Dog owners have often wondered how their pooch sees the world. After decades of believing that dogs could only see in black and white, many people thought the question was no longer relevant, but black and white aren’t the only colors that dogs can see.
Instead, research done within the last 10 years proved that dogs can see a lot more than we expected. Dogs can in fact see some colors, but not all the colors in the range that humans can see. Dogs see a lot like a person with red-green colorblindness, which means that those two colors aren’t visible to dogs at all.
Signs Dogs can See Colors
A dog owner most likely can see the signs that their dogs are giving them when they can or can’t see a color. A tuned-in owner has probably seen a lot of these little signs.
Dogs do things like favor toys of a certain color and reject those that are in colors like red and green due to their appearance through your dog’s eyes. You may also have noticed that your dog tends to lose toys in the grass during games of fetch. Are you using a blue or yellow ball? If not, then your dog is probably going to have a hard time finding the ball in the grass during fetch. All of these little clues should fill you in on how your pooch sees the world.
The reason that dogs tend to dislike toys that are green and red is because they are harder for your dog to see than blue and yellow. Additionally, red and green, and colors that contain either of the two, aren’t as bright to your dog as they are to you. Instead, they are often dull and hard for your dog to see. Remember that just because a color is bright for you doesn’t mean that it is bright for your dog.
History of Dogs Seeing Colors
For decades, people have been positive that dogs only see in black and white. While this wasn’t the truth, it all started when the founder of National Dog Week, Will Judy, published that dogs could only see in black and white, and that dogs had bad vision in general. He stated that dogs could only see general outlines and shapes of objects, and this held true from the 1930s until 2013.
In the 1960s, researchers claimed that only primates could see in color, so obviously, this meant that dogs couldn’t see in color. There was absolutely no research to back up this claim, but it persisted for a long time, and people believed that only animals like gorillas and humans were lucky enough to see in color.
A group of Russian researchers disproved the claim that dogs can only see in black and white in 2013. This team discovered that dogs can actually see a limited color range. While dogs can’t see the full range of colors that humans enjoy, they get to enjoy shades of yellow and blue, but they can’t see any color that includes red or green. This group also learned that dogs can see more than just the shape or outline of things. They can actually pick objects out of a lineup.
Science Behind Dogs Seeing Colors
Even though dogs see things very differently than people, their eyes are similar in structure. Dogs and humans both have rods and cones in their retinas. The reason that dogs see things so much differently than we do is because they have a different number of rods and cones than humans.
Dogs have only two kinds of cones, while humans have three. They are missing the cones that allow them to see red and green, which is much like humans with red-green colorblindness.
When it comes to rods, dogs have more than humans, which allows them to see better in the dark than we can. Dogs also have a larger corneal lens than humans, which allows more light to enter the eyes in a dark room.
Dealing with Dogs Seeing Colors
It can be extremely difficult for dog owners to understand how their dog sees the world, it is important that you try so that you can make life a little bit easier for your pup. Once you know how your dog sees certain colors, you can purchase toys and other products in colors that your dog can see well.
You should also use this information to learn to never ask your pet to see colors that it isn’t able to see naturally. You can, however, ask your pooch to sort laundry or toys into groups of either whites or colors.
Pick out blue and yellow toys for playing fetch with your dog in the yard. The yellow and blue balls or toys will stick out against the color of the grass, but red and green toys won’t. Your dog is likely to lose red and green toys in the grass. If you don’t have a yellow or blue toy, purple is the next best option, because it tends to stand out against the color of grass. Keep in mind that just because orange and red are bright for people, that doesn’t mean that they look bright to dogs.
The good news is that dogs don’t know that they can’t see all the same colors that you can, so they aren’t bothered by the fact that they can’t see things like we do. It is a good idea to do things that make it easier for your dog like purchasing toys in blue and yellow. You will also want to keep your expectations realistic; that means that you won’t want to ask your dog to try to see colors that it can’t see due to biology.
Written by a Pomsky lover Chelsea Mies
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 05/17/2018, edited: 04/06/2020