Are Dogs Color Blind?

Posted: Aug 11 2010

"Do dogs see in color?" This is a question we are commonly asked at PupLife. Since dogs can't tell us if they see in color or black and white, we are forced to rely on evidence from various tests and from reports that we have read. Most scientists seem to believe that dogs are not color blind (technically), however the colors that dogs see, and the way that these colors are intrepreted vary from the way that colors are interpreted by humans.

How do dogs see color? This is the key to understanding how dogs' vision differs from humans. Dogs have less cone cells in their retina than humans, so it is believed that they view colors in a lighter hue. In other words, a dark cobalt dog toy may be viewed by dogs as a light, powder blue. However, there is disagreement among many scientists as to how dogs see color and whether or not dogs lack the ability to see some colors (green and red are commonly mentioned).

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Do dogs see in black and white? While dogs have fewer cone cells than humans, it is thought that dogs have more rod cells than we do. Rod cells are the basic blocks for a seeing in black and white. Therefore, dogs may indeed see in black and white (contrasting stripes, etc) better than humans. Also, since dogs have more rod cells, they are able to intrepet slight changes in light, helping them to see better at night. In short, dogs have better night vision than humans.

Current thought is that dogs may be slightly near-sighted (things in the distance appear blurry), and that their intrepetation of colors may be incorrect, or simply different than ours. Again, since we can't ask a dog to respond to eye vision testing (as we do when obtaining an eyeglass prescription) this can't be proven 100%. However, it is widely accepted that dogs do see better at night. The ability to see better at night is certainly an advantage and one that helps dogs a great deal. 

Everytime that we have asked our dogs whether or not they are color blind, the answer that we always get (in our scientific testing) always seems to be the same: "Woof!" Until dogs can talk, we must accept the latest scientific majority opinion: dogs can see some colors (albeit differently than us) and perhaps not all. If your dog tells you differently, please let us know!

Comments

  • Posted by Ariana on June 16, 2013

    It may sound silly but I think it could work. What if you take a puppy and start training it learn some words. It’s time consuming to train a dog to learn so many words which is why I’m saying to start from when they are only a puppy. Once the dog knows a lot of words, start asking him/her what their vision is like.

  • Posted by Ariana on June 16, 2013

    It may sound silly but I think it could work. What if you take a puppy and start training it learn some words. It’s time consuming to train a dog to learn so many words which is why I’m saying to start from when they are only a puppy. Once the dog knows a lot of words, start asking him/her what their vision is like.

  • Posted by noreen on February 27, 2013

    This comment is for Jolie, what you’re not getting is the colour that your dog sees in place of red would be the same for every package. If red looks like brown to your dog then every red package would look like brown. Just because you know it’s red does not mean that he is seeing it in the same way you are.

  • Posted by martin on January 26, 2013

    This has really helped me in a recent conversation i had with my friends thanks guys :-)

  • Posted by robbo on January 16, 2013

    yes

  • Posted by dani on November 01, 2012

    Hi. I want to find some way to give dogs more cone cells. And able to see the we do. Im noting this stuff done, thankyou your website has helped.

  • Posted by Kaitlyn on August 23, 2012

    Hi, I am doing a science project on whether or not dogs are colorblind or not. I never thought they were, but I didn’t know what they did see if they were, but, I didn’t think they were. Your site has helped me understand ALOT better! THANK YOU!!!!

  • Posted by Jennifer Martin on May 01, 2012

    I find the whole subject of color and what dogs see fascinating. My middle basset has a strong preference for pink toys. Then he goes for orange and red. A couple of his most favorite toys I have bought in alternate colors so we can rotate and he just really has zero interest in blue toys.

  • Posted by Jen Kirby on April 23, 2012

    I find that my 2 dogs can’t find yellow balls in green grass. My older lurcher prefers bright pink balls which she finds easier to catch. My younger collie also finds it easier to catch a pink ball, and shows a big preference for pink or red if pink isn’t available. My last dog favoured blue. This may fit with the idea that dogs lack green cones, but doesn’t agree with the idea of red/green colour blindness. I find this a fascinating subject.

  • Posted by Ruth on April 16, 2012

    My dog Elia has a favorite color, Green. All the toys that are green get played with to the max. Other toys are nearly ignored. We have tried several types of toys, it does not matter, green is her go to toy.

  • Posted by ABBY on January 20, 2012

    hi i am a fith grader and this really helped on my oral science presentation

  • Posted by Jolie on November 20, 2011

    I know for a fact dogs aren’t color blind. My dog is a Pupperoni addict, which comes in a red package. Any time someone has a package about the same size as a Pupperoni package AND it’s red, she freaks out! A package of same size but in a different color gets no response. Red is one of the main colors that “scientists” believe that dogs can’t see – so obviously NOT TRUE!!!!

  • Posted by Cj Rainbolt on September 20, 2011

    Actually dogs see in infrared.

  • Posted by Missy on August 20, 2011

    Heck yeah this is exactly what I neeedd.

  • Posted by sedona on March 10, 2011

    I am in 5th grade i did a experiment if dogs have a prefrence on color i have to do reserch and can you tell me how dogs can see and how dogs see color thanx

  • Posted by Sonya Rose on August 12, 2010

    This is a very interesting article. One of the last times, we were at a dog park (not fenced in), this little white toy poodle was looking up towards the hills. I believe — alerted us (the last of dog owners & their dogs) that it was time to go. The sun was going down fast & the last two dogs (pit mix) after running up those hills shortly ran down the hills to their owner(s). I believe that poodle, along with those pitbulls, was alerting us of danger (perhaps, some mountain lions, coyotes, rattlesnakes were closer than we knew, watching from behind a tree, rock, etc. Maybe, getting ready to attack…)… either way, whether dogs can see clearly — long distance or not — or even in color, some color, or just black & white, they surely have the keen sense to protect their owners & perhaps, others. We just have to keep a close eye on their behavior(s) & the messages they send. Like the other day, in the night, I bumped into an owner’s beautiful purebred red Akita Inu. The owner was somewhat surprised because she barks at everyone pretty much. She became blind from a Brown Recluse Spider bite years ago, here in SoCal. Perhaps, she sensed in the night…once she sniffed my hands… that I, too, became very ill over the bite of something deadly as well (I currently am healing with “chronic” Lyme Disease). Dogs can sense so much; it’s unbelievable.

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