Q: I sometimes throw treats on the floor right in front of my dog, but he doesn’t see them. Why is that?
A: In some respects, dogs have great vision. Their eyes are adapted to help them see better in low light. And sighthounds bear that moniker because of their ability to detect motion at a distance, thanks to a long, narrow head that gives them a greater field of vision. They also benefit from a “visual streak,” an elongated area in the retina that provides a panoramic view of their surroundings and excellent peripheral vision. The average dog has a visual field of approximately 250 degrees, while dogs such as pugs have a visual field of approximately 220 degrees. Sighthounds? Their visual field is as much as 290 degrees.
So why can’t your dog see treats right in front of his nose? Canine eyes are set more on the side of the head. While that gives the average dog better peripheral vision than that of humans, it impedes depth perception. Most dogs have difficulty seeing things that are closer than about 10 inches, especially if those objects aren’t moving. And what the dog sees is not as clear as it is to a human, partly because dogs see fewer colors with less vivid contrast.
The bottom line: It’s easier for dogs to detect moving objects rather than something that’s right in front of them that isn’t moving. It’s a good thing they have a keen sense of smell to sniff out those treats.
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.