Can Dogs See Color, Or Are They Colorblind?

Dogs fill our hearts with a rainbow of colors, but supposedly theirs is a world of greyness and shadows… Can dogs see color or are they colorblind?

You get your dog a flashy red toy, thinking it looks cool and fun. You expect the same level of excitement from your bud when they see the gift you got them. So you take them out to the park, joyfully show them the new toy, toss it and… nothing! No reaction. At most, maybe some puzzled looks from your companion. They even seem to have a hard time find the toy to bring it back to you. What happened? Can’t they see it? Situations like this are the reason why many still wonder: can dogs see color? 🤓 In fact, until recently, even researchers believed dogs could only see black and white (and shades in between). The evolution of science doesn’t stop, however, and we now know they can indeed see color… Just not the way we do!


Can dogs see color?

The short and fastest way to answer the question “Can dogs see color?” is: yes! Dogs can see color, but unfortunately only some and in a much shorter spectrum than humans. 😕

Color is perceived in the retina thanks to protoreceptor cells called cones. When these cones are stimulated, they transmit a message to the brain. The brain will then interpret a color, depending on the stimulation and the cone emitting the message.

Humans have three cones: blue, red and green. Dogs, however, only have two. Any canine has a blue cone just like humans, but the second one falls between a shade of red and green.


Which colors can dogs see?

what colors can dogs see color

Dogs might not be able to clearly interpret every color (much like a colorblind person)… But they can still perceive them through shades.

Our buds can easily see blue and yellow, as well as combinations of the two, like lighter and darker shades. They can also perceive a third color between red and green, which is interpreted as grayish brown. So your bud wasn’t ignoring your new red toy… He was just having a hard time distinguishing between green grass and the toy, since they are both perceived as a similar color to him. 🙈

The fact that dogs love tennis balls is not a coincidence. Their bright shade of yellow is clearly perceived by our buddies! This makes them much more appealing and attractive to dogs than any bright red toy.


Do different breeds see different colors?

dogs see black and white can dogs see color

As we’ve mentioned before, the question “Can dogs see color?” is only recently being answered from a new perspective. Until as recently as the 80s, it was scientifically believed that our buds could only see black and white! ⚫⚪

That is a long intro just to say that research is still undergoing. The paradigm change is still very recent and as with any study new discoveries come slowly.

For now, researchers believe the color spectrum is the same for every breed. However, they are open to possible new findings… Particularly since it has already been proven that the size of the eyes – as well as their position on the muzzle – can have a direct effect on dogs’ visual perception and accuracy.


Is it a handicap?

Not at all! Dogs evolved from nocturnal mammals. Since darkness doesn’t let the colors be perceived, they developed other senses to help with their survival. They have much better motion sensitivity, helping them spot prey and danger faster. 🏃

What is more, while trying to answer the question “Can dogs see color?”, researchers also found that this visual impediment is most likely related to canines’ enhanced olfactory and auditive systems.

Dogs have proven time and time again to be man’s best friend by protecting us, feeble little humans who distinguish colors… So how exactly could this vision impediment be a handicap? 🤔


Can dogs see color? Yes, they can, just in a different way than humans. But you shouldn’t be sad about it! Maybe they cannot enjoy a rainbow or how awesome your new red shirt is… Yet they can still appreciate a nice afternoon under the blue sky, with their yellow ball at their side. Loving and enjoying life is all a matter of perception in the end, right? 💙

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