Does It Matter if Dogs Eat in the Dark or Light?

Dogs see better in the dark than humans.
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Dogs see better than humans in the dark, and they have excellent sense of smell -- so they will not have trouble finding their way to a food dish if their owner sets it out late at night. However, for at least a couple of reasons, feeding your dog when there’s still light is a good idea.

How Dogs See in the Dark

Dr. Paul Miller, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that dogs see relatively well in the dark because they are adapted to low-light vision. They have more rods in their retinas than humans, which allow them to see in dimmer light. They also have structures called the tapeta lucida, which act as mirrors at the backs of the eyes. The tapeta reflect light back to the retinas, giving the retinas a second chance to process that light and allowing the dog to pick up on any light or movement in a dark space.

Dogs and Color Vision

It is a popular myth that dogs are color-blind. Dogs do have fewer cones, the cells that process color, than humans, but they are able to see in hues of yellow, blue and gray. Red is the main color that they have trouble seeing -- so if you are going to set food out for your dog at night, placing it in a bright red food bowl may actually make it more difficult for her to spot.

Feeding Habits Matter

Although the time of day that you feed your dog isn’t all that important, you should adopt a regular routine to avoid overfeeding your dog. The ASPCA recommends that you feed your dog twice daily, basing the amount you feed on the recommendations listed on the dog food bag and taking into consideration your dog’s age, health and activity level. You can feed your dog a specific food portion as a meal, leave the food out all day and allow the dog to eat at any time, or leave food out for a set amount of time and remove it if your dog doesn’t finish it.

Benefits of Feeding in Light

One major advantage of feeding your dog in light is that it gives you an opportunity to better train him. You and your dog will both be able to see each other more clearly, and you can teach your dog good manners by not setting his food down until he exhibits calm-submissive behavior. Feeding in the light also gives you a better opportunity to bond and socialize with your dog.