Can Dogs See Colors? Everything You Need To Know

Yes. Dogs can see colors but not the way humans do. We have always known our furry friends to be black and white all their life. But when it comes to what colors they see through their eyes, it’s much more than we know. Also, for centuries the world had believed the myth that dogs are color blind. But, thanks to research and technology, studies on canine anatomy have found that dogs can see much more than just gray and shades of gray.

What is Color Blindness?

An English scientist who first conducted studies on color blindness was John Dalton (1766-1844) in the late 18th century. Dalton and his brother had the same condition and could not differentiate between green and scarlet, pink and blue. So Dalton’s experience with color blindness helped him to learn the phenomenon. Color blindness is the inefficacy to see any colors or differences between colors. This is because an abnormality in the color-sensing receptors, known as cones in the retina of the eyes causes color blindness. The retina turns light into electrical impulses and conveys the images to brian through the optic nerve. Therefore, one fails to recognize specific light wavelengths without the color sensing receptors known as photoreceptors. So basically, there are two types of color blindness in humans, and it depends upon the kind of eye receptors that are affected. The most common color deficiency is the defect in the perception of red-green.

Color Blindness in Dogs – Truth and Facts

Let’s first understand how the eye works concerning colors. Dogs, as natural hunters, track movements and hunt their prey in the dark. Whereas humans hardly see in the night. Canine eyes have a larger lens, corneal surface, and reflective membrane called the tapetum, which helps night vision. In addition, the retina consists of millions of cells that sense light. These cells include:

  • Rods 
  • Cones

Rods are sensitive cells that catch movement in low light. Cones work in bright light and are responsible for perceiving colors. Dogs have more rods and lesser cones than humans, and humans have more cones and lesser rods. In technical terms, humans and a few other species are trichromatic, and dogs are dichromatic. However some color blind people and all dogs do not have red-green cones.  This means humans have three kinds of cones, and dogs have only two types of cones. In simpler words, humans can recognize three colors like red, blue, and green, while dogs recognize only yellow and blue.

What Colors Do Dogs See?

In research done by Jay Neitz from the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Washington, scientists believe that a dog’s vision is like that of a person with red-green color blindness. Dogs being dichromatic can identify yellow- blue and the shades, combinations of those colors. This makes dogs see the world in grayish-brown shades. For example, a lush green lawn may look like a field of dead hay. Your dog will love to chase a yellow ball rather than a red ball. When observed keenly, your dog would love to play with blue and yellow toys than the other colored toys.

Interestingly, dogs see a rainbow in the colors of dark blue, light blue, gray, light yellow, darker yellow (brown), and very dark gray. So the world of colors for dogs is filled with yellow, blue, and gray. Green, yellow, orange looks yellowish, and violet and blue look blue. So they see blue-green as gray.

Visual Acuity in Dogs

Dogs are short-sighted and cannot see distant objects as clearly as we do. Yet, they have peripheral vision and can see 250 degrees while humans can see only 60 degrees. Therefore, they can see objects in front of them more clearly, and the rest is blurred. 

Few websites and apps allow comparing what humans see and what dogs see.

What Does This Mean to the Dog?

Dogs rely on the brightness or darkness of the object rather than the color. Therefore, choosing the training aids in the right color while training dogs is essential. For example, selecting a red ball instead of a green one will confuse the dog. However, all that means that the world now knows dogs can see colors and just black and white. According to the observation of AKC Family Dog columnist Stanley Coren,” The most prominent colors in dog toys these days are red or orange. Although, red and orange are difficult for canines to see. That means that when your pet runs right past the toy that you tossed, she may not be stubborn or stupid. Instead, it may be your mistake to opt for a toy with a color that is hard to differentiate from the green grass of your lawn.

Fun Facts About Dogs and Colors

  • Colors help the dogs in agility training. Dogs perform well when the weave poles, tunnels, jumps, and boards are painted in particular colors.
  • Dogs are short-sighted, and they see 20/75
  • Dogs love to play with toys, and the best color for canine toys is blue.
  • Dogs help in the studies related to treating color blindness.
  • Even though dogs have difficulty identifying an object in red color, they can track the movement of the same red thing in the dark.

Final Thoughts

Dogs can see colors but in their way. Dogs are two colored animals, and they can see only a blue-yellow combination of colors. Though they have difficulty identifying other colors, they can track moving objects of any color in the dark. As a result, dogs are short-sighted, unlike humans, and cannot see things that are far clearer. However, your furry friend’s world is filled with limited colors; but they can see the world’s true colors more precisely.


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