We all love to think of our dogs as part of the family, and it can be easy to attribute human behaviors and mental processes to our dogs. This can be a common reason that people believe that dogs can see the full range of colors that are offered on the color wheel. What is more likely is that your dog is not recognizing colors but is instead being directed to respond to stimuli through your behavior or your words.
Dogs can see colors, but they only have dichromatic vision. This means that they can discern blues and yellows but that they cannot see the full range of colors on the color wheels. Humans have more cones in their eyes which is what allows us to see all the colors that are possible. Although, nearly everyone knows a human who also has dichromatic vision or even no color vision at all.
If you want to learn some more about whether or not dogs can see colors, you need to keep reading!
Why Can Dogs Only See Certain Colors?
Dogs have two types of cones in their eyes that allow for color perception. Humans have three. Dog eyes can discern blue and yellow colors with the cones that their eyes have been given. This is what leads to the dichromatic vision that they experienced.
Despite this limitation, dogs have more cones than human eyes have, which means that they can see in low light better than we can, and they can track moving objects much more readily. There is a good argument that the reason that dogs do not need to see the full range of colors is that they need to evolve to be successful hunters. When dogs were still wolves, this lack of color vision would have helped them to be more effective at catching food and staying safe.
Does My Dog See Any Other Colors?
Dogs will still see colors, particularly yellows and blues. They will see red as a dark brownish-grey color, and they will see orange and green as a version of yellow color as well. Blue is the color that they probably see the best, but purple and other blue-toned colors will all just appear blue to them. This means that your dog will not be able to tell that the ball you have gotten them is purple, but that will not stop them from seeing it more clearly than a ball that is red.
Many people will point to the fact that their dog always finds their ball in the dog park as an argument against a dog’s partial color blindness. The reality is that your dog probably knows the smell of their ball really well, and they might be identifying their ball amongst the others based almost entirely on the scent. The nose of a dog is so much more effective than a human nose that it can be hard for people to understand just how much better a dog’s nose is at locating familiar scents and gaining information from smells.
What Are the Other Differences in Dog Vision When Compared to Human Vision?
As humans, we are naturally curious about the way that our canine companions see things. This can be pretty easy to explain, actually, and much easier to make clear than when describing how livestock see as compared to humans.
Eye Placement on the Head
Dog’s eyes are placed more on the sides of their heads, which means that they have much better peripheral vision than we do. They also have less effective depth perception due to this difference in the placement of their eyes.
Dog pupils also dilate maximally, which means that they can capture much more light than a human eye can. This helps with night vision and improves tracking of motion. The shiny nature of dog eyes is because of the reflective cells that are under their retina, which allows them to see better in these conditions. Rod cells are what gives them the ability to track movement better than humans, and they have far more of these cells in their eyes than we do.
Dogs Are Part of the Wolf Family
These adaptations are pretty logical when you consider that dogs were originally wolves and had to hunt for their meals and stay safe by keeping track of their environment. Color perception would not have been very important to wolves who were hunting mostly at night or late in the day and looking for signs of motion rather than pops of color. Most of the creatures that a wolf would have been hunting would have adaptations that made them blend into their surroundings as well, so color vision was not that helpful to the dog’s ancestors.
Dogs Have Excellent Smell
While we have bred dogs to be good at many jobs, we have never needed to selectively breed for more advanced color vision. This is just not a necessity for healthy dogs, and your canine friend will use its sense of smell to find the things it needs to find, even if color is not an indicator that is helpful for their needs.
Dogs Can See Blue and Yellow
While you might want to get your dog some blue or yellow toys to help them to see them more clearly, there really is no reason to be concerned about your dog’s ability to see colors. Your dog has developed vision that works very well for their needs, and seeing color is not critical to them. You probably are much more concerned about what colors your dogs sees than they ever will be. Remember that your dog can find items by smell with ease, so the color of an item is probably not at all relevant to their ability to find specific toys or locate specific places.
Knowing more about how your dog sees can help you with training, however, and the more aware that you are of the nature of your dog’s vision, the easier it can be to communicate with them. Your dog has different vision than you do, and this can be a beneficial thing to know some more about when working with your canine friend on tricks or skills.
Welcome to Kryder & Harr Veterinary Clinic! Our animal hospital has been a fixture in the Granger community since 1981, practicing full-service veterinary medicine for all our pet parents and their furry family members. At KHVC, we pride ourselves on our history, of providing excellent customer service for our clients, along with dedicated, compassionate, and exceptional medical care for all of our patients.