Anna Olson

Anna has a passion for keeping pets healthy and happy. She grew up with a Great Pyrenees as a family dog. Currently and currently has an orange tabby. She worked at a dog grooming and bathing salon where she learnt more about canine behavior and bathing. She lives in Wisconsin, in the United States. When she is not writing, she helps her partner run their small business, knitting, and enjoying local parks.

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Health Learn About Dogs

Are Dogs Color Blind?

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Anna Olson
Sep 1 ·
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Are dogs color blind? You may have heard that dogs don’t see color, but is this true? What is color blindness? Is there a reason why dogs see the world the way they do? Is their vision all in black, white, and shades of gray?

The answer to this question is yes, dogs are color blind. However, this doesn’t mean they see the world in black, white, and gray. Color blindness itself is a little more complicated than that.

cute spaniel

What Is Color Blindness?

Many of us have a misconception of color blindness, fed by popular media and misunderstanding. Being color blind doesn’t mean you see the world as a black and white movie. A color blind human can usually see certain colors and not others. The most common type of color blindness for humans is red-green. This means the color blind person’s eyes can’t pick up reds or greens in their surrounding environment.

What causes color blindness? The eye has two different types of cells, rods and cones. Rods help a creature see in low light, distinguishing light from shadows and helping them see basic shapes. Cones help a creature see in bright light and distinguish colors from one another. Humans have three types of cones in their eyes, picking up light wavelengths in a range between three different colors. A human without color blindness has cones corresponding to red, green, and blue-violet. In a color blind human, one or more of the cones do not work properly.

Dogs And Color Blindness

A dog actually has vision close to that of a red-green color blind human. Where humans have three kinds of cones in their eyes corresponding to three different colors, dogs only have two kinds of cones. A dog’s eye only has cones corresponding to blue and yellow, meaning they can only see those color wavelengths.

Popular media has also skewed what vision is like for a dog, and research has only recently found that dogs can see any color at all. Like color blind humans, dogs don’t see life like a black and white movie. The blue and yellow wavelengths they’re able to pick up with their eyes appear bright, while reds and greens are faded. A lush, green yard, to them, will probably look closer to a dead field of hay in terms of color. That red accent cushion on your couch? Your dog might find it comfy, but won’t be able to tell it’s red.

Why Are Dogs Color Blind?

You may think color blindness would present a real disadvantage for a dog. After all, if you’re not a color blind human, you rely somewhat on your perception of color to understand the world. However, dogs’ lack of red-green vision makes some sense from an evolutionary standpoint.

We’ve mentioned the two different types of cells in the eye, rods and cones. An average human has about nine rods for every cone cell in their eye. Meanwhile, dogs have a ratio of about 20 rod cells for every cone in their eyes.

Since rods are meant to help a creature see in low light, the high amount of rod cells helped your dog’s ancestor become an effective nocturnal hunter. Color vision just isn’t as important in the dark. In addition, dogs primarily rely on their well-developed sense of smell, not sight, for communication and exploration. Your dog’s visual world may be different from yours, but they still manage to get all the information they need.

are dogs color blind

Understanding Your Dog’s Vision

Luckily, the internet has a lot of tools available to help you see how your dog sees. One way is by running any photo through the Dog Vision Image Processing Tool. This fades out the reds and greens you would normally see and blurs lines and shadows, mimicking how your pup sees the world.

One way you can incorporate the knowledge of your dog’s color blindness is through getting them the right toys. Even though dogs can’t see reds or greens, both remain popular colors for dog toys. This can present a bit of a problem, especially when you’re playing in your yard or a lake. If your dog can’t find the orange toy you just threw into the green grass, it doesn’t mean they’re stupid. It’s just hard for them to distinguish what we see as orange from what we see as green. Buying yellow and blue toys, especially for outside play, can make the experience more fun for both you and your dog.

Are Dogs Color Blind? Yes

Now you know whether dogs are color blind. The answer is yes, dogs have red-green color blindness. This doesn’t mean they can’t see color, just that they can’t see certain colors. You can use online tools to see how your dog sees, and help them enjoy play more with yellow and blue toys.

Further Reading: Find out why your dog stares at you

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WRITTEN BY
Anna Olson

Anna has a passion for keeping pets healthy and happy. She grew up with a Great Pyrenees as a family dog. Currently and currently has an orange tabby. She worked at a dog grooming and bathing salon where she learnt more about canine behavior and bathing. She lives in Wisconsin, in the United States. When she is not writing, she helps her partner run their small business, knitting, and enjoying local parks.

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