Do Dogs See Colors or Are They Colorblind?

Dogs are our best friends, and we keep discovering fascinating things about our furry companions over time. They have their own way of communicating, showing love, reacting to events, and seeing the world. And, while we know many things about our pooches, do dogs see colors is a reoccuring question.

There’s a popular belief that dogs are colorblind, meaning they see only black and white. However, this is a myth!

Many researchers have done studies trying to find out if dogs see colors. And if they do see them, what colors are they? Well, it seems they’ve succeeded. Keep on reading to find out what these scientists have uncovered.

How Do dogs see colors?

Here’s an interesting fact you might not know: dogs’ eyes work pretty much like cameras. Simply put, light enters the pupil and passes through the clear cornea and the lens to the retina. Once there, the light transforms into electrical signals, which are then sent to the brain via the optic nerve. And, right there, the light is turned into an image.

Zoom in view of a dog's eye

So, you can see that dogs’ eyes are complex and very similar to human eyes. However, since dogs have only two cones instead of three like people, they can’t distinguish as many colors as us. And, while they can’t recognize all the colors we can, they can differentiate some of them.

As a matter of fact, their vision is similar to that of people with red-green color blindness. So, YES, they see more than just black and white and aren’t completely colorblind!

Which Colors Do Dogs See?

As we’ve already mentioned, a dog’s color vision is similar to that of people with red-green color blindness. A scientist named Jay Neitz, who works at the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Washington, is behind this discovery. He states this fact based on the studies he conducted in his lab: the Neitz Color Vision Lab.

Neitz concludes that dogs can see yellow, blue, and all combinations of these two colors. Still, they can’t see green and red – it looks grayish to them. You can only imagine how the grass and lush green fields look like to your pooch – very dull, according to the research.

A dog looking at colorful flowers.

Apart from not seeing all the colors we do, dogs also don’t have the same color range like humans do. For example, when your pup looks at the color orange, it will look completely different, which looks yellowish in the eyes. The same goes for dark blue and purple, which they perceive as blue.

Visual Differences Between Humans and Dogs

Studies on a dog’s eye structure have shown differences in their design compared to a human eye due to differences in evolution. According to Dr. Jerry Kleim, the chief veterinary officer of AKC, dogs have a larger lens, reflective membrane, corneal surface, and rods.

A close up view of dog's eye
A close up view of human eye

Furthermore, dogs have more rod cells in the retina. Because of this, they can see better than people in low-light conditions, such as dawn or dusk. Plus, they can detect motion more precisely.

Also, a dog’s pupil dilates to the max, which allows them to catch as much light as possible. Moreover, they have reflective cells under the retina, which form the “tapetum.” The tapetum makes their eyes shine when light hits them in the dark and contributes to their enhanced night vision.

A dog’s eyes are also positioned differently. Humans have eyes on their faces, which allows them to see everything in front of them. On the other hand, a dog’s eyes are positioned more on the sides of its head. This positioning gives them a broader range of vision, meaning they have better peripheral vision. However, they don’t have a depth perception like people.

Furthermore, dogs are less sensitive to variations of gray shades and changes in color’s brightness. Moreover, they tend to be nearsighted to some degree.

Dogs Do It Better?

Although their vision is quite limited when it comes to seeing colors, the color range, and visual sharpness, they still outperform people in some visual aspects.

A black dog wearing fur decor

Dogs are much more sensitive to movements from afar. Actually, their motion detection is 10 to 20 times greater than that of humans. Also, they can see better in low-light surroundings. Playing a game of catch in the dusk is not an issue for them as long as the ball is not red or green. This visual ability, combined with their wider degree of peripheral vision and motion sensitivity, allows them to hunt fast-moving prey.

And, last but not least, dogs have an amazing sense of smell. So, even if they don’t see the actual color of their objects, they can identify them by smell. That means if you switch balls during a game of fetch, your dog will be able to tell (you can’t trick their nose)!

As you can see, dogs see colors differently. They may not see all of them or the way we do, but they can still differentiate several colors – although they don’t perceive their richness and vivid tones.

To make their life much easier, choose dog gear and objects (ball, bowl, etc.) in yellow, blue, or combinations of these colors. It will help you train your dog as well as play with them.