Are Dogs Really Colorblind?

It’s the age-old question we ask when thinking about our dogs and their experience of life. Are dogs colorblind? The question has now been answered by specialists and the answer provides important insights into dog behavior and their reaction to lighting conditions. Read on as we discover the truth about how dogs see the world.

The Truth is Dogs CAN See Color

Despite past theories that dogs can only see in black and white, they can actually see in certain degrees of color. The major difference between a human’s eyes and a dog’s eyes is the number of color-detecting cells (otherwise known as cones) within their eyes. Humans have three cones within each eye, which helps us differentiate between colors and shades. However, dogs only have two cones within each eye. This means their visible wavelength light spectrum is minimized.

What Do Dogs See?

Recent experiments have shown that a dog’s perception of their environment is similar to that of red-green color-blind people. Like those with red-green color blindness, dogs perceive color differently than humans with full color vision. This means that what most people see as red will appear as dark brown to the dog. And the colors green and orange each look yellow to varying degrees. An object that appears blue to humans while take a gray appearance when viewed through the lens of a dog’s eye.

Number of Light Receptors Higher in Dogs than Humans

However, while the amount of cones and the depth of color perception are limited in dogs, they do have superior light and motion detection capabilities. That’s because dogs have a higher ratio of photoreceptors (also called rods) to cones within their eyes than humans. This high concentration of rods allows dogs to see better in environments with limited light. Dogs also have a reflective membrane behind their retina, known as a tapetum, which reflects the light not captured by the rods and cones directly back into the dog’s retina. This enhanced light perception also allows dogs to quickly detect motion and empowers their greater nocturnal hunting abilities.

While dogs might be limited in their ability to see color, their lack of perception is more than balanced by their abilities to detect light and motion. Take this information into consideration the next time you enjoy playtime with your pup! To learn more on color perception in dogs, contact our team today!