Field of vision is not the only difference the positioning of our eyes make. Both of our eyes are receptors that each eye is viewing independently of the other. Human eyes view two images that are more or less identical that are overlapping each other giving us depth perception. Dogs do not have the depth perception to the degree that we have. There may be some depth perception in the middle of their visual range but that will vary from dog to dog. Dogs with a flattened face such as a Pug will have a greater degree of depth perception than dogs with long snouts such as Afghan.
Our eyes are the receptors of sight but it is the brain that is interpreting what is being seen. People who are born with sight in only one eye have a flat vision; that is they have no depth perception. With training and practice the brain can be programmed to fill in the missing information required to interpret depth perception; much like anyone who has worn bifocals for the first time to walk down a flight of stairs. You can’t see looking down so you look straight ahead and let the brain take over on where to step.
Agility dogs need to learn their take-off and landing points for going over jumps. Their depth perception is distorted when taking the jump at an angle or doing a wrap; however, practicing these manoeuvres will help minimize dropped bars. I have been lucky with Elfie as she doesn’t like to hit the bar so she is careful and as a result she has only dropped a bar 3 times in her career. Eggnog is another matter; he doesn’t mind at all plowing right through the bar and knocking it to the ground. With Eggnog I need to keep pace with him to clear the jumps because as soon as I get too far ahead of him his eagerness to catch up trumps not knocking the bar.
Another difference about our eyesight is that human brains are wired to see colour and dogs’ brains are wired for movement. Dogs may not see the difference between blues or greens but as predators they see movement of snakes and rodents in the grass that we don’t see at all. So if your teeter is green and your dog walk is blue they look different to you but from your dog’s perspective they look identical; this is why I always give a hand signal to indicate the teeter. And if your dog goes over the wrong obstacle – perhaps a minute movement on your part sent them flying.
Understanding these differences in our dog’s vision is not only important in dog agility but is important in our daily routines with our dogs; whether walking through the woods or simply going down a flight of stairs. Dogs don’t see exactly what we see and we don’t see everything they do – it’s all in the perspective!
Salty Dogs Agility Club