5 Part Series – Understanding Your Dog’s Senses!

Have you ever wondered whether your dog can see in colour or whether they just see in black and white?

Well wonder no more, I have the answer for you!!!

I’ve decided as part of my Dog Anatomy 101 category, to take a good look at our dog’s 5 Senses –  Sight, Touch, Smell, Taste and Hearing.  This is so we can have a better understanding of how our fur kids interact with the world.

We may tend to think that our fur babies senses work in the same way as ours do, but this may not be the case.  Stay tuned for this 5 Part Series.

By the end of each Part you’ll be at the dog park or amongst your fur baby friends and you’ll sound like you know your s**t when it comes to their senses.

I promise not to get too technical and I will use pictures and diagrams for those of us, me included, who are visual people.

Part 1 – Eyesight

Do you sit there with your fur babies and stare lovingly into their eyes?  Do they stare lovingly back at you, shy away or see it as a challenge?  Do you wonder what they see when they’re looking back at you?

Staring into your own dog’s eyes may be fine, I know Billy doesn’t see it as a threat.  We look into each other’s eyes lovingly because he’s my dog and he knows he’s loved and I’m not coming from a malicious intent.

As for customer’s dogs I wouldn’t do it with their dogs unless I’ve been grooming them for a long time.  If they know me and I know them then in their eyes I pose no threat to them.

It’s fine to stare into your dog’s eyes as long as your dog/s are okay with it.  Doing it with a strange dog that you don’t know is not advisable as some dog’s can see this as a threat.  Others may see it as a challenge, as in staring someone down before a fight etc, eyeballing them and others may see it as intimidation.

In this Part I’m going to cover (very basically) 4 main areas of our dogs vision and answer 2 of the most popular questions I get as a dog groomer and dog lover.



I use to hear conflicting views on this i.e. dog’s only see in black and white and no colour at all.  Then someone would say, How come my dog can pick out a the red ball, and then the blue ball etc???’

Lately, though most agree on how our dog’s view the world around them.  Let me explain a few things first.


Line drawing of Retina of the Eye














Above – Basic Image of Retina


The Retina has two layers and we’re going to focus on the inner layer.

The inner layer of the retina receives the light impulses arriving at the eye.  This contains rods and cones, as seen above.

Rods – are responsible for black and white vision and they work better in dim light.

Cones – are responsible for colour vision and function best in relatively bright light.

Previous views suggested that dog’s didn’t possess any cones, hence why the thought was they only saw in black and white.

However,  it has since been found that there are approximately 10% of cones in a dog’s retina.

(In contrast we have close to 100% of cones in our retinas)!



It means that dog’s have some ability to see in colour and they have a much higher degree of ability than humans to distinguish between shades of grey.  Gives 50 Shades of Grey a whole new meaning lol (sorry couldn’t help myself).

Dog’s have dichromatic vision – to them red, green and yellow all appear similar.  See below, a human’s view of colour and our fur babies view of the same colours.








Image is from helpinghoundstraining.com

This shows how our fur kids see in a much denser light.



We all love taking pictures of our fur kids!   Have you ever taken a picture of your fur baby and they look possessed?  You know, they have the ‘demon eye’ look?

In this picture Billy looks like he’d go all demon on you if you took his bone!!!


Staffordshire Bull terrier with bone


Believe it or not, he’s NOT about to go all demon on me, there’s an explanation as to why our fur babies look all demonic in some pictures.

The upper part of the retina, the tapetum lucidum reflects light back through the retina, providing a doubled quantity of light to the photoreceptors!!!

You got that, no me either I needed a visual too!!  The image below shows what I mean, if you see the incident light from flash and follow the white lines to the retina.  Then the green lines and arrows coming back towards the pupil are what causes the reflection in your dogs eyes, from the flash!!!


Diagram showing flash of light in retina

Image is from Quora.com



Your dog is not possessed, it’s the light from the camera flash reflected back from their eyes x 2.  No holy water necessary!



Dog’s have an area known as the visual streak that lies on the retina above the optic nerve.  This visual streak is thought to assist the dog in use of the peripheral vision and in the quick scanning of the horizon for items of interest.

Peripheral vision  is the field of view when the eyes are looking straight ahead.  How far can you see out of the side of your eyes?

Depending on the shape of your fur babies head this field of view may vary.  Basically though the canine field of view ranges from 240 to 250 degrees, as their eyes are situated more to the side of the head than ours are.  Makes sense  (image is meant to say 250 not 150).  Compared to a human who has 170-180 degrees.

Yes another visual is needed, see below, it’s clear that the dog has the wider peripheral vision, however the human has the clearer view of things in front.


picture comparing dog field of vision and human vision

Image is from Veterinary Vision


Dogs basically see more of what’s going on around them in their peripheral vision than humans do.



When it comes to seeing things up close or in sharp detail, dog’s don’t seem to do so well.  They rely on their other senses.

Experts suggest because dog’s lack a fovea, in their eyes, their ability to see objects clearly suffers.  I searched and searched as to why dog’s don’t have a fovea, but came up with no specific reason!

Fovea –  is responsible for sharp central vision.  It is necessary in humans for activities where visual detail is of primary importance, such as reading and driving etc.

A human with 20/20 vision will see something at 20metres  away, whereas our fur babies (generally speaking) won’t be able to see that same something until it’s 6metres away.  Dog’s have similar vision as to people with nearsightedness 20/75 vision, when it comes to focusing on distant objects.

Generally, humans can focus on objects as close as 7cm from their eyes, in contrast dogs stop focusing from 33-50cm away.  They bring in other senses, scent, taste or touch to recognise close objects.

Instead of a diagram I have found a youtube clip of a guy throwing a ball to his dog.  He has crafted the scene so when his dog brings the ball back you see the blurry vision of what our fur babies would see.




Our fur babies will use motion to recognise those things in the distance, as well as body language and other senses to recognise those they know.

Dogs have a much better low-light vision and a much greater sensitivity to motion.



So there you have it, you now  have a better understanding of 4 main areas of your dog’s vision.   You also know how your dog sees colour in the world and you can rest assured, when the ‘demon eyes’ come out in your fur babies picture, that you don’t need to grab the holy water.

I hope Part 1 – Eyesight – of my Understanding your Dog’s Senses Series has given you a better understanding of how our fur babies view the world.

Is there anything you found particularly interesting?  Have you ever taken a ‘possessed’ looking picture of your fur baby?

We’d love to hear from you.


J & B

Woofalicious Tales xoxo







  1. Part 4 - Understanding Your Dog's Senses - Woofalicious Tales | 21st Aug 17

    […] far we have discussed Part 1 – Eyesight, Part 2 – Hearing and Part 3 – […]

  2. Part 5 - Understanding Your Dog's Senses - Woofalicious Tales | 25th Aug 17

    […] far we have discussed Part 1 – Eyesight, Part 2 – Hearing, Part 3 – Touch and Part 4 – […]

Leave A Comment

Leave a Barking Reply, I'd love to hear from you!