Are Dogs Colorblind?

Many dog owners wonder about dog color vision, and there was an old fallacy that dogs were colorblind. In film and television, whenever the perspective of a dog is shown, the scene is usually edited to be in black, white, and grey. But is this common portrayal of a dog’s-eye view true to reality? Is man’s best friend really blind to all color?


How Does Your Dog Actually See the World?

Have you ever wondered how your dog actually sees the world around him? For many years, it was believed that dogs only saw the world in black and white with shades of gray. Of course, that myth has been disproven – dogs CAN see colors, but the way they see is quite different from the way we mere humans do!


Dogs do not see in black and white, but they are what we would call "color-blind," meaning they have only two color receptors (called cones) in their eyes, whereas most humans have three.


For humans to be considered color-blind, they must have a deficiency in their colored vision, usually the result of a defect in the production of the cones within the eye. Color blindness in humans can mean that one of the three human color receptors doesn’t function correctly, leaving some with only two working cones. This type of color blindness is known as dichromacy—alternative to the common human trichromacy—and similar to the color perception of a dog.

So, technically, dogs are color-blind (in the most human sense of the word).


In dogs, however, the two color receptors in the eyes perceive wavelengths of light that correspond to blue and yellow, meaning that dogs see only in combinations of blue and yellow. So instead of bright red roses, dogs likely see yellowish brown petals, and lively green grass looks more dehydrated and dead.

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Oddly enough, many dog toy manufacturers don’t take this limited color vision into account when designing toys for dogs. For a dog, the bright red ball you’ve just tossed for them to fetch has essentially disappeared into the bright green grass – both colors which appear brownish or gray to your pup. Luckily, they can usually find it using their exceptional sense of smell. (Do you ever notice your dog finding toys with his nose instead of his eyes? That’s why!)

To make it a little easier on your pet to find the ball you’ve tossed for him, try to find toys specially colored for dogs’ limited color vision. Find a toy or ball with highly contrasting colors, like bright white and deep purple – colors seen most vividly to dogs, and you’ll see he has a much easier time finding it in the grass.


Dogs tend to be more nearsighted than humans. Because of this, they can look at an object from the same distance as us and it will appear blurry to them. However, our four legged friends have us ocularly beat in several other departments. Due to the placement of their eyes, dogs have much better peripheral vision than their humans. Like cats, dogs’ ancestors were also crepuscular, and their night vision is far better than their humans’. Furthermore, canines also have more rod cells in the retina than humans, so they can detect small movements, even at great distances. This is especially true for sighthound breeds!




HOW OTHER ANIMALS SEE THE WORLD?

Did you know that pigeons have better vision than us? Have you ever wondered how animals and birds actually see the world? What do fish see when they look at us? This video will explain all these to the smallest details!




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Amir Kosari is a colorblind architect and designer with more than 15 years of experience.

He is the creator of the world's first online training programs for colorblind people. These training programs helped thousands of colorblind people (children, adults, designers) who used to struggle with colors. 

If you have any questions related to color blindness or our programs, schedule a FREE call with us, or send a message using the contact form.

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