But the colors they see, and the way they see them, are different to the way we perceive the world. They can't see the difference between red and green, and have a limited color range in their vision when compared to us.
So, what exactly can and can't our canine companions see? Let's take a closer look.
What Colors Can Dogs See?
But can dogs see green? Well, sort of. If an object is green, your dog's eyes will obviously still be able to detect it — there won't just be an empty void or a blank spot — but they may have trouble distinguishing it from its surroundings. This is because our furry friends perceive green, yellow, and red as the same yellowish hue.
So if you've thrown a red ball into a patch of green grass, your pet may have trouble picking it out on sight alone. And if dogs were allowed to drive, safely navigating an intersection featuring traffic lights would be something of a challenge. However, dogs may be able to tell the difference between green, yellow, and red if there are differing levels of brightness between the colors.
As for all the other colors of the rainbow, dogs perceive blue and purple as a second hue, and see cyan and magenta as gray. In other words, rather than seeing the world in black and white, they see it in blue, yellow, and gray.
- Head turning
- Ears up
- Ignoring distractions
- Lack of blinking
- Eyes moving to follow object
The Science of Dogs Seeing Green
Dogs see the world in shades of yellow, blue, and gray. More specifically, it's thought our fur-babies can see dark blue, light blue, gray, light yellow, and dark (brownish) yellow.
How do we know this? One of the most important studies done on the subject of doggy vision was completed by scientist Jay Neitz from the University of California. Neitz showed dogs three panels in a row — two of the panels were the same color but the third was different. If the dog could pick out the panel that was different and press it, he or she would receive a treat.
More recently, in 2017, Dr Marcello Siniscalchi and a team of researches from the department of veterinary medicine at the Univesity of Bari, Italy, dug further. The team employed a modified version of Ishihara's test, which is used to test color vision in humans, to conceal the image of a cat in a circle of red and green numbers. The results showed once again that dogs struggle to distinguish between the colors green and red.
Adjusting to Your Dog's Vision
The most important thing to remember is that because dogs have trouble telling the difference between green and red, it's a good idea to choose toys and training aids in other colors. Now that we've mentioned this, you might be surprised to discover just how many of your dog's playthings (and, in fact, how many other toys on the market) seem to be bright red or orange in color!
Next time you're splashing out on some new toys for your pooch, look for products that are a bright shade of blue or yellow. If you're training your dog to fetch or find a particular object, choose something that's not red or green.
Remember, too, that it's important not to get frustrated with your dog if they don't see something you want them to. If they run straight past the ball or toy they're meant to be fetching, they're not being stupid or deliberately ignoring you; they simply may not have noticed the item because it's the exact same color as the grass it's lying in.
Factors of Your Dog's Vision to Consider:
Vision varies. While scientists believe that all breeds of dog are able to perceive more or less the same spectrum of colors, other parts of their vision can vary based on a dog's size and anatomy. A Great Dane's perspective is obviously going to differ substantially from that of a Chihuahua, while where the eyes are positioned on the head also plays a part. For example, a dog with close-together eyes and a short nose will have a larger overlap in the visual fields of their two eyes, resulting in improved depth perception.
Don't start feeling sorry for your dog because they can't see as well as you. Our pooches can actually see better than us in certain situations, particularly in dim light. Their large pupils let in more light, while they also boast more light- and motion-sensitive cells.
Dogs more than make up for their lack of color perception with their other impressive senses. For example, dogs' noses are many orders of magnitude more powerful than our own, with their noses boasting up to 300 million olfactory receptors compared to our own 5 or 6 million, while they can hear sounds from up to 4 times further away than humans.