Do You See What Your Pooch Can See!

Yes it is fact. A dog’s vision is different than ours. Let us know more about it today. The senses of smell, hearing and sight are vital for all vertebrates. Dogs are well equipped as far as these senses are concerned. The development of sight is an interesting phenomenon amongst dogs.

A puppy is born blind. Since his eyes are formed much after his birth, world for him is completely dark for 14-15 days after birth. But even after his eyes open, he is not able to see properly for another week or so. He starts viewing things properly nearly three weeks after he is born. A pup arrives in the world a trifle early. Therefore, the part of the brain which controls his hearing and vision develops three weeks after the birth of the pup. Naturally we can’t expect a pup to see well before all parts of the brain develop!

As dog lovers we often commit the grave mistake of removing the pup from the dam at the tender age of three or four weeks. Often greedy breeders demonstrate the would be buyers that the pup is ready to go to new home as he can lap milk on his own. Yes the pup wobbles down to the spot where his bowl is placed and laps. What the ignorant buyer and sometimes even the breeder does not know that part of the functions of the brain are still in development stage. The pup reaches the food bowl by virtue of smell and his hearing instinct. There are other side effects of early separation from the dam for the pup-they will be discussed at some other place in these blogs.

Eyes of the dog are such that he sees only shades of grey. The color vision amongst mammals depends upon the percentage of Cones and Rods present in the eyes. Cones are the ones that give the ability to see and distinguish colors. While our eyes have 100% cones, dogs eyes have only 10% Cones. On the other hand dogs eyes are made up of mostly Rods-they are the photoreceptors that make one see black and white and shades of grey and also see things in a low light. That is why dogs can see things better at night. But their world is like old age cinema-all grey.  Thus you may buy the brightest coats for your puppy but he will not be amused. Dog’s sight and scent are intricately connected. Without scent he can not identify a person from a distance. Moreover his brain image completes only in combination with hearing. Therefore a dog’s perceptions or sight is a combination of what he sees, what he hears and what he smells.

Most carnivores hunt with their sight. A flicker of hare’s tail leads a tiger to a herd. Similarly a rabbit crouching about 50 meters from a dog may go undetected till it flicks its ears a bit. A slight movement catches dog’s eyes and he rushes to catch the prey. In nature all wild dogs hunt in packs. Various breeds synthetically created by the human masters for different purpose also carry the same instincts and senses, but selective breeding has made some breeds better hunters. This is because of particular position of eyes in those breeds and better power to smell. For example ‘Gaze hounds’ or simply hounds have their eyes placed in front. They have a parallel vision with a much evolved long distance vision. A Greyhound can thus spot a hare flicker his ears at a distance of one kilometer. His deep chest, long flexible spine and long thin legs give him a greater speed. His better evolved smelling apparatus helps him all the way in his pursuit of the prey.

People often say that their dog enjoys watching TV. Actually for a dog our TV is trifle primitive, again like old age cinema, slow moving with jerky pictures. This is because we perceive perfect motion picture when shown at 60 hertz. For a dog this is a slow motion picture. Because for him the perfect motion picture is between 70 to 80 hertz. Thus our TV is quite primitive for a dog. Yet he is often glued to it is because of the sounds. Amongst nuclear families where both partners are at work and dog is alone at home, often people leave the TV on with a doggy DVD on. This keeps the dog occupied for long.

The position of dogs eyes have a lot to do with the safety of eyes and their vision. For example terriers have sunken eyes. Dogs of this group are born fighters. Deeply sunk eyes save them from injuries during fights. Some breeds on the other hand like Chihuahua, pugs and Pekingese have protruding eyes, due to their brachicephalic (compacted) heads. Eyes of these breeds are prone to many infections because of their bulbous nature. Our maximum side vision is 180 degrees. The placement of eyes on dogs’ skulls is such that they have a side vision of 240 to 250 degrees. Thus you may be diagonally behind your dog, yet he will be able to see you without turning his head. Wish I had such a vision, reversing a car would not have been a pain in the neck!

Greater side vision gives a better observation power to the dog. He is able to see each every twitch of your facial muscles, your eye expressions. Thus he is able to gauge your moods much faster than you can imagine. Your spouse may not know that you had a tiff with the boss at work, but your dog already knows that you are off color. He could sense it as you were busy taking off your shoes.

We are used to sharp images. When images start turning blurred we rush to an ophthalmologist, he prescribes glasses as the need be. Dogs do not need sharp images. They don’t have to read crap like this blog hence they manage comfortably with hazy images, sharp nose and hearing apparatus.

A dog ‘follows his nose’ in strict sense.  [Read:  Nose in the Air ]

More By  :  V. K. Joshi (Bijji)

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Comments on this Blog

Comment Mitali-first of all thank you for raising very pertinent issues. Well scientifically it is not possible for dogs to see colors, because as I explained the number of cones in dogs eyes are much less than required for deciphering colors. But dogs can decipher the shades of grey. What appear as bright colors to you may be appearing as better (brighter/darker) shades of grey to your dog. Or otherwise if you minutely observe, may be those visitors wear clothes that flutter slightly. Very often dogs want to investigate that fluttering of clothing and try to complete the picture with sniffing. Their eyes work in conjunction with the nose. About TV as I have also mentioned many families leave their dogs alone at home while they remain engaged watching TV. Imagine the good old days-(perhaps much before you were born!) we used to have jerky, silent movies and many of us were addicts. We had a servant who used to sneak out daily at night to watch late night Charlie Chaplin silent movies-language was no prob as the movie was silent. For addicted dogs too neither the language nor the speed of the movie matters-it seems. Whether TV addiction is good or bad for dogs is a matter of some other debate. Cheerios.

03-Jun-2010 00:40 AM

Comment i had read an article in IKG, tht had touched upon a similar topic (it was more abt why a pup shud not be separated frm its mother and litter mates before it turns 6-8 weeks old and development of their senses) it was good, but this is so much better explained. Although i hav 1 question - can dogs 'sense' or 'feel' a color? My lab does seem to react to ppl who wear clothes tht hav really bright colors. He seems to want to follow thm, or sniff at thm more thn other ppl who may wear pastel or regular colors like black or blue or maroon. My dog does not watch TV but i kno a family who hav 3-4 stray dogs who watch TV all day long, and if the TV is switched off, the dogs bcome aggressive.

Mitali Shrotriya
02-Jun-2010 12:41 PM

Comment Oh Jhumkan you have caught the right point. It is actually criminal to separate a 4 week old pup from his dam. Many people feel proud in saying that they used to nurse their pup with  feeding bottle, because he was so small. They might have nursed him but ignorantly they were harming their beloved pup. I will be emphasizing on this issue in later blogs too.

02-Jun-2010 12:23 PM

Comment its really amazing!! n i agree....dogs shouldn't be separated from their mother's before they are at least eight weeks old..i hope many people read this so that they don't buy underage pups!!

02-Jun-2010 12:20 PM

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