Do Golden Retrievers Have Night Vision? Can they See in The Dark?


Our dogs seem to be able to see, hear, and smell things that we can’t Their senses are superior to others in many ways, which sometimes can make us wonder how extraordinary they really are.

For example, everyone knows that dogs see different than us, and they seem to be able to see things in the dark much better than us – almost like they have night vision.

So, do golden retrievers have night vision? No, golden retrievers (and all dogs) do not have night vision, but they can still see much better than humans at night thanks to their pupils being larger and having more cells in the center of their retina.

That was the short answer but, of course, there is more to it, just keep on reading to learn more.

Can golden retrievers see in the dark? 

A golden retriever with dark background to illustrate whether can golden retrievers see in the dark and whether do golden retrievers have night vision

Yes, golden retrievers – and dogs in general – can see in the dark and they can see much better than humans. That’s because golden retrievers and all other dogs have more rods than humans, and it means they can see much better at night. 

They also have larger pupils that can let in more light, and they have a layer of eye tissue called the tapetum lucidum that humans lack. The tapetum lucidum reflects the light into the retina, which boosts dogs’ night vision even more.

Credit: The bark

It also explains why dogs’ eyes shine in the dark.  Another distinct difference between our vision and our dogs is in the colors we see, as both and our dogs see the world through different glasses.

You can learn what colors do dogs see here and learn how it affects the way they see the world. I also discuss how they see TVs, parks, and other things completely differently from ours (and give some tips for engaging with your dog better).

What does a dog’s vision look like at night?

An example of how we imagine dogs would see the world at night ( your right) vs how we would see the world at night (your left) – colors not taken into consideration

The eye has two things; rods and cones; they are known as the light receptors. 

Rods help us see in dim light, while cons help us distinguish different colors, and those two things are the difference in their vision and ours.

Dogs have a different number of cones and rods, they have fewer cone receptors than humans, and it means they can not see as many colors (they can only see yellow, blue, and grey), but they have more rods than humans.

So, what does it mean that they have more rods than us? It means they can see much better at night, they also have a layer of eye tissue that humans lack ( the tapetum lucidum) and it reflects light into the retina.

Do Dogs or Cats See Better in the dark? 

Human vision at night (up) vs cat vision at night (down) – Credit: Livescience

Dogs can see better in absolute darkness than cats, but cats are still better adapted to seeing in the dark.

They are much better adapted than humans for seeing in low levels of light. That’s because cats have six to eight times more rod cells than humans, which makes them much more sensitive to low light than humans.

Three more reasons are cats’ elliptical eye shape, larger corneas, and tapetum which a layer of tissue that reflects light to the retina, and it helps to gather more light.

The tapetum may also shift the wavelengths of light that cats see, and their extra rod cells allow cats to sense motion in the dark much better than humans. 

Can cats see better than humans in total darkness?

Credit: Nickolay Lamm/MyDeals.com

Yes, they can, but not much better, they are much better at adapting to seeing in low levels of light than humans.

They also have an extra “mirror” layer at the back of the eye behind the retina, and it means that the incoming light has only two chances to hit the rods.

However, unlike dogs, cats can not see in absolute darkness.

How Dogs Really See the world

By now you know that dogs don’t see all the colors we see, so the world is much less vibrant to them than us, and that they don’t really have night vision and can’t see this well in the dark.

However, if you are starting to feel sorry for dogs, don’t be. Even though they don’t have a superb vision, this is really not that important for dogs, because vision is not their primary way of exploring the world, unlike humans.

Dogs actually explore the world through their noses, their sense of smell is somewhere around the 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than ours.

That’s because while humans have about six million olfactory receptors in our noses, dogs have 300 million of them, and the part of the dog’s brain that’s devoted to analyzing smells is about 40 times larger than its counterpart in humans.

Dogs also have an extra sense that we don’t at all; they can sense heat from afar, something that we don’t have anything close to.

What do dogs hear when you talk to them?

They can hear twice as many frequencies as humans, they might not understand everything that you are saying but they can listen and pay attention to what you are saying similar to humans.

Scientists discovered that dogs respond to the emotional tone of our voice and not just the words we say to them, so they can tell if you are mad at them, disappointed, happy, sad, or excited, from your tone, even if they can’t understand the words you’re saying.

Do dogs have a voice in their head?

After a lot of studies, scientists found in their first study in comparing brain function between humans and animals’ that dogs also have a voice in their heads as the studies showed that dogs have dedicated voice areas in their brains just as we do.

Their brains are also sensitive to acoustic cues of emotion.

What do dogs think about all day?

They think about us and they think about their daily routine. 

Also, they have a good memory and they can remember their good memories, so they may also think about events from their recent past.

Do dogs think you are never coming back?

Most dogs will think that you’re not coming back if they have not been trained that you will come back, and especially dogs with separation anxiety.

You can learn how to train your dog to be left alone here, and part of this process is training them that you always come back – which I explain in much detail in the linked post.

In recent studies, scientists have indeed proved that dogs become sad when you leave them because they really do miss us and there is neuroscientific evidence to show that.

This explains why they look so sad when they realize that you are going out without them. If your dog looks sad even when you are around this could be caused by other reasons, and you can learn why your dog looks so sad here and how to fix it.

Related Questions 

How far away can dogs smell their owners?

It depends on the conditions, so under acceptable conditions, dogs can smell their owner and objects as far as 12 miles (20km) away, they have a better chance to pick up the smell when more air passes through their nose, so the wind is one of the most important conditions.

What colors do dogs see?

Since dogs possess only two types of cones and can only discern blue and yellow, and they will see colors such as green, red, violet as grey which explains why they can not see these colorful red or green toys that you toss them on the grass. 

Do dogs need a light on at night?

No, they do not, they can sleep better in darkness but the light will not stop them from being able to sleep, however, you should leave wherever they are sleeping in darkness for them, but also it depends on your own you can test if they sleep better with the light on or in complete darkness. 

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