Behavior Pet Facts Are Dogs Really Color Blind? What Colors Do Dogs See?

Are Dogs Really Color Blind? What Colors Do Dogs See?

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If you are a dog lover, then you have probably heard that dogs only see the world in black and white. Or perhaps you have heard that they can only see shades of gray.

These are common misconceptions based on old research. However, they are often taken on their face value and persist even today.

What Colors Do Dogs See?

While it is true that dogs don’t regard the world like humans. It is a misconception that they’re unable to recognize certain colors. The pertain question is, what colors do dogs see?

To better understand the answer, it’s important to know how dog eyes work. Unlike human eyes which have three types of cones, dogs have only two types of cones. These cones are light-catching cells that allow us to perceive color and respond to it.

Our light receptors or cones are sensitive to blue, red and green. However, since dogs have only two receptors they are only sensitive to blue and yellow. This creates a color range that is difficult for dogs to see.

Additionally, dogs can process various shades of gray. That facilitates their ability to perceive colors like dark yellow, grayish yellow, light shades of yellow, grayish brown, brownish gray, light blue and dark blue.

Dogs can only see a color range that is compressed into the blue and green part of the color spectrum. This is extremely similar to red-green color blindness in humans.

What is surprising is that the most popular colors for dog toys are usually red, orange, and yellow. It’s potentially because dog owners can easily spot the toys since they stand out for them. But red and orange are hard for dogs to see and they will appear as gray, dark brown or even black to your pooch. This is why dogs sometimes struggle to notice their toys, or tennis balls, in the green grass.

Differences between Human and Dog Vision

In addition to the differences in the type of cones that are responsible for the way we perceive colors, dog and human eyes also have a few other distinctions. These differences were driven by evolution. Dogs had to develop their senses for seeking out their prey and hunting, so they have better sensitivity to motion at a distance than humans.

Also, dogs have a wider peripheral vision compared to humans but their visual acuity is less developed. This means that objects usually seem blurry to dogs.

Another potential reason why dogs don’t have such a good vision as humans comes from the fact that they have a better sense of smell. Their sensitive snouts render better color perception unnecessary. This enhanced sense of smell is the reason why your dog can sniff the treats in his interactive dog toy from a huge distance.

Short-coated black dog wearing sunglasses. Part of the "Are Dogs Really Color Blind? What Colors Do Dogs See?" article.
Photo by Mel Elías on Unsplash

Conclusion

Although dogs can see color, their vision is reduced to seeing blue, yellow and combinations of these colors, as well as shades of gray. The reason for this lies in the number of cones in dogs’ eyes since they have two cones compared to three cones that humans have.

And while they don’t have as good color vision as we do, they can discriminate between objects and detect motion. They don’t just see the world in just black and white.

Read more about your dogs eye health and how to prevent cataracts in dogs on this link.

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