Can dogs look up? 10 dog vision FAQs answered

Have you ever wondered what the world looks like through your dog’s eyes? You are not alone. Most dog owners will ponder this at some point, and scientists are interested in it too. 

In fact, recent advances in science and technology have given us a much better understanding of the way our canine companions process information from their environment. 

Despite this, there are myths about dog eyesight that still prevail, leaving owners with unanswered questions. Can dogs look up? Do dogs have good eyesight? Are dogs colorblind? 

To separate fact from fiction, we’ve put together a handy guide to answer all your doggy eyesight questions.

Table of Contents


1. Can dogs look up?

Yes, dogs can look up. It is a common fallacy that dogs can’t look up. 

Most people who ask “can dogs look up?” have never owned a dog, because any dog owner will tell you that yes, of course, dogs can look up!

The myth that dogs can’t look up seems to have originated from a scene in the movie ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and since then it has become something of an ongoing urban legend. 

Dogs can look up- they can watch birds in the sky and they can focus on a treat held above their heads. 

Due to their anatomy, they can’t look up in the same way humans can- their necks don’t bend quite as far back as ours because their spine is horizontal. 

It is actually easier for many dogs to look up if they are sitting down, as this changes the angle of the spine slightly and makes it easier for them to lift their head.

2. Can dogs see in the dark?

Have you ever walked your dog at night and wondered ‘What do dogs see in the dark?

Dogs certainly don’t seem to have any problems moving around after dark, but just how good is dog night vision? Well, it’s pretty good! 

The ancestors of the dog had to be able to hunt in dim light, so the dog’s eyes evolved to have a high number of rods -photoreceptors responsible for maintaining vision in low light. 

Rods also help to see movement in the dark, which was useful for hunting. In addition to the increased number of rods, dogs also have a reflective tissue called the tapetum lucidum behind the retina. This reflects light back into the eye and improves vision in low light levels. 

So do dogs have night vision? Well yes, they kind of do! It is estimated that dogs can see five times better than humans in the dark.

3. Do dogs have good eyesight?

Dog eyesight is different from human eyesight in a number of ways. 

Due to the high number of rods in the dog’s eye, they are better at detecting movement than we are. They also have good eyesight at night due to the presence of the tapetum lucidum. 

However, the light reflected by the tapetum lucidum means that their visual acuity (how sharp the image is) is not as good as ours during the day. 

Dogs often need to be closer to an object to see it well. Eyesight does vary between breeds and between individual dogs- just as it does in humans. 

Many sighthounds can clearly see moving objects in the distance, it is thought that the position of the eyes and the long nose help with this.

4. What can dogs see that humans can’t?

Dogs can see far better than humans in the dark, and are particularly good at seeing movement in the dark which we are likely to miss. 

In addition, dogs can see ultraviolet light– meaning that there is a whole range of things that dogs can see that humans can’t. 

This includes the ultraviolet glow of dried urine, blue spots on ripe bananas, security marks on banknotes and passports, and anything else a human would be able to see only with the aid of a U.V. torch.

5. How far can dogs see?

In general, dogs can’t see clearly as far as humans can. Most dogs have 20/75 vision; this means that they can see an object clearly at 20 feet away that a human could see clearly at 75 feet away. So dogs are near-sighted compared to humans

However, some breeds of dog are known to be able to see further than others. Sighthounds- such as greyhounds, Afghan hounds and salukis- have been known to spot a moving object from half a mile away! 

Sighthounds were bred to hunt fast-moving prey over land in open terrain, something good vision is essential for.

6. What does the world look like to a dog?

Have you ever considered how dogs see the world? Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not see the world in black and white. Instead, they see it in shades of blue, gray and yellow, with the added bonus of the glow from ultraviolet light.

They cannot see red, orange or green as humans do, which means that it may be harder for your dog to find a red ball on green grass using vision alone.

The reason the world looks so different to dogs is that they only have two types of cone photoreceptors in their eyes, whereas humans have three. 

Dogs love bright yellow tennis balls so much because they can see them clearly against the gray-blue hue of their environment.

7. What does dog vision look like?

Like humans, dogs have binocular vision to the front. This means that when looking ahead, they see with both of their eyes together and this helps them to judge how far away something is. 

Due to the position of the eyes on the head, dogs have much greater peripheral vision than humans- meaning they can see further round without turning their heads. 

Their blind spot- the area directly behind the head where there is no vision- is much smaller than ours. 

Vision is affected by the position of the eyes and the shape of the head and muzzle, so it is likely that there is a slight variation between different dog breeds.

8. Why do dogs’ eyes glow?

Have you ever noticed that dog eyes glow when you shine a torch toward them? Rather than some supernatural ability, that dog eye glow is due to the reflective tissue inside the eye called the tapetum lucidum. 

When light hits the tapetum lucidum, it is reflected back- causing the eyes to glow. This reflection allows the eye to use as much available light as possible, and it is the reason that dogs can see five times better in the dark than humans can.

9. Do dogs’ eye color change?

Yes, a dog’s eye color can change. Puppies are born with blue eyes and the color will gradually change to whatever their adult color will be – usually brown. 

A puppy usually has its adult eye color by four months of age, although the shade may continue to change over the first year of life. 

Senior dogs often develop a condition called nuclear sclerosis, which can cause their eyes to change color slightly and take on a gray or hazy blue tint. 

This is due to changes in the lens of the eye as the dog ages and is not usually a cause for concern. 

There are, however, other medical conditions that can cause a dog’s eyes to change color, so if you notice a color change in your adult dog’s eyes it would be sensible to speak to your vet.

10. Dog vision vs human vision – how do they compare?

Although there are broad similarities between dog and human vision, there are some notable differences. 

Dogs have much better night vision than humans, and they are much better at detecting movement- particularly in low light. 

Humans can generally see further into the distance than dogs, but dogs have a much broader field of vision around them and a smaller blind spot. 

Humans can see more colors than dogs, who mostly see in shades of blue, gray and yellow. However, dogs can see the glow of ultraviolet light so their world is far from dull and boring!

Can dogs look up – final thoughts

Dogs see the world very differently to us, and we are only just starting to understand how this affects their interaction with the environment. 

They certainly have some remarkable visual abilities that humans lack, however, it is clear that they can’t see as well as us in some situations.

However, nature has accounted for this- dogs have evolved a remarkable sense of smell that more than makes up for any lack of visual acuity (and next time someone asks you- yes, dogs can look up!).

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