Are Dogs Color-Blind?

Dog Health April 13, 2024
Are Dogs Color-Blind?
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Are Dogs Color-Blind?

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Are Dogs Color-Blind?

Dogs are equipped with special vision that allows them to survive in the wild. This means they can see well in low-light situations and pick up movement from far and wide in order to hunt.

But what about colors? Can dogs see them or do they only see them in black and white? The best answer is that dogs are what we would call “colorblind.”. This means they have only two color receptors (cones) in their eyes, while most humans have three.

What Is Color Blindness?

Color blindness describes an inability to distinguish between colors or the ability to see certain colors at all. This can stem from an irregularity in the color-sensing receptors in the eye. In humans, there are two types of color blindness: blue-yellow color blindness and red-green color blindness.

Humans may have more cones, which allows them to see more and brighter colors 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 Colors Can Dogs See?

Dogs can not only see shades of gray, black, and white, but they can also see shades of yellow, blue, and brown. Dogs can see the colors yellow and blue and combinations of those colors, while the rest of the world is grayish-brown. A green lawn may look pretty dead and yellow to your pup and a bright red toy probably looks more like a brownish color.

What Color Is A Dog Most Attracted To?

The colors blue and yellow will catch your dog’s attention better than other shades. Because dogs see in hues of yellow and blue, toys or accessories with these colors will get them excited. If your choose a red toy, your dog is likely to show little interest in it or lose it easily.

In addition to your dogs eyes being limited in color, his world is also fuzzier around the edges. Research shows dogs are fairly nearsighted; however, their sensitive ears and smell give your dog extra help.

How Your Dog’s Eyes Work

Your pup’s eyes have several of the same components that human eyes do. In addition, your dog’s eyes work in the same way the human eye does.

The Retina: Just like humans, your dog’s eyes have a retina. This is the inner-most lining of the eyeball, and it functions to receive light, sending signals to the brain via the optic nerve, where the information is processed to form sight.

The Optic Nerve: The optic nerve is the foundation of your dog’s eye function. It connects the eyeball and the brain, while it transfers electrical impulses from the eye to the brain. This is where those signals are then processed to form an image.

Rods: Rods are one type of photoreceptor cell inside of the retina with millions of light-sensing cells that help process light coming into the eye and transform it into an image. These are  sensitive cells that work normally to catch movement, and they also help your dog see in low-light situations.

Cones: Cones are a type of photoreceptor cell in the retina. They provide the color in vision. Where rods work in low light, cones work in bright light. They are also helpful for making out fine detail.

Dog Vision Vs. Human Vision

Just because dogs don’t see in all the colors that humans do, do not assume they have poor vision. While humans can also be color blind, there are main differences in human vision when comparing to dog vision. For example, the retina is responsible for the main reason dogs convert color differently than humans. The retina has millions of cells that sense light, including rods and cones.

The rods are main purpose is to catch movement in low light, while cones work in bright light. Cones control how your pup sees color and only have two types of cones because dogs are are dichromatic. However, humans have three types of cones, which in turn makes them trichromatic.

Basically, dogs do not have the same amount of cones that humans do, which is why their vision is different. Dogs also do not have 100% cones in all areas in their eyes, which means they do not have the same level of detail in their vision as humans do.

Dogs do have better night vision than humans due to them having more rods and their eyes have a structure called the tapetum lucidum. This structure reflects light back through the retina to improve vision in low light conditions.

Can Dogs See In The Dark?

Dogs do have better night vision that allows them to see better in the dark. Even though they might not see color as well as humans they do tend to see a lot better in the dark. While dogs do not have perfect night vision, per say, seeing well in the dark is one area where your dog’s vision will beat yours.

Dogs have good night vision because ancient wild canines, that modern-day dogs evolved from, used to hunt mostly at dusk and dawn. Therefore, they needed to be able to see well in low light environments in order to track their prey.

Their eyes also have high sensitivity to motion at a distance, at  10 to 20 times greater than humans. This trait still remains in the genetic make up of current canines we call our beloved pets.

Can Dogs See In 3D?

Dogs see their environment in 3 dimensions the same as humans do. However, their field of vision is larger than that of us humans. Your dog’s binocular field ranges from 60 to 116 degrees while us humans have a range of 140 to 160 degrees. This equals a total visual field of 240 to 290 degrees compared to only 180 degrees in humans.

Your dog may have a larger field of vision but his distance and focus ability isn’t as good. But thankfully your pup doesn’t solely have to rely on his vision to get around.

Final Thoughts

Dogs are color blind in many of the same ways that humans are, though the colors they see or don’t are different than those of color-blind humans. However, our dogs’ color spectrum is limited due to having more rods and fewer cones in the retina. Basically the colors a dog can see are blues, yellows and greys while other colors tend to blend into one of these. So the belief that dogs are completely color blind is not accurate. However, their color vision is similar to a human with red-green color blindness.

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Amy Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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