In every picture you've taken of your dog, they probably have a creepy, glowing filter over their eyes. This is a normal occurrence that's caused by that tapetum we talked about earlier. The tapetum reflects light back out to the retinas and amplifies it which is what causes the glowing film to appear. 

The fascinating part is not every dog's eyes glow the same. The color of the glowing is determined by how old the dog is and the color of their eyes. For example, dog breeds with light-colored eyes such as huskies often have red eyes in photographs.  

What Happens When They Grow Old? 

Like any living thing, your dog's eyes will start to fail as they get older. The lens in their eyes has many layers. As they age, these layers start to wear away. 

When they reach the golden age of 7 years or so, they won't be able to see in the dark like they did when they were a puppy. As they increase in age their vision will get cloudier and cloudier. Soon, they will be navigating through your house by memory alone. 

They won't be able to see in the dark and you may have to give them a little help looking for stuff that isn't in its usual place like their toys. While you won't be able to stop your dog's sight from failing, you can put off the inevitable with the following tips. 


Your dog's eyes are vulnerable to toxins. The best way to get rid of them is by getting oxygen circulating through their bodies via exercise. 

Exercise breaks up the toxins that have the potential to do harm to their eyes. All you have to do is take them for a 20-minute walk each day. If their vet deems it necessary, they may need a little aerobic exercise as well.


They need a balanced diet along with exercise to keep their eyes in top shape. It's up to you to make sure they get their daily dose of antioxidants, beta carotene, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. Zinc, magnesium, and selenium are also nutrients that are important to eye health. 

Immune Care 

Many chronic eye conditions in dogs can be linked to having poor immune health. Herbs such as Echinacea can help balance their immune system back out. 

Avoid dog foods with synthetic preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavors. All of these things tend to compromise the immune system if eaten in great quantities. Look for food with natural ingredients

Eye Massages 

One way to improve their eye health is by stimulating circulation through their eyes. You can do this by giving them frequent eye massages (if they'll let you). Start your massage at the corner of their eyes. 

Move your fingertips in a gentle circular motion clockwise around the outside of their eyes. If you feel a little nervous about massaging your dog's eyes, you can consult their vet for advice. 

Are They Afraid of the Dark? 

Being afraid of the dark depends on the dog really. Some dogs do fine whereas some can't handle it and lash out when left alone in it. Here are a few signs that you shouldn't leave your dog alone in a poorly lit house. 

Signs That You Shouldn't Leave Them in the Dark

They've knocked your garbage can onto the floor and proceeded to make a mess with it. They've torn a hole in your favorite blanket or pillow. They've chewed up one of your knickknacks or the furniture. 

They're more upset than they normally are at you for leaving them alone. They seem distressed with their tail tucked. They've hidden somewhere and you can't get them to come out. 

They had an accident in the house while you were gone. Their paws are hurt from clawing at a door. Your neighbors told you that they barked quite a bit. 

Granted, a dog barking doesn't mean that they were in distress. Since their eyes contain a large number of light receptors, if something moves, they're going to be alerted by it. They could have been barking because they saw a little mouse scurry through your living room. 

Your Dog Can See Better Than You Do  

Can dogs see in the dark? As it turns out, they can see better than you can. Even if they can't see everything in your house, they can use their memory to navigate through the rooms.

So, you don't have to feel like a monster for leaving your fur baby alone in the dark house. The structure of their eyes will help them adapt just fine. 

Again, your dog is going to need a balanced diet in order to for their eyes to stay healthy. Check out our store to browse through our nutritious options. 

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