The way dogs see has been a mystery for almost a century due to the fact that misinformation has led to a lot of people falsely believing that dogs can only see in black and white. It wasn’t until recently that science proved that dogs can see a little more than black and white, and we learned that dogs can see a very limited color range that includes shades of blue and yellow.
However, dogs can’t see any color that includes green or red, which means that purple, orange, and pink are all out of the range for your pooch, too.
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Signs Dogs Can See Colors
A dog owner that is truly in tune with their pet may notice a few of the signs that dogs display when they either can or can’t see a color. You will know that your dog can see a particular color when you see a few common signs like perking up their ears and wagging their tails.
You may also notice that your dog has a hard time seeing a color when it loses a toy of that color in the grass during a great game of fetch. During these moments of lost balls in the grass, you should notice that the ball is probably green, red, or orange, as all of these colors are very hard for your dog to see.
You may also see that your dog loves a toy that is blue or yellow more than all of the other toys you have purchased. When you notice that your dog loves a toy of a certain color, take note and make your dog’s life a little better by getting more toys in that color. Yellows and blues are best, because they are the easiest for your dog to see and they appear more vibrant to dogs.
- Wag tail
- Raise ears
- Ears up
- Losing toys of certain colors
- Favoring one color of the same toy over another
- Wagging their tail at the sight of a toy in a color it can see
History of Dogs Seeing Colors
For over 80 years, people believed that dogs could only see in black and white. This myth started when the founder of National Dog Week, Will Judy, wrote in the 1930s that dogs had extremely poor vision and could only see in black and white. He also said that dogs could only see general outlines and shapes. Even though these “facts” were untrue, that didn’t keep people from believing them for a very long time.
In the 1960s, the myth that dogs couldn’t see in color was furthered when researchers stated that only primates were able to see in color. So, this meant that apes and gorillas could see in color, but cats and dogs were only able to see in black and white. There was no research to back up these claims, but they still lasted for decades.
In 2013, Russian researchers did more research and discovered that dogs could actually see some colors, but just not all the colors that humans can. The team learned that dogs can see shades of yellow and blue, and that they can’t see any colors that contain red or green, so this means colors like purple and orange aren’t visible to dogs either. These researchers also learned that dogs can see more than just general outlines. In fact, dogs can pick objects out of a lineup.
Science Behind Dogs Seeing Colors
There is a reason that dogs and humans see colors differently. It has to do with the way that the eyes are built. For both species, the retinas of the eyes contain both rods and cones. In dogs, there are more rods, but in humans, there are more kinds of cones. While dogs have two kinds of cones, humans have three. The third kind of cone allows for red and green visibility.
Dogs have more rods than humans, which allows them to see better in the dark than we can. In fact, dogs’ eyes are made for low-light vision. The surfaces of the corneas are larger and so are the lenses. These allow more light to enter the eyes to help dogs see better in the dark.
Dealing with Dogs Seeing Colors
It is important that dog owners understand how their pets see the world. Since dogs see things differently than people, we need to cater to them when they need us to. This means that we shouldn’t play fetch with them using toys that are hard for them to see. You can use blue or yellow balls or toys to play fetch in the green grass. Purple is another color that tends to stand out from the green of the grass to dogs.
Don’t ask your dog to identify colors that it can’t see. For example, it isn’t a good idea to ask your dog to sort toys or other items by color, because dogs don’t see all the same colors we do. Instead, you can teach your dog to sort by whites and colors, which is possible for them. Keep your expectations realistic, and you and your dog can learn a new trick.
Fortunately, dogs don’t know that they can’t see all the same colors that we do. Dogs aren’t bothered by the fact that they can’t see things the way we do, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do a little bit extra to help them with their vision differences.
Help your dog by buying toys and other products in colors that they can see. Blues and yellows are perfect for toys, especially those that you are going to play fetch with against the green grass. You also need to manage your expectations and not expect your dog to see colors that they can’t see due to biology. Remember that the things that look really bright and vibrant to you may look very dull to your pooch. Think about what they need when buying toys.
How to React to Your Dog Seeing Colors:
Get your dog toys in colors that it can see.
Don't play fetch with balls that are green, red, or orange in the grass.
Don't ask your dog to see colors that it can't.