Can Dogs See Color Or Are All Dogs Color Blind?

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Have you ever thought about how your dog perceives the world through his eyes? Is he also able to see the beautiful flowers on the field or the colorful toys that you have bought him?

The theory that dogs are colorblind has been around for a very long time. Humans thought that dogs only react to movement and can differentiate shadows from light.

While dogs are not color blind, they are not able to recognize certain wavelengths and perceive the color spectrum in a yellow or blue tone.

Do Dogs See Color?

Color blindness is a condition first discovered in the late 18th century. Studies were mainly conducted on people and the most common defect was in the perception of red and green.

The myth that dogs can only see the world in black and white has been attributed to Will Judy. He assumed that dogs only experience their environment in various shades of black and white.

Researches thought that only mammals are capable of seeing color. Dogs are definitely not color blind but their capability of seeing color is different compared to humans or other animals.

How Many Colors Can A Dog See?

Before we can get to this question, we first have to understand the anatomy of a dog’s eye.

Graphic explaining dog eye anatomy
Source: CleverPet

The most important aspect to color vision is the retina which is a tissue that lines the back of the inside eye.

It consists of millions of cells that receive light and send it to the brain as a neutral signal. The cells are known as cones, rods and ganglion cells.

  • Cones perceive daylight and control the color and visual perception of the eye.
  • Rods are able to catch movements and work best in low light.
  • The ganglion cells receive and regulate visual information from photoreceptors.

The cones decide which colors animals and humans are able to see.

Humans are trichromatic which means that we are able to see red, green and blue because of our three cones.

Dogs have more rods and only two cones (dichromatic) which makes them capable of only recognizing yellow and blue.

We might have a better experience in daylight but their rod composition makes them excellent hunters in low light.

Human Vision

Color spectrum of human vision
Source: Dogvision.com

Dog Vision

Color spectrum of dog vision
Source: Dogvision.com

Dogs are nocturnal hunters, so their eyes evolved to track and catch prey in low light environments.

Their larger lenses, corneal surface, and tapetum (reflective membrane) make it possible for them to hunt at night.

They register different lightwaves that decide which color spectrum we perceive. So dogs can only see yellow and blue which makes them colorblind to red and green.

Red and green appear as yellow or blue to dogs since their color spectrum is more limited than man’s color spectrum.

Do Dogs Only Rely on Movement?

Yes, dogs mostly base their vision on movements.

You have probably recognized that dogs love to chase things. That’s because their retina can perceive quick motions better than standing objects.

If a dog is enthusiastically chasing a yellow ball through the grass, he is mostly reacting to the movement of the toy rather then the yellow color against the green grass which both look grey to him.

Quick movements really catch the attention of a dog better than anything else.

At night, your dog will be the first to detect a rabbit coming from the forest. As a hunter, smell, sound, and sight are most important to him, he doesn’t really care if the animal is pink, black, or green.

They are capable of seeing motion so clear that they are able to watch TV with us.

Yeah, that’s right, dogs do not only stare at the weird moving screen. They can even identify humans or other animals on the screen by vision and sound.

What Colors Do Dogs See?

This is how a dog experiences his environment compared to humans:

Two pictures of how dogs perceive the colors of their red, blue, yellow, and green toys
Human Vision compared to Dog Vision

As I said, they are not capable of seeing green and red, so the red Kong looks more like a grayish brown.

That means that a dog’s vision is similar to a person with severe red-green color blindness.

If you ever wondered why your dog loves the yellow tennis ball and is not very interested in the bright green toy – this is the reason for it.

The next time you choose a toy, think about what would be more aesthetically pleasing for your dog so he will be much more engaged in it.

Weird enough that most toys and dog gear comes in red, orange, or green colors. If you toss a bright red toy into the field that you can easily see, your dog might not find it.

But humans are not on top of the chain when it comes to color perception. Peacocks, for example, are able to see UV-light while a mantis has 12 kinds of cones.

Do Dogs See in the Dark?

Dogs can see in the dark way better than humans. Their night vision can be compared to that of a cat. While dogs can see very well in low light, complete darkness will leave them blind because of their eye’s anatomy.

So if you are leaving your dog alone during the late evening or night, consider turning a light on so he won’t be stuck in the darkness without seeing anything.

Dogs can see in low light but don’t do well in total darkness.

In my blog post about your puppy’s first night at home, I’m preaching crate-training your dog and a tip you’ll come across is to put a blanket over the crate to darken his sleeping space even more and that can actually help your dog to settle down and sleep.

You’ll probably also recognize increased twitching when your dog sleeps at night compared to during the day, they’re just like us in that respect.

Can Dogs See in 3D?

Dogs do see their environment in 3 dimensions a we do.

Their field of vision is actually bigger than that of humans. A dog’s binocular field ranges from 60 to 116 degrees vs 140 to 160 degrees in humans.

This equals a total visual field of 240 to 290 degrees vs only 180 degrees in humans.

Many variations can occur when it comes to the extent of the blind area due to different head shapes throughout the breeds.

That being said, the dog’s focus is not as well developed as in us humans because they simply don’t have to rely on it.

Next time you’re on a bonding adventure with your dog, you’ll know exactly how he perceives the world. Bigger field of vision, but not the same focus or ability to look far away like humans.

Conclusion

Dogs can definitely see color which has been discovered quite recently. While humans can enjoy the full-color spectrum, a dog’s color vision is limited to blue, yellow and shades of grey.

When you ask yourself if dogs are able to see color, think about a person with severe red-green color blindness. Dogs mainly rely on movement for hunting so their color perception is not as developed.

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Danielle
In love with dogs, their behavior and psychology. I am writing on this blog since February 2019 to provide you with valuable information on everything dogs. When I am not working on my blog, I study research articles and enjoy the time with my beloved Rottweiler Amalia.

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