Young puppies need a lot of care, and most of that will come from their mother, meaning little need for human intervention. They will be overly dependent on her particularly during the initial 4 weeks after being born… this is very important, because they can’t see as newborns. Their eyes will still be closed for some time.
If you’re wondering what age puppies start to open their eyes, read my helpful guide to puppy eyesight development, starting off with the main question.
When do puppies open their eyes? Newborn puppies open their eyes between the 10th and 14th day of being born. At this age you will see the eyes start to open, possibly one before the other, taking around 10 days to both open fully.
At this point in their development, the only thing that puppies will be able to see will be their mother and sibling puppies. This is because it can take some time for puppies’ eyes to open fully, around 10 days in total from moment they start to open.
Their vision also won’t be completely clear yet.
What age do puppies open their eyes fully? Whilst puppies open their eyes fully after 10 days, starting to open between the ages of 10 days and 2 weeks, vision won’t be clear until around the age of 8 weeks after being born.
Puppies’ sense of sight also starts around the same time. People often find this surprising, as find it odd that puppies are deaf when they are born.
But’s it’s true.
The ears of a puppy won’t open up completely to let them hear until around 2 weeks of age; a similar to age to when their eyes start to open up.
Handy Hint: If you suspect your puppy might be deaf even after this period, here are ways you can test their hearing at home.
Just imagine what they must be feeling, seeing, and hearing at this age!
Puppy eyesight development questions answered
So, now you know what age puppies start to open their eyes and when they open fully, but there’s so much more to learn. Here are some of the most interesting facts about the development of puppy eyesight.
Why are puppies born with their eyes closed?
The reason that puppies aren’t born with their eyes open, but instead closed, is all due to evolution. It is a trait that dogs still have today, despite not really needing it, because it all boils down to survival… or so the theory goes.
As we all know, dogs are descended from wolves. Before dogs were domesticated, they would have had to hunt in order to survive. Can you imagine how risky this would have been for a mother dog with a belly full of puppies?
A pregnant dog would be slow and would find hunting far more difficult than usual. She would also be more at risk of being attacked by other predators due to her slow movements and inability to run as fast.
Handy Hint: Certain dog breeds have better eyesight than others.
Why don’t puppies open their eyes right away?
In simple terms, puppies don’t open their eyes right away because evolution has led to puppies being born too early, with their eyesight not yet having developed properly.
The theory goes that this risk of predators led to dogs giving birth to their puppies earlier than they actually should. The dog mother then doesn’t have to carry as much weight around for as long. She can then get back to her typical fighting fitness and manoeuvrability.
But, as a result, dogs now give birth so early that the puppies have not been fully developed yet. This includes the puppies’ eyesight development, plus also their hearing which won’t working when born.
I found this really interesting quote on the Psychology Today website about puppies being born with their eyes closed and not open right away:
“Getting the pups out of the womb and onto the ground quickly is an advantage. In addition, between hunts (which can be spaced days apart) there is not much to do, so the female has time to care for helpless infants. When she is out pursuing food, the pups can be safely stored in a den.”
Can a puppy’s eyes open too soon?
Puppies eyes can open too soon. I’ve read comments on forums from dog owners who think they are doing their puppy a favor by encouraging the eye lids to open sooner than they should.
Puppy eyes can also open too soon during by accident. For example, if another puppy’s foot pushes against the eyelid, it can start to open the eye too early.
What happens if puppies open their eyes too early?
If you open the puppy’s eyes too early, or they accidentally get opened up a little, it can really hurt the puppy. Puppy eyesight development is still at work behind the protection of the eyelid.
Because of this, a puppy’s eyes are not yet ready for harsh and direct light. Even when puppies open their eyes at the correct age, they still need to be in relatively dim light conditions.
The bottom line is, if puppies open their eyes too soon and early, it can have a detrimental affect on their eyesight for the rest of their life.
Do a puppy’s eyes open at the same time?
Most puppies won’t open their eyes at the same time. It’s not unusual for one of their eyes to open at first, with the other eye starting to open a day or even two days afterwards.
What if a puppy’s eyes don’t open?
Occasionally puppy eyes won’t open on the age timeline they should. If by day 18 in their development, one or both eyes are still closed then they can be given some assistance.
The reason a puppy’s eyes don’t open will typically be due to a build-up of gunk or birth fluid. This can often fuse their eyelids together by sticking to the eyes and eye lashes.
Handy Hint: I’ve also written a guide which explains when you can expect your puppy to start barking.
What happens when puppies’ eyes don’t open?
Providing the optical nerves have finished developing and their eyes are fully formed, nothing will happen if a puppy’s eyes don’t open… it’s simply just the gunk making them stick together, nothing else.
But you, or your vet will need to help to open them as described in the next point.
Handy Hint: If you have a stray puppy and don’t know their age, you can try to estimate it according to how developed their teeth are.
Can you open a newborn puppy’s eyes?
Yes, you can open a puppy’s eyes, but not if they are newborn. The only time you should help open a puppy’s eyes is when they have gone past the date the eyes should have opened.
In cases like this, you might see some swelling behind the eye which looks unusual compared to the other puppies in the litter.
If you open their eyes too early, it can damage their eyesight forever.
However, if by the age of 18 days, the eyes are stuck together, you can help to open them as described below.
How to open a puppy’s eyes?
If you see gunk and discharge around the unopened eye, and possible swelling, you can help to open a puppy’s eye or eyes.
Vets will typically recommend that you get a clean cloth, soak it in warm water, and then gently wipe around the closed eye. This will help to soften the eye boogers and gunk, and make opening the eye a lot easier.
Handy Hint: Here’s the age you can expect your puppy’s eyes to change color from blue to the permanent color.
How long after a puppy’s eyes open can they see properly?
When newborn puppies open their eyes fully their sight will still be limited. It takes several weeks for the puppy eyesight development to complete until they can see properly the same as mature dogs.
By the time they are a month old in age, puppies will have good enough eyesight to be able to walk towards something to investigate it, rather than using touch.
However, things will probably still look like blobs. You can see what this might appear to be like in the images lower down the page.
Handy Hint: Once newborn puppies can see and walk, you can touch and pick them up. It’s generally advised not to before this point.
How bad is puppy eyesight?
When puppies first open their eyes, it will be blurry and will take them a few weeks until they are seeing completely clearly. Once a puppy matures, they will have the same eyesight as a dog; whether that’s bad depends on your point of view.
In comparison, humans have 20/20 vision. Dogs on the other hand have 20/75 vision. In practical terms, this is best summed up by this statement by Professor Stanley Coren:
“A pattern that a dog can barely recognize at 20 feet is actually large enough for a person with normal vision to identify at a distance of 75 feet. To give you a feeling about how poor this vision is, you should know that if your visual acuity is worse than 20/40 you would fail the standard vision test given when you apply for a driver’s license in the United States and would be required to wear glasses. A dog’s vision is considerably worse than this.”
Making that more simplistic, I translate this as dogs or puppies having to be 20 foot away from an object to see it in the same way we humans would from 75 foot away.
Where puppy eyesight does trump a human’s vision will be how well they see at night. Their night-time vision has been estimated as being 5 times better than a humans, so could mean the below image is a good comparison.
As they grow older into dogs, puppies will not actually be color-blind despite the popular misconception. Instead, dogs see colors in different ways to how humans do. For example, a puppy won’t see the color red like us, instead seeing yellow or blue shades.
Here’s an example of what an adult dog will see in comparison to a human.
How to protect puppy eyesight development
When puppies are still in the first 8 weeks of age, I would not expose them to very harsh and direct light. The eyes are still developing, and bright lights could mean their eyesight is affected in later life.
When do puppies eye change color?
All puppies are born with blue eyes with the majority of them seeing a change in eye color to brown at around 10 weeks of age.
Handy Hint: Newborn puppies cannot start drinking water until they are at least 4 weeks of age, and starting to wean off their mother.
Puppy development timeline including their eyesight
To place the age when puppies open their eyes fully into context, here’s a very generic timeline of a puppy’s growth development.
- 10 days: Eyes open and they can start to see.
- 14 days: Ears open and they can hear and can even start to make little barks.
- 21 days: Some puppies can start to take initial steps and milk teeth start to grow through.
- 28 days: Solid food can be introduced into their diet and some can even start running.
- 35 days: Most puppies should now be running around, and all puppy teeth should come through.
- 56 days: By the 8th week puppies can leave their mother.
- 70 days: Eyes will change color from blue to brown.
Disclaimer: The information in this guide is not intended to replace the advice of a professional vet. It is my own experience and research. You should never open your puppy’s eyes without first consulting with a professional.
During the first couple of weeks after being born, puppies will be completely blind. Being totally dependent on their mother, is so cute to see – but it won’t be long before they are up and around and getting up to mischief.
When puppies open their eyes, they will start exploring the big wide world – what an amazing time when they just want to get out of the whelping box and make their own way in life!
You might also like…
Now you know how long it is until puppies open their eyes you might also be interested in these other fact files:
- Do puppies look on their owners as being their parents?
- Do father dogs know or recognize their puppies?
- When are puppies allowed to the dog park?
Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/puppies-golden-retriever-cute-puppy-2985943/