Do dogs see color?

Do dogs see color? Dogs cannot see the same colors humans do, they can still see some colors. Dogs can see blue and yellow, and also the combination of those hues. But their world is not completely black and white. Dogs live in a pretty colorful world. For dogs, the color vision is most similar to a human with red-green color blindness, even though they are other differences. Technical probably beyond their comprehension, but research shows that the dog’s eye can watch much more than shades of gray.

Color is discerned by the nerve cells in the eye. The retina of the eye has two main types of cells—rods, which detect light levels and motion, and cones, which differentiate colors. Human eyes have three types of cones that can identify combinations of red, blue, and green. Dogs possess only two types of cones and can only discern blue and yellow - this limited color perception is called dichromatic vision.

Humans may have more cones, allowing us to see more colors and see them brighter than dogs do, but dogs have more rods, giving them the edge when it comes to seeing in low light or identifying moving objects.

What Is Color Blindness?

English scientist John Dalton (1766–1844) conducted some of the first studies on congenital color blindness in the late 18th century. Dalton became aware of the phenomenon because he and his brother could not recognize some colors. They confused scarlet with green and pink with blue.

In humans, the defect in red-green perception is the most common form of color deficiency. As many as 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women with Northern European ancestry have red-green color blindness. It is caused by abnormalities in color-detecting molecules, known as cones, in the retina. The retina is a lining at the back of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses. These signals are then conveyed, through the optic nerve, to the brain, where an image is formed.

When it comes to distinguishing color, a dog’s normal vision is most like a person who has red-green colorblindness. Having said that, no further degrees of colorblindness have been recorded in dogs.

Are Dogs Color Blind or Spectrum Challenged?

In the last few decades, examinations of the canine eye structure have revealed some differences in basic design between humans and dogs. Evolution and function have driven these differences. Dogs developed their senses as nocturnal hunters, tracking and catching their food at night. Therefore, their eyes adapted to see well in the dark and to catch movement.

“For the purpose of hunting in the dark, canine eyes have a larger lens and corneal surface and a reflective membrane, known as a tapetum, that enhances night vision,” explains AKC’s chief veterinary officer, Dr. Jerry Klein. “They also have more rods, which improves low-light vision, in the retina.”

The retina is where scientists have also found the key to the difference in color perception between dogs and people. The retina is composed of millions of light-sensing cells. These include:

  • Rods, which are extremely sensitive cells that catch movement and work in low light.
  • Cones that work in bright light and control color perception.
  • Dogs have more rods than cones in their retina, whereas people have more cones, and this apparently makes the difference in color perception. Humans and a few other primate species are trichromatic, which means they have three kinds of cones. Dogs are dichromatic, and have only two types.
  • Each type of cone registers a different light wavelength. The one for red and green gives humans their appreciation for a red rose or a Granny Smith apple. Dogs, and some color-blind people, are missing red-green cones.
  • Meanwhile, there are some types of fish and birds that can see an even broader range of the color spectrum than people can. There are many types of birds and fish that are tetrachromatic — they have a fourth type of cone receptor to absorb ultraviolet light.
  • Dog Vision, a website devoted to canine color perception, printed this side-by-side comparison of how people and dogs register the color spectrum.

What is the truth about dog color blindness?

Having yellow-blue dichromatic vision means that dogs are most similar to a green-red color-blind person. They are best at differentiating between the contrast of yellows and blues, but cannot watch red and green all that well. Color blindness narrates an incapability to differentiate between the colors or to watch specific colors at all. This state stems from a deformity in the color sensing receptors in the eye. A person with green-red color blindness cannot differentiate between those two colors.

What are other visual differences between dogs and people?

Dogs have few visual benefits over humans. Dogs have eyes that are set more on the sides of the head while permits them a wider range of peripheral vision than we have. The exchange is the smaller range of the visual delicacy so dogs don’t have the depth point of view that we do. Canines have students that enlarge to the max permitting them to capture as much light as possible. Under the retina, they also have reflective cells which form the tapetum. The tapetum provides dogs the glossy eyes appearance and also refines their capability to watch in dull light. In the retina, dogs also have more rod cells than their human friends.

Dogs are responsible for determining motion, even small movements at a great distance. So, when we compared to humans, dogs look good in dull light and can more precisely detect motion. Nature supplies dogs with special visual accommodations that permit them to survive and thrive in the world. Looking well in the dull light and picking up small movements in the forest at high distances improve the dog’s hunting capability. These benefits also help a dog know when he is the prey and requires to flee. Times have substituted and most dogs are members of our human families now, so we give them nutritious food and save them from predators.

How is a dog’s vision compare to human vision?

Just because dogs don’t appreciate the whole spectrum of color that humans do, that does not mean they don’t recognize different colors. They just may not look the right color on the things. For example, the color red looks dark brownish-gray or black to a dog. And green, orange and yellow all look a little yellowish to a dog. Our furry friends watch blue well, but purple looks the same as blue to them. When playing the game of fetch, dogs can’t tell the difference between a red ball and a yellow ball.

Fortunately, they have a good sense of smell so they normally recognize their ball and avoid mix-ups when playing a game of fetch in a park 2. In addition to color perception, dogs and humans have other visual differences. In addition to the color point of view, dogs and humans have other visual differences. In some other respects, dog vision is not a sharp as human vision. Dogs are more near-sighted than humans. When looking at things from the same distance, the object may look crisp to us but blurred to our dogs. Our dog friends are also less sensitive to changes in brightness. Fundamentally, dogs simply cannot recognize color in the rich, vibrant tones that we do.

So What Colors Can Dogs See?

According to research conducted by Jay Neitz, who runs the Neitz Color Vision Lab in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Washington, Scientists now believe that a dog’s color vision is similar to that of a person who has red-green color blindness, Dogs can make out yellow and blue, and combinations of those colors. This renders a lot of the world grayish-brown. That lush green lawn? It probably looks like a field of dead hay. That bright red velvet cushion? Still comfy, but it probably comes across as a dark brown blob to the dog.

Dog Vision offers an online tool to help you see things as your dog sees them. There are also apps that you can use to see what your dog is seeing at any time.

What Does This Mean to You and Your Dog?

Now that you know that dogs don’t see certain colors, it would make sense to choose products for them that feature the colors they can see. This knowledge may help explain why some dogs go crazy over yellow tennis balls, but are apathetic about the same ball in pink or red.

When you’re throwing a ball or a bumper for your dog to retrieve in the grass or the lake, don’t choose something red, or he’s likely to lose it. And if you’re teaching him to differentiate between two toys or obedience training dumbells, it would be wise to go for one blue and one yellow.

AKC Family Dog columnist Stanley Coren offered this observation: “The most popular colors for dog toys today are red or orange. However red and orange are difficult for dogs to see. That means that when your own pet version of Lassie runs right past the toy that you tossed, she may not be stubborn or stupid. It may be your fault for choosing a toy with a color that is hard to discriminate from the green grass of your lawn.”

Can dogs see in the dark?

To make it possible to navigate in the dark, the canine eye, like the eyes of cats and other mammals, has a larger pupil than a human’s. In the anatomical structure of the eye, the retina has light-sensitive cells, called rods, which help an animal or human see in low light. Dogs have more of these rods than we do. The retina also has cones, and they determine which colors dogs can see.

Why Do Dogs’ Eyes Glow in the Dark?

You’ve no doubt seen that eerie, greenish-yellow glowing look of a dog’s eyes when light hits them at night, such as from headlights or a flashlight, and in photos (caused by AKC Family Dog columnist Dr. Stanley Coren says, in Psychology Today, “The shiny surface of the tapetum bounces any light that has not been caught by the photosensitive cells back up to the retina, thus giving the photoreceptors a second chance at catching the dim light entering the eye.”

But the tapetum actually does even more: it amplifies that light through a phenomenon called fluorescence.

“This not only adds to the light’s brightness but it also slightly changes the color of the light that is reflected back,” Coren says. “The color shift moves the wavelength of the light closer to that to which the rods are most sensitive to and can best detect.” And the tapetum reflects up to 130 times more light than the human eye. This is why dogs are five times more sensitive to light that we are.

Adding to dogs’ special ability to see in the dark is their increased field of vision: Most dog breeds have about 250 degrees of field of vision. Compare that to ours, which is about 190 degrees.

Can dogs see in the mirror?

Dogs do not have the ability to recognize their own reflection in a mirror the way humans and some other animals are able to. In fact, human babies are not even able to recognize their own reflection in a mirror as themselves until the ages of 18-24 months. Despite the fact babies might be fascinated by their reflection, they believe it is another baby and interact with them socially. Similarly, experiments confirmed the same sequence of events with chimps. Mirrors were placed in the chimps’ home cages and at first, the chimps reacted as if they were seeing a reflection of another animal. However, just like humans, over time they began to recognize the reflection as themselves. They begin to touch parts of their face and bodies while carefully and intently looking at the movements in the mirror.

A few conclusions could be drawn from these findings. The first one is that dogs lack total self-awareness and consequently lack consciousness. The second is that dogs do recognize their own reflection, but are just not concerned about their appearance like higher primates are. A third option some believe is because dogs are less concerned and affected by certain visual events compared to apes and humans, they don’t acknowledge their reflection. Dogs are more in tune with their sense of smell, so perhaps testing the self-awareness in dogs should not be evaluated by their ability to recognize their own reflection. Rather, many dogs can recognize themselves through their own sense of smell.

Why do some dogs watch tv and others don’t?

Whether or not dogs show interest in the TV comes down to their individual personalities and breed mixes. A 2013 study published in the journal Animal Cognition found that dogs could visually identify images of other dogs among pictures of humans and other animals. They are also able to recognize on-screen animals and familiar sounds such as barking coming from the set.

However, their unique vision means that although they can recognize televised images, they see them a bit differently than we do. When dogs watch TV, they perceive only colors on the yellow and blue spectrum. They have dichromatic vision while humans see the full range of colors. To dogs, every color appears yellow, blue, brown or gray.

To give you an idea of what dogs see, the following photo was run through a Dog Vision image processing tool. Notice how the multi-colored balls all appear yellow, blue or gray to a dog.

The Black and White Vision Theory

If dogs can see certain colors, then where did the idea that they only see in black and white come from? That belief, says the AKC, can be attributed to National Dog Week founder Will Judy, who wrote in a 1937 training manual that it was likely that dogs could only see in shades of black and gray. Researchers in the 1960s perpetuated the myth by hypothesizing incorrectly that primates were the only animals capable of perceiving color. This belief persisted about dogs until fairly recently when, in 2013, Russian researchers challenged the question, “Are dogs color blind?” They proved that dogs can see and distinguish between yellow and blue, reports the Smithsonian.

The researchers conducted an experiment to see whether dogs could distinguish between the two colors or between contrasting degrees of brightness. They did so by placing four pieces of paper — one light yellow, one dark yellow, one light blue and one dark blue — on feed boxes, with only the box with the dark yellow paper containing a piece of meat. Once the dogs learned to associate the dark yellow paper with their treat, the scientists placed only dark blue and light yellow papers on the box, surmising that if the dogs tried to open the box with the blue paper, it would be because they associated the dark shade with food rather than the color. But the majority of dogs went straight for the yellow paper the majority of the time, demonstrating that it was the color, not the brightness, that they had learned to associate with the food.

Missing color receptors aren’t the only things differentiating dog vision from that of humans. Dogs are very nearsighted, with their vision estimated to be about 20/75, says Business Insider. This means that when a dog looks at something 20 feet away, it will appear to be 75 feet away.

While this might make it seem like your poor dog has terrible vision, the AKC points out that, thanks to their wide-set eyes, dogs not only have a wider field of vision than humans, but are also better at seeing fast movement, which makes them good at spotting fast-moving prey.

Interesting Facts:

Color Improves Agility Dogs do better at agility training when the weave poles, tunnels, jumps and boards are painted in colors they can easily discern.
Nearsighted Dogs see 20/75, which makes them quite nearsighted.
Best Dog Toy Color Based on what we know about dogs’ color vision, the best color for dog toys is blue.
Dogs Help Us Ten million Americans, most of them male, are affected with red-green colorblindness, a genetic trait carried on the X chromosome. People with this condition can’t clearly see the difference between red and green. They often mistake green for white and red for brown or dark gray.

Why does a dog’s color eyesight matter in canine sports?

For example, the sport of quickness where a run at high speed through a barriers course. The dog must take the barriers in a specific sequence, and every course is drooped differently. A director has only a millisecond to communicate to the dog which barrier is next. Badly scheduled communication cannot only result in a dog taking a “false course” barrier, it can result in the dog blunder a jump or barrier, “striking” and possibly harming him or herself. To make sure that the millisecond communication between coach and dog is clear, coaches work for years to train their dog to read the modest physical signals such as hand signals, retardation of forwarding motion, proper shoulder arrangements, footwork, and much, much more.

These signals are exactly placed and scheduled for the proper movement of the dog will require that communication. Yet, if a coach is dressed in brown and is running on brown dust in a horse arena with dim tan walls, all of the coaches hour and hour of preparation perhaps for nothing if the dog cannot clearly and quickly visually recognize the coach. This information from the coach is coming at the dog fast and furious. Except for the periodic verbal information, almost all of the signals are non-verbal. The dog requires answering this information quickly. Fast dogs cannot take a second glimpse to watch if they read that information exactly. To guide the dog’s coaches should stand out visually from their background so that a fast-moving animal can watch them.

The colors dogs do like

Yellow and blue are two colors that dogs directly attract toward. The simple reason why that is these is the two colors that dogs can differentiate easily. The advantage of focusing on yellow and blue toys for dogs is that your dog will have an easier time recognizing these things. That means that a dog can like retrieving things because they will be able to mark these easily recognizable colors against backgrounds that include other colors that are muted by a dog’s vision. In reality, changing to yellow and blue toys and things is the best idea if you have always had the impression that your dog is simply bad at recovering things that are right in front of his eyes.

Frequently Asked Questions

1- What does a dog’s vision look like?

For dogs, their color vision is most similar to a human with red-green color blindness, although there are other differences. Dogs are less sensitive to variations in gray shades than humans are, as well as only about half as sensitive to changes in brightness. Dogs also tend to be nearsighted to varying degrees

2- What colors do dogs see best?

While we can’t ask dogs to read an eye chart or pick out colors, behavioral tests suggest that dogs see in shades of yellow and blue and lack the ability to see the range of colors from green to red. In other words, dogs see the colors of the world as basically yellow, blue, and gray.

3- Are dogs fully colorblind?

Dogs do not see in black and white, but they are what we would call “color-blind,” meaning they have only two color receptors (called cones) in their eyes, whereas most humans have three. So, technically, dogs are color-blind

4- What does a dog’s vision look like?

For dogs, their color vision is most similar to a human with red-green color blindness, even though there are other dissimilarities. Dogs are less sensitive to variations in gray shades than humans are, as well as only about half as sensitive to changes in brightness. Dogs also tend to nearsighted to varying degrees.

5- What color do dogs see in the dark?

Dogs also have a layer of eye tissue that human deficiency called the tapetum lucidum, it reflects the light into the retina. This uplift dogs night vision even more and is why dogs’ eyes shine in the dark. Turns out, dogs eye watch much more than just black and white.

6- Do dogs dream?

Your dog is fast asleep when instantly he begins whimpering, moving his legs or tail, or fascinating in some other weird behavior. Scientists think so in fact, they trust that dogs not only dream as we do but also that they dream similarly to us, meaning that they repeat movements from their day while they are fast asleep.

7- What colors do dogs hate?

We have maybe observed that your dog tends to attract toward playthings that are yellow or blue. Well, in reality, dogs can only watch shades of yellows and blues. This means that your dog does not watch orange as orange. In reality, to dogs, orange seems like a dim gold color. Dogs do not like the red color they like yellow or blue colors. The objects with yellow or blue colors attract dogs.

8- Why do dogs lick you?

Dogs frequently lick people to show love, as a salutation, or to simply get our attention. If you happen to have a little food, lotion, or salty sweat on your skin, that may play a character as well. Along with love, these are few other things your dog wants from you. They like the taste of the skin of the human. While it irritates the owner. They don’t like the licking habit of dogs.

9- What is the most calming color for dogs?

Violet and blue are more emotionally calming and can help to minimize the stress level. These colors are ideally in the veterinary setting because they appear in lighter tones to animals and do not look ad abrasive as white or as dull as gray. For dogs, the most calming colors are violet and blue.

10- How do dogs see humans?

They are good when they watch an entire face. Dogs (like people) are best at using information about the configuration of the eyes, mouth, and nose. If dogs are shown only the eyes, the mouth, or the nose, they are good at learning to discriminate between faces when shown the eyes rather than the nose or mouth.


In conclusion, it’s completely false to say that dogs are color blind. We can also safely say that the colors that dogs do see are less graphic when compared to what the human eye looks at. For dogs, the color vision is most similar to a human with red-green color blindness, even though they are other differences.

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