Have you ever wondered what life looks like from your dog’s point of view? Many pet owners do, but most don’t have a clue about what their dog can actually see. It’s a common misconception that dogs can either see what we can or that they only see in black and white. Surprisingly, man’s best friend falls somewhere in the middle.
Are dogs color blind?
Humans are able to see red, green, and blue due to three color receptors, or cones, in our eyes. Dogs, on the other hand, only have two cones which allow them to perceive yellow and blue. Like a human with red-green color-blindness, dogs aren’t able to distinguish between red and green. Their color spectrum includes grayish browns, shades of yellow, and shades of blue. That’s why a red ball in tall green grass may not catch their attention—but a yellow one could!
On top of that, dogs also tend to be nearsighted. A study found that dogs tend to have 20/75 vision, which means a dog can recognize a pattern at 20 feet that a human could recognize at 75 feet.
Can dogs see in the dark?
A dog is much better than a human at detecting movement at a long distance and lower light. They also have a wider field of vision, allowing them to see more of their surroundings. While humans see about 180 degrees, dog’s eyes are spaced farther apart on their head, giving them a 240 degree field of view.
A dog also has more rods, or light receptors, than a human does. Rods help a dog detect small motions faster than humans, and helps them see better in dim light. The ability to see better in the dark is only emphasized by their light reflective cells at the back of their eye—also known as tapetum lucidum—that help reflect light and allow the retina to process extra light in the dark. These cells leave them with more blurry vision in bright light and are also the reason your dog’s eyes sometimes appear to glow in the dark or shine with a camera flash.
Overall, a dog’s vision helps them track moving targets, especially during dawn and dusk—a skill that’s very helpful for hunters.
How does my dog see the world?
While humans rely heavily on their eyes, dogs rely on a number of other senses to interpret the world around them—primarily their sense of smell. According to the For Dummies guide on Understanding Your Dog, the percentage of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is 40 times larger than that of a human. Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know, describes dogs’ exceptionally sensitive nostrils as being able sense anxiety, fear, and sadness in addition to smells we may be able to notice—like what snack you ate or if you recently smoked a cigarette.
Despite these differences in perception, dogs and humans have evolved alongside each other. Just like we know how to read them, dogs have learned to read us—from our eye movements to our emotional expressions and unique scent. When it comes to recognizing you, your dog may tend to rely on these senses.
While we may never know how it feels to see the world the way a dog does, one thing is clear—we can coexist very well.