For decades, humans have believed that dogs can’t see colors. We take for granted our ability to see a wide range of colors, and we don’t give much thought to the way our dogs see the world, now that we “know” they see in black in white.
But, what if we told you that dogs could actually see some colors, just not all the colors that we see? In fact, dogs can see in a number of shades of blue and yellow, but they can’t see any color that contains any green or red. Instead, they see a totally different color.
Signs Dogs Can See Colors
Dogs can show you in a number of ways that they can or can’t see a certain color. These little clues aren’t always easy to see, so it is important that you learn to recognize the signs that your dog is giving you.
For example, has your dog ever lost a toy in the grass during a fun game of fetch? That is probably due to the fact that the toy was in a color that blended in with the grass or that your pet couldn’t see all that well. You may have also noticed that your dog doesn’t seem to play with toys that are red or green, but that they love their yellow tennis ball or blue plush toy.
The reason that dogs enjoy toys that are blue and yellow is because they can only see shades of blue and yellow. Since dogs can see these colors more clearly than others, you should consider purchasing more toys in those colors instead of colors that contain red and green, such as orange or purple. Your dog sees red as gray or black and green as a shade of yellow.
- Wag tail
- Raise ears
- Ears up
- Favoring one color of the same toy over another
- Wagging their tale at the sight of a color they can see
- Losing toys of certain colors in grass
History of Dogs Being able to See Colors
For decades, humans didn’t know that dogs could see any colors. In fact, research from the 1930s informed us that dogs could only see in black and white, as well as shades of gray. This information came from the founder of National Dog Week, Will Judy, who also stated that dogs have very poor vision in general. He told the world that dogs couldn’t see colors and that they couldn’t make out figures. Instead, he believed that dogs could only see shapes and general outlines.
When new “research” was done in the 1960s, we were all told that only primates could see colors. So, while dogs couldn’t see in color, gorillas and other apes could see the full-color spectrum. Unfortunately, there was no research to back the claim that only primates were gifted the sight of color, but that didn’t prevent people from believing it.
In 2013, new research was done in Russia by scientists that discovered that dogs could actually see some of the colors that humans see. These scientists found that dogs can see yellow and blue, but not red and green, or any of the colors that red and green contribute to. They also found out that dogs have better vision than previously thought, and they can actually distinguish objects very well.
Science Behind Dogs Being able to See Yellow
Dogs and humans see the world differently due to the differences in the eyes of both species. Biology of the eye for dogs is different than in a human. While the retinas of both species contain both rods and cones, they are found in different quantities in each. Humans have more cones than dogs, but fewer rods, which is why dogs see better in the dark than humans but can’t see as many colors.
Rods help with low-light vision, and dogs have more rods than humans as well as larger lenses and corneal surfaces. So, even with very little light, they can see fairly well in the dark. Dogs also have a reflective membrane on their eyes that help them see better in the dark as well.
Dogs have fewer cones than humans. People have three different kinds of cone, but dogs only have two kinds. They are missing the cones that allow them to see shades of red and green, which means that dogs see similarly to people who have red-green colorblindness.
Dealing with Dogs Seeing Colors
It is always important to remember that your dog can’t see the same colors that you can and that you should try to use what you now know to better understand how your pet sees the world. Once you know just what your dog can see, you can do a better job at catering to your pet’s vision. When it comes to getting toys and other products for your dog, you can try to get things in colors that they will see and enjoy. Look for toys in blue and yellow.
When playing with your dog outdoors, be sure to avoid green and orange toys, because they will be hard for your pet to see in the grass. Nothing ruins a game of fetch faster than your dog not being able to see the ball or toy that you are throwing for them. While blue or yellow toys will be the best, purple is another good color, because it will stick out in the grass more than other colors. Remember that even though a color is bright to you, it may not be for your dog.
Thankfully, your dog doesn’t really know that they can’t see the world the same way that you can. They are really happy regardless of the colors they can’t see. It is important that you don’t try to make your dog see colors that they are unable to see, because it will just lead to frustration for both you and your dog. You can train them to understand the difference between things with and without color, however.
How to React to Your Dog Seeing Colors:
Purchase toys and other products in colors that your dog can see.
Don't force them to recognize colors they can't see.