Can Dogs See In The Dark? What You Need to Know!

can dogs see in the dark

Have you ever wondered about your canine companion’s ability to maneuver around your house in dim lighting or even in complete darkness, and wondered, “Can dogs see in the dark?”

Do they have better night vision than us? Or do they have night vision goggles?

It’s time we find out.

Their extraordinary abilities to function in low light conditions have intrigued many pet owners and veterinarians alike, so let’s delve in!

The Science Behind Canine Vision

Understanding how dogs perceive the world begins with a better understanding of their vision. While dogs and humans have many similarities in their ocular anatomy, some critical differences allow dogs to see well in dim light or what we perceive as darkness.

Whilst human eyes struggle in darkness (no matter how many carrots we eat), our furry friends have an easier time.

The Role of Photoreceptors

It’s a big word, but photoreceptors are basically just special cells in your retina that convert and light into images and signals that are sent to the brain.

Two types of photoreceptor cells, (rods and cones) are found in the retina of dogs and humans. However, dogs have a higher concentration of rod cells, which are responsible for detecting light and movement. In contrast, cones, the cells responsible for discerning colors, are less abundant in dogs.

Interestingly, the ratio of rods to cones in a dog’s eye is approximately 20:1. This heightened presence of rods allows dogs to be more sensitive to light, making them particularly good at spotting movement, especially in low light conditions.

The Mystery of Tapetum Lucidum

Another big word. The Tapetum Lucidum is a layer of tissue that’s located behind the retina and significantly contributes to a dog’s ability to see in the dark.

This layer acts like a mirror and reflects light back onto the retina, thereby increasing the amount of light available to the photoreceptors.

Notably, humans lack this reflective layer, which is why dogs outperform us when it comes to seeing in low light or at night.

dog eye

Can Dogs See in Complete Darkness?

While it’s clear that dogs are better at seeing in low-light conditions, this doesn’t mean they can see in complete darkness. Even with their increased number of rod cells and the reflective tapetum lucidum, dogs still require some degree of light to see.

Dogs vs Humans: Night Vision Capabilities

When comparing the night vision capabilities of dogs and humans, dogs certainly have an edge. Their larger pupils allow for more light to enter their eyes, making them more efficient at gathering light.

Additionally, their higher concentration of rod cells and the presence of the tapetum lucidum provide them with a distinct advantage in low light conditions.

However, humans outperform dogs in other aspects of vision. For instance, dogs can’t perceive as many colors as humans, and their overall visual acuity is poorer. Also, humans have a better depth perception than dogs.

How Dogs’ Ancestors Influenced Their Vision

The unique ocular adaptations in dogs are believed to be evolutionary traits passed down from their wild ancestors. Early canines were primarily active during dawn and dusk, times of the day with lower light conditions.

As dogs evolved and became domesticated, their eyes retained the anatomical advantages for low-light vision while adapting to brighter light conditions.

The Glow in Dogs’ Eyes

Dogs eyes glow in photographs because of the Tapetum Lucidum, not because they’ve been possessed by something or they’re a supernatural creature.

It’s cause by the reflection of light bouncing off the tapetum Lucidum and back through the retina.

Can Dogs See in the Dark Like Cats?

While dogs are indeed better at navigating in the dark than humans, they don’t quite match up to cats in this regard. Cats are also crepuscular animals with similar adaptations for low-light vision as dogs. However, cats are estimated to be able to see using even less light than dogs, giving them the edge in nocturnal vision.

schnauzer in the dark

Should You Leave a Light On for Your Dog at Night?

Given that dogs can’t see in complete darkness, it could be beneficial to have a dim light near your dog’s sleeping area. This could help your dog feel more secure at night and navigate better if they need to move around.

Can You Improve Your Dog’s Vision?

Although all dogs are nearsighted to some degree, there’s not much you can do to improve their vision. However, you can take measures to protect your dog’s eyes from harmful elements, such as using dog goggles.

A good diet can also help with eye health. Introducing healthy veggies into your pup’s diet, such as peas or carrots.


In conclusion, dogs can indeed see in the dark, but not in complete darkness. Their unique ocular adaptations enable them to see well in low-light conditions, making them more efficient than humans in this regard.

However, even with their superior night vision, it’s still important to ensure they have a safe and comfortable environment, particularly during the night.