Dogs see, hear, and smell much better than we can. Their vision is so much sharper than ours that they can see clearly in the dark.
But can puppies see in the dark? It depends on which stage of puppyhood they’re in.
Find out your dog’s stages of eyesight development and how to assess your puppy’s eyesight.
Learn when puppies can see in the dark and whether your puppy needs a night light.
Check out our quick tips on how to take care of your puppy’s eyes.
Can Puppies See in the Dark?
A newborn puppy cannot see in the dark.
This is because they are born with their eyes closed. And even when they start opening their eyes, they still won’t be able to see clearly right away.
When your puppy can see in the dark will depend on which stage of puppyhood they are in.
Your puppy will start seeing in the dark once their eyes are fully developed. This usually happens at around eight weeks old.
Do Puppies Need a Night Light?
If your puppy’s eyesight isn’t fully developed yet, you might consider getting them a night light.
This is okay, but make sure it is not too bright as it might hurt their eyes and hinder development.
You also don’t want the light to be too close to them to avoid accidents and too much glare.
But if your only worry is that they fear being in the dark, then a night light is unnecessary.
Your puppy doesn’t have a concept of brightness and darkness at this stage, let alone is afraid or anxious about what’s in the dark.
A night light can also help you to be able to check on them during the night without having to turn on your household lights.
Check out what else you need to know about leaving a light on for your dog.
Can a Puppy See at Birth?
At birth, a puppy’s eyes are closed so they can’t see anything. Even specks of light cannot pass through to their eyes.
The gestation period of a mammal influences their ability to fully develop their senses. Take note that newborn puppies also can’t hear anything because the ear canals are sealed shut.
For example, we achieve full maturity in our mother’s womb for nine months. So, when we’re born, we can already hear and see, although these senses haven’t reached their full potential.
Puppies, on the other hand, are not born with developed senses because their mothers are only pregnant for a short time.
They say this is due to their wolf ancestors’ behavior. They carried a belly full of puppies while working hard to hunt, and therefore slowing them down.
To nurse or to rear is also referred to as “altricial”. Puppies need a lot of attention and to be nursed a lot before they can be independent since their gestation period is only two months.
When do Puppies Open Their Eyes?
Puppies generally begin to open their eyes at around two weeks old.
Once your puppy can finally open their eyes, it doesn’t mean that their vision is finally developed.
In fact, they still can’t see even with their eyes open! This is because their lids are still closed for protection. The immature eyes are usually blue-grey, where the iris is blue.
The cornea at this phase is also transparent.
At this stage, your puppy is still very fragile. Their senses are still so weak that dirt or germs can hinder the development of their sight.
Avoid any direct contact with bright light as it could badly hurt your puppy’s eye.
At two weeks, your puppy won’t be able to see yet. It takes a few more weeks before they can finally see you and their surroundings.
But they might be able to detect objects and analyze their distance. They can also partially see a moving object.
This is usually a trait they inherit from their wolf ancestors. They track moving objects at a young age because wild dogs needed this to hunt for their prey.
Much of their eyesight is used for detecting motion for survival.
Dogs also have a larger field of view than us.
They also have a special reflective layer at the back of their eye for binocular depth perception called the tapetum lucidum.
Full Puppy Vision Development
Once your puppy’s vision is fully developed, their vision becomes 20/75, while humans with perfect vision have 20/20 vision.
This usually happens at around eight weeks old. But it’s normal for some dogs to take longer to achieve full vision maturity.
Ideally, full development of canine vision presents itself through a clear cornea and true coloration of the iris.
Here, their light-sensitive cells called rods have also reached maximum potential. These rods allow them to see images clearly even in low-light situations.
This means they have bright eyesight even in the dark. But they won’t be able to see in total darkness since there is no light for their eyes to absorb.
Dogs’ eyes have adapted to see well in the dark because they are nocturnal trackers, hunters, and catchers.
It’s also important to know that fully developed puppy eyesight won’t be able to see all colors vibrantly the way we do. And they bring this trait with them until adulthood.
They can only see the colors blue and yellow clearly because their color-sensitive cells, or cones, are limited.
Humans have three types of cones that can tell the colors, green, blue, and red. Meanwhile, our dogs only have two that can discern blue and yellow.
Detail-wise, your dog can’t see details as sharply as we do. That’s why they can’t always see a treat tossed right in front of them. They use their nose instead to look for them.
How to Assess Your Puppy’s Eyesight
Not sure if your puppy’s eyes are fully developed already? You can assess their vision by simply tossing a cotton ball in the air.
Cotton balls work because your dog shouldn’t be able to detect any scent or sound coming from it.
If their vision is normal, they should follow your hand motion and the path of the cotton ball from the air down to the ground.
Remember that this test is for older puppies who should already have fully developed eyesight. Your two-week-old pooch will surely not pass this test.
If your older puppy doesn’t follow the direction of your hand or the cotton ball, have a vet look at their eyes for vision problems.
You also want to consult a vet if they are only following the path of the cotton ball with one eye.
How to Take Care of Your Puppy’s Eyes
Here are some tips for taking care of your puppy’s eyes.
Zinc is an essential mineral that can prevent eye inflammation and harmful rays of light. Some also believe it can slow the progression of blindness caused by different eye disorders.
Zinc is found in foods such as seafood, spinach, lentils, and liver. Add small amounts of these yummy food to your puppy’s kibble.
Keep Them Clean
If your puppy has healthy eyes, then they don’t require too much attention except for cleaning away any dirt or debris around their eyes.
All you need for this is a moist cloth to remove the accumulated crust every night.
We don’t recommend any cleaning solution or formula for puppies because of their delicate eyes. Water is enough.
Unless your puppy has a heavy, watery discharge. This is usually the case if they have blocked tear ducts, resulting in drained mucous discharge on the face.
Prepare some cooled, boiled water and saturate a cotton ball to wipe away the gunk.
Check the Eyes
As you clean your puppy’s eyes, it’s also the best time to give them a check.
Make sure that errant hairs or lashes do not touch their eyes, especially the cornea. Contact with the eyes can cause irritation and even infection if the hairs are dirty.
Some strands may start rubbing their eyes, especially if their facial hair is long. Try clipping the hair or tying it back without making it tight.
If your puppy’s eyes are swelling or irritated, consult your vet immediately. They may prescribe eye medication.
Short-nosed dogs tend to have bulging eyes and are therefore more prone to accidents.
When applying eye medication, wait until they are drowsy or sleepy. Lean their head back and place the drops or ointment on their eyes.
Other Puppy Senses
A Puppy’s Sense of Hearing
A puppy’s sense of hearing is still absent at birth.
They are born deaf and will only be able to hear at three weeks of age. Because they can’t see or hear during this stage, all they can rely on is their sense of smell to navigate the world.
Once they can finally hear, the ability of frequency can even range from 60 to 60,000 Hertz.
On top of that, puppies’ ears also have about 18 muscles that let them control their position.
For instance, German Shepherds can position their ears in the direction of the sound they hear.
These positions can also help us tell their body language!
Even though they can hear very well, they can’t hear low frequencies the way we do.
Puppy’s Sense of Smell
A dog’s sense of smell is so powerful that it’s up to 100,000 times stronger than ours.
Unlike their sense of sight, puppies’ sense of smell is already good during the first few weeks of their life. They use it to look for their siblings’ and mother’s milk.
Their vomeronasal system is also working efficiently to interpret odors, detect pheromones, and communicate with their siblings and mother.
Once your puppy is old enough, you can take them on scent walks to get mentally stimulated and enjoy their surroundings!
FAQ Dog Vision
Are Dogs Afraid of the Dark?
Dogs may be afraid of the dark, but this is a very rare occurrence.
If your furry friend seems afraid of the dark, it’s usually the experiences they associate with the dark which they fear.
Find out why your dog may be afraid of the dark so you can help them overcome their fear.
Do Dogs Need a Night Light?
Dogs can see in the dark, so you probably think they don’t need a night light. But when there is total darkness, your dog won’t be able to navigate through the dark.
This can cause accidents and injuries, especially if they are not confined in a small space at night.
Check out whether your dog needs a night light and the best night light for them!
What is a Dog’s Favorite Color?
Color is another important discussion when it comes to your dog’s eyesight and vision.
Even though dogs can see clearly in the dark, they cannot see all colors vividly. That is why the only colors that attract them are blue and yellow.
Dogs do not see in black and white. They see colors, but not all of them.
The cone cells are the color-absorbing cells in the eyes. Dogs have fewer of these than we do, which explains why they can’t see all colors brightly.
Learn more about how dogs see colors so you can wisely choose attractive, high-contrast toys and tools for them!
Protect Those Puppy Eyes!
Nothing feels better than seeing those beautiful puppy eyes open up and look at you! For now, your pup may still have a lot of development to undergo before they can clearly see.
This also means they don’t have the ability to see in the dark yet.
Their vision will develop on their own, but it would help to enhance them through vitamin and mineral-rich foods, cleaning around their eyes, and having them checked by the vet regularly.
And be sure to make cleaning your dog’s eyes a regular part of their grooming routine!