Puppies are one of the most adorable creatures on earth, but that doesn’t make them any less challenging to take care of. They grow very quickly and they need a lot of attention!
This article is all about one of the first puppy milestones – when puppies open their eyes. We’ll also look at some other really interesting details about puppies’ eyes and sight, such as when they begin to see clearly and how much they can see.
- WHEN DO PUPPIES OPEN THEIR EYES?
- WHY ARE PUPPIES BORN WITH THEIR EYES CLOSED?
- WHAT IF MY PUPPY’S EYES DON’T OPEN?
- HOW CAN YOU OPEN A PUPPY’S EYES?
- WHAT CAN NEWBORN PUPPIES SEE?
- INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT A DOG’S EYESIGHT
- WHY LOOKING AT YOUR DOG MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
- THE PUPPY DOG LOOK
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WHEN DO PUPPIES OPEN THEIR EYES?
Most puppies open their eyes when they are about a week old. They will slowly open both eyes over the next few days, taking several days for both eyes to open fully. They often don’t open both eyes at the same time. After two weeks, most puppies will have both eyes open.
All puppies are born blind, with their eyes closed.
Some breeds of dogs tend to develop sooner than others, and their eyes form faster. Cocker spaniels for instance are more likely to open their eyes sooner than a bulldog. By three weeks all puppies should have both eyes open.
Of course, most of us pet parents will not see this miraculous event unfolding, as we don’t collect a new puppy until he or she is several weeks old.
As a kid, living on a farm, I was lucky enough to see lots of different animals being born, puppies included. It’s wonderful to see their little eyes gradually open!
If your dog is pregnant and due to have puppies, it’s important to understand what normal growth is like for newborn puppies.
WHY ARE PUPPIES BORN WITH THEIR EYES CLOSED?
If you’ve ever wondered why puppies are born with their eyes closed, it’s because their eyes are not yet fully developed at birth. The optical nerves are still developing and as such, their eyelids remain closed whilst the eyes continue to form and develop.
Bright lights would be very damaging to a puppy’s eyesight while the eyes are still developing. For this reason, it’s important that you never try to force a puppy’s eyes open before the eyes are ready.
Even once their eyes are open, bright, glaring light should be avoided.
WHAT IF MY PUPPY’S EYES DON’T OPEN?
If your puppy’s eyes don’t open by the time they are three weeks old, it is possible that there could be an issue with their eyes.
Contact a vet if this occurs as they will need to assess them further on what may have caused or prevented their eyes from opening.
It can also happen for non-serious issues, such as ‘eye junk’ – the eyelid can sometimes get ‘stuck’ closed due to a build up of gunk.
However, if you see swelling, pus or a discharge in your pup’s eyes, this could be a sign of an infection, so a vet visit will be necessary.
It is also possible that your puppy’s eyes opened and then closed again due to excess light – puppies are sensitive to light at this age, so too bright a room may make them close their eyes.
HOW CAN YOU OPEN A PUPPY’S EYES?
If your puppy is already three weeks old and her eyes are still closed, your vet will try to gently clean the eyes with a cloth and tepid water, to help clear away any build up gunk.
If for some reason you are unable to get to your vet, you could try to do this yourself.
Gently hold their head while still being super gentle, wipe around the eyes to soften the gunk. Wipe it away slowly. Don’t press too hard!
WHAT CAN NEWBORN PUPPIES SEE?
To start with, a puppy will only be able to see blurred images.
However, their eyesight continues to develop for a few weeks after the eyes open, allowing them to gradually see clearer images and greater distances.
During this period it’s best to avoid bright or glaring lights.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT A DOG’S EYESIGHT
DOGS ARE NOT COLOURBLIND
Many people think that dogs are colourblind, but in fact, they can see colours, just not necessarily as well as humans.
It’s commonly understood that dogs are unable to tell the difference between green, red and yellow.
However, a study in the year 2000 (ref) showed that dogs were able to differentiate between green, red, blue and grey.
Clearly more research is needed on this fascinating topic!
DOGS CAN’T SEE DISTANCES AS WELL AS HUMANS CAN
Dogs are nearsighted, meaning that they can’t see things that are far away as well as they see things that are close up.
A study done in 1995 estimated that dogs have 20/75 vision. This means that what a dog can see at 20ft is equivalent to what a human can see at 75 feet away (ref).
DOGS CAN SEE BETTER IN DIM LIGHT THAN HUMANS CAN
However, whilst we might be able to see greater distances than dogs, they are better at seeing at night than we are.
Dogs have a feature that we don’t, an extra layer of tissue on the eye that acts as a reflective layer. It’s called a tapetum lucidum and it reflects light back through the retina a second time, increasing their ability to see in low light.
In general, larger breeds of dogs tend to see better in low light than smaller breeds. The exception to this is the Labrador Retriever (ref).
WHY LOOKING AT YOUR DOG MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
Have you ever found yourself looking at your dog, gazing into each other’s eyes, and that made you feel better? Well there’s a scientific reason for this!
A study done in 2009 (ref) showed that pet parents whose dogs held their gaze for longer had higher levels of oxytocin in their urine (oxytocin is often referred to as a ‘happy hormone’).
In fact, it’s the same process as when humans look at their human babies.
It’s also been shown to deepen the dog-parent / dog bond.
So, if you consider your dog your fur-baby, there are excellent reasons for this! You can read more about how being a pet parent is good for your health in this article.
I have to point out that not all dogs are comfortable with eye contact though. If this sounds like your dog, don’t force it. My own dog used to be very uncomfortable with sustained eye contact. She was a nervous puppy, and as her confidence grew over the years, she has gradually been able to look at me for longer periods. She still won’t sustain long gazes like my other dogs have done though! However, that doesn’t stop me lovingly looking at her 🙂
THE PUPPY DOG LOOK
We humans tend to like large-eyed, baby-face features. You see it in cartoons and toys, and people often relate big eyes to beauty.
An interesting study showed that dogs that have greater facial expression, and move their eyebrows more, are more appealing to us humans. This eyebrow movement allows dogs to have a pronounced puppy dog look, making their eyes seem bigger (ref).
Dogs can do this by raising their inner eyebrow. Wolves do not have this particular ability, as the muscle needed to do it is underdeveloped in wolves. Siberian Huskies can’t do it either.
It is a feature that has evolved in domesticated dogs. A study at the University of Portsmouth concluded that this ability to raise their eyebrows makes us want to look after dogs more, and makes it seem like they can communicate with us more like humans.
“…domestication transformed the facial muscle anatomy of dogs specifically for facial communication with humans”(ref)
As you can see, puppies have a lot going on in their little heads! It’s important to remember that they don’t just need food and water. They also need plenty of love and care so they grow up healthy and ready for the world.
When they open their eyes for the first time at 1-2 weeks old, it’s not like they see what we do! Eyesight develops gradually in puppies over the first few weeks of their lives.
One more thing before we go…remember not to take this puppy milestone too lightly (a puppies eyesight) because it could lead to some serious damage later down the line if you’re not careful with their eyes!
Oh, and don’t feel bad about staring lovingly into your dog’s eyes! In fact, when you’ve had a tough day, snuggle up with your pup and stare at each other to your heart’s content!