The eyes have it!

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

Welcome to the first edition of the 2020 Assistance Dogs Trust dog blog.

It seems everyone is using the year 2020 to talk about vision. And then, it’s an opportunity to use the other meaning of the word ‘vision’ and look at what lies ahead for the year.

I am delighted to tell you that our vision at ADNZ for 2020 is extremely positive. One of the things that makes that so, is the addition to the ADNZ team of Alex Williams – our new, experienced, energetic and enthusiastic Fundraising and Communications Manager! Alex will be sharing the blog with me over the year, so watch out for some awesome instalments from her in the near future.


It seemed fitting to start the year off with some 20/20 insight. As I started to research some thoughts for the blog, I realised I had no idea what 20/20 vision actually meant, but I thought it was good if you had it. Apparently, it’s to do with us humans being able to stand 20 feet away from the eye test chart and read the same line of letters that a person with normal vision can read at 20 feet. It’s the norm.

However, it’s not the best, or the worst. For example, somebody with 20/15 vision has eyesight that can read letters at 20 feet that a person with normal vision can only read at 15 feet distance. Likewise, if you have 20/40 vision, you can read things at 20 feet that someone with normal vision can read at 40 feet. Interesting huh? And to add to the confusion, with the advent of metric measurements, it is now often referred to as 6/6 vision. Go figure!

In terms of dogs and 20/20 vision, it is believed that dogs are relatively nearsighted. Dr. Gary Ryder, who works for VCA Southwest Michigan Animal Emergency and Referral Center, says dogs more likely have something like 20/75 vision. In other words, what a dog sees at 20 feet, is similar to what a human sees at 75 feet. It’s clear to them, just a bit grainier.


There has long been speculation on what a dog can see and how colourful it is. And let’s be honest, none of us can climb into a dogs head and see for ourselves what they see.

However, science is pretty amazing, and based on some anatomical facts, we can draw some conclusions. The way colour is seen with the eyes is dependent on the receptors, based in the retina. These receptors are called cones. Humans have three kinds of cones, with each one being sensitive to a specific color (red, green, and blue). Dogs, on the other hand, only have two types of cones—one for yellow and one for blue.

Because of this, it is believed that dogs see the world in a somewhat desaturated state.

The placement of a dogs eyes also gives them a wider range of viewing than humans. Whilst we are limited to about 180 degrees, dogs typically cover a range of 250 degrees. That’s how they can see something to chase out of the corner of their eye that you didn’t even know was there!


Eyes are incredibly important for any working dog. All responsible breeders, whether working dogs or pet dogs should get eye tests done on potential parents before they are allowed to be mated. It’s important to know if there’s any congenital defects that need to be avoided. For these tests ADNZ goes to a professional ophthalmologist. It’s yet another cost, but so very important.

Even then, with all the testing, sometimes things surprise us.

In the K litter, we had the very adorable Kurt, who showed signs of being cross eyed. He was booked in with our eye specialist, and tests showed that he was completely blind in one eye. Because of the blindness, the muscles behind the eye were not exercised, so lost condition, and therefore the ability to hold his eye straight. Hence the cross eyed look. Although Kurt had all he makings in his personality of being an excellent Assistance Dog, his half blindness meant he needed to be withdrawn from the programme. As his puppy raisers were already in love with him, they decided to adopt him, and he will live a long and happy life with them.


While we can’t see exactly what a dog sees from their point of view, what we do see are all the different expressions a dogs eyes can have! Just like humans, they can convey love, humour, pleading, focus, knowledge, and even boredom. These expressions are often accentuated with their ears or a tilt of the head, but the eyes are certainly the window to the soul. When you’re looking into the eyes of a dog, there is nothing but their true thoughts to see.

Let’s take a look at some examples of special eyes we have in our ADNZ midst.

Of course, we’ve all heard the expression ‘Puppy Dog Eyes’. Ruby has always known how to work that look! Jill, however, has the strongest eyes I’ve ever seen! They are bright, and so, so sharp! I always know when it’s Jill at the end of the lens! Amber is a great example of the knowledge we see in our dogs as they learn. On graduation day, they are ready to go out and do what they were born to do….and they know it! Bindi has a real sense of humour, and LOVES balls! Even with her eyes shut, you know what she’s thinking!

The eyes are one of the most important assets our dogs possess, but the breeding, care and training that goes into a successful Assistance Dog is HUGE!

If you’d like to help with the training and development of one of the puppies currently training to make a difference, then take a look at our ‘Sponsor a puppy’ page. You can contribute to someones life changing!

We’ll be watching for your comments below, as they all help raise our profile in the community.

Have a great week.


#assistancedogs #adnztrust #servicedogs