Are Dogs Color Blind? How Dogs See The World?

Are Dogs Color Blind? How Dogs See The World?

Author WDF Staff | Last updated: Jun 28 2023


Every dog lover in this world has at least once heard that dogs are color blind, and they only see in black, white, and various shades of grey. Most of us didn't bother to find out if that was true, and we accepted that as a universal truth that our furry friends can't enjoy different colors.

If you are an active member of the dog's world, you might have heard that that, in fact, is not entirely true. Although dogs can't see all the colors humans can, that doesn't mean they don't necessarily see color at all. Recent studies found that dogs see various blue and yellow shades and a mixture of these two colors. So, where does this popular notion come from? What colors can dogs see and why? Let's find out.

border collie closeup

What is the truth about dogs and color?

The actual truth that lies behind dogs seeing color is actually simple - dogs can't see all the colors humans can, and the colors they can see are not that intense. Imagine seeing colors at dusk. They should be a lot darker, and it can be hard to distinguish an object's actual color. 

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The first time we heard about this, we still weren't completely sure about how to imagine the colors dogs can see, so an interesting veterinarian we were in contact with explained it like this,

"Dogs mostly perceive blue, yellow, and violet colors. Violet because it is a mixture of blue and yellow. What we humans see as red, orange, or green, dogs see in a different color." There is even a great demonstration of a dog color specter below."

what dogs seeSource

Do different breeds see differently?

Interestingly enough, no study has been able to confirm or deny this claim so far. We believe that sighthounds have developed better vision than companion dogs, but until scientists prove that, the only thing we can do is guess.

It is improbable that the next step in evolution happened to dogs, and they evolved trichromatic sight, but it is possible that some breeds had to adapt, and a better sight is a part of that.

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Why can't dogs see all the colors we see?

To perceive color, the eye has to have two types of cell receptors called rods and cones. Both are photosensitive, but they have a different purpose. Rods are responsible for detecting light, while cones react to different light frequencies responsible for our perception of color. There is a slight difference between the human eye and the dog eye.

husky eyes

Difference between human and dog eyes 

If humans and dogs had the same eyes, dogs could see all the colors humans can. The cells responsible for color detection are rods and cones; humans have more cones than dogs. Humans are trichromatic, which means we have three different cones responsible for detecting red, green, and blue, while dogs are dichromatic and can easily detect blue and yellow. That means dogs are not entirely color-blind.

However, dogs have more rods than humans, allowing them to see better in darker conditions. If you ever wondered why your dog sees better than you at night - the total number of rods allow them. 

By our standards, dogs would be considered quite nearsighted and partially color-blind. Dogs could only read the first two lines if they had an optometrist appointment and had to read the chart with letters and numbers.

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What does that mean for my dog and me?

If you are the type of owner, who is asking this question, congratulations. You are thinking about things not many owners think about, and we are sure you will provide the best possible life for your dog. If there is a lesson you would like to take from learning about dog vision, it would be this; buy a blue or a yellow one when buying a toy for your dog.

Blue and bright yellow are the most intense colors your “partially color blind” dog can see, and that type of toy will be fascinating for your dog. It will be as if you bought them a lightning toy. Bright red balls or toys might seem great in your eye, but your dog will only see them as grey.

If you feel bad for your dog and their lack of ability to enjoy all the colors our world has to offer, just remember that all their other senses are a lot stronger than ours. Their sense of smell, taste, and hearing is a lot better than ours, and they are experiencing things we can't even imagine.

World Dog Finder team

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