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Scientists Study Dogs’ Vision

Scientists want to learn how well dogs can see as they get older.
Two dogs in a living room look at a TV screen showing five seated dogs.
© Damedeeso/

When a person gets an eye exam, they’re asked to read letters from a chart—but what about dogs? Since our four-legged friends can’t tell us what they’re experiencing, veterinarians know very little about canine vision. Recently, scientists conducted a study they hope will lead to new information about how well dogs see as they age.

The study from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine was the first step in a larger investigation that uses videos to learn about dog vision. In this early step, scientists wanted to see which videos dogs like best. They asked 1,246 people to observe which videos their dogs paid the closest attention to (a sign that the dogs want to watch) and then answer some questions online. The dog owners also noted their dogs’ breeds and their ages because scientists know that, as with people, dogs’ vision often gets worse as they age.

The study found that dogs enjoy watching videos showing other animals, especially other dogs! They weren’t very interested in watching videos of humans, though. More than 10 percent of the dogs seemed to like cartoons. That could be because, overall, movement on the screen got the dogs’ attention, and cartoons have a lot of that! Scientists noticed that the age and breed of the dog seems to affect how much it’s interested in watching TV.

Now that scientists have this information, they want to do a study that uses video-watching to track vision changes in dogs as they age, veterinary ophthalmologist (eye specialist) Freya Mowat told Spectrum News 1 in Wisconsin.

“The effect of aging and vision changes in dogs is largely unknown,” Mowat said. “Like people, dogs are living longer, and we want to make sure we support a healthier life for them as well.”

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Did You Know?

Experts say dogs recognize other dogs. Their strong sense of smell helps them understand the world around them. But according to studies, dogs can also recognize other dogs by sight alone. Maybe that’s why dogs like watching other dogs on TV!

© Ernest Akayeu/; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

What Do Dogs See?

Side by side versions of a photo. One shows a red ball on green grass and the other shows the same ball in yellow on faded green grass.
© Kelly Vandellen/, Dog Vision Image Processing Tool © András Péter; Composite image Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
The photo on the left shows how most humans see a red ball on green grass. The photo on the right shows how a dog sees that same ball.

You might have heard that dogs are color-blind, but that doesn’t mean they don’t see any color. Instead, dogs see fewer colors than most humans do. This is because their eyes are different from ours.

Animals can see because of cells called rods and cones, which are in a part of the eye called the retina. Cones are what allow animals to sense color. But while human eyes have three cones, dogs’ eyes have only two, so they can see only blue, yellow, and related shades such as a faded green.

Dogs don’t see the color red, which is why a dog might have trouble finding a red ball on green grass!

Sharp-Eyed Hounds

A red brindle greyhound runs at full speed on green grass.
© Ralf Bitzer/

Greyhounds can run much faster than even the fastest humans!

Dogs are known for their sense of smell, but some dog breeds are sight hounds, which means they were bred to track prey with their eyes. Sight hounds have very good vision, especially when it comes to moving objects. Does that mean they’re big TV fans? Maybe!


You can read about very speedy sight hounds called greyhounds at Britannica.

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Word of the Day


Part of speech:
: the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses
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