Have you ever wondered how your dog sees the world? Many people are extremely curious about what their dog can and can’t see. For most of your life, you have probably believed that dogs can’t see light yellow, because you’ve heard that they only see in black and white.
While it is true that people believed that for many years, it isn’t true that dogs can only see in black and white. They can’t see the full color spectrum that humans see, but they can see some colors. In fact, dogs see a lot like a person with color-blindness.
Signs Dogs Can See Colors
Dogs can show you what colors they can and can’t see in a variety of ways. These clues may be subtle to dog owners that don’t understand how their dog sees things, but for those owners that do, these signs should be fairly easy to spot. You may have noticed that your dog sometimes loses a toy during a game of fetch or that they don’t play with all of their toys.
These little signs may be your dog’s way of telling you that they can’t see those toys in the same way that you can. Is your dog’s favorite toy yellow or blue? That is probably because dogs are able to see blue and yellow without any issues, but red and green are much more difficult.
Dogs tend to not like red and green objects and toys because they can be very hard to see when compared to blue and yellow. Instead, purchase blue and yellow toys and leave the red and green ones on the shelves. Remember that dogs don’t properly see any color that contains red or green either, so orange and purple may not be better choices. Blue and yellow are really the best colors for your dog when it comes to toys.
- Wag tail
- Raise ears
- Ears up
- Favoring one color of the same toy over another
- Wagging their tail at the sight of the toy of a color it can see
- Loses toys of certain colors in grass
History of Dogs Seeing Colors
Historically, almost everyone believed that dogs could only see in black and white. Even though it wasn’t true, the word of Will Judy, founder of National Dog Week, held as fact for decades. He said that dogs could only see in highlights of white and black. He also claimed that dogs have extremely poor vision and can only see the general outline and shape of objects. This information from the 1930s is still circulating as misinformation now.
In the 1960s, new research was done to determine what animals could see. This research determined that only primates such as gorillas and apes could see in color. All other animals were determined to only see in black and white. However, there was no research backing up these claims. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop it from becoming known as fact.
Fortunately, in 2013, Russian researchers tried again. This team found out that dogs can see some colors, but they don’t have the ability to see the full range of colors that we do. The group determined that dogs can see blues and yellows, but reds, greens, and any colors that the two previous colors make are not recognized by dogs the way that people see them. They also learned that dogs can see objects well and can actually pick them 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. For both species, the retinas contain rods and cones. While dogs have more rods, humans have more cones. Rods help with low-light vision, while cones help with color vision. This is why dogs see better at night than we do, but we see more colors than they do.
Dogs only have two kinds of cones, while humans have three. The cones that dogs don’t have are the ones that would allow them to see red and green. This is very similar to people who have red-green colorblindness.
Dealing with Dogs Seeing Colors
Even though it can be hard, it is important that you try to understand how your dog sees the world. Once you understand how your dog sees colors, you can use this information to make their lives a little easier.
To do this, never ask your dog to sort or recognize colors that it can’t see. It just leads to stress for both you and your dog. If you really want to, you can train dogs to sort things by white and colors, like laundry. You can also purchase toys and other products in colors of yellow and blue that are easier for your dog to see.
When you are playing fetch with your dog, be sure that you aren’t using toys that are green, red, or orange, because these toys are hard for your dog to distinguish against the grass. While yellow and blue are the easiest colors for your dog to see, purple is a great alternative, because it sticks out against the color of grass to your pooch. Remember that even a color that is bright to you might not be bright to your dog.
Fortunately, dogs don’t know that they can’t see the full color spectrum. This means that it doesn’t bother them that they can’t see things like we do, but it is a good idea to do your best to get things in colors that your dog can actually enjoy. It makes play time more fun for both of you if your dog isn’t searching for a lost toy in the yard. You also need to keep your expectations realistic. Don’t ask your dog to do things that it physically can’t do, like identify red.
How to React to Your Dog Seeing Colors:
Buy your dog toys and products in blue and yellow.
Avoid playing fetch with a ball or toy in green or red.
Don't ask your pet to see in a way it can't.