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Are Dogs Color Blind?

by Kevin Mulligan

You grab a tennis ball and hurl it across the yard for your dog, but does she see its bright yellow-green color or is it just a shade of grey? It’s a commonly held misconception that dogs only see in black, white, and grey, however, our furry friends’ color vision is a little more complex than that.

In Will Rudy’s 1937 dog training manual, Training the Dog, Rudy famously said, “It’s likely that all the external world appears to them as varying highlights of black and gray”. In fact, even as recently as the 1960’s, scientists believed that it was mainly primates that had strong color vision and all other animals did not.

What Color Does a Dog See?

It has been discovered that dogs are dichromats, meaning they have 2 types of color sensitive cone cells; blue and yellow. Compared to humans, who are trichromats (three types of cones), dogs’ color vision is very limited. Scientists believe canine color vision is roughly similar to someone with very severe red-green color blindness, so the question is, would EnChroma glasses work for a dog? Unfortunately, no. Red-green color blind humans still have all three cones (red, green, blue), while dogs only have two (blue and yellow). The differences in eye composition are too great for our glasses to be effective. We’ve also heard from our Customer Support department that a few pups out there have gotten a taste for EnChroma glasses, despite the fact that we don’t recommend them as treats!

While we wish we could provide a new world of color for dogs, we’ll have to stick to man’s best friend’s best friend for now. However, the next time you head to the pet store to pick up a new toy for your pooch, go ahead and pick a colorful one, she’ll appreciate it!

You grab a tennis ball and hurl it across the yard for your dog, but does she see its bright yellow-green color or is it just a shade of grey? It’s a commonly held misconception that dogs only see in black, white, and grey, however, our furry friends’ color vision is a little more complex than that.

In Will Rudy’s 1937 dog training manual, Training the Dog, Rudy famously said, “It’s likely that all the external world appears to them as varying highlights of black and gray”. In fact, even as recently as the 1960’s, scientists believed that it was mainly primates that had strong color vision and all other animals did not.

What Does a Dog's Vision Look Like?

Normal Color Vision

Dichromat (Dog Color Vision)

"Scientists believe canine color vision is roughly similar to someone with very severe red-green color blindness"

Fun Facts about other animal color vision:

  • Peacocks can see UV light! The eye-shaped feathers on a male Peacock's plumage give off UV light. More 'eyes' makes them more attractive to potential mates.
  • Mantis shrimp eyes have 12 kinds of light-sensitive cones, however, scientists have yet to figure out why their vision system is so complex!
  • Cats, like dogs, can see mostly yellow and blue, however, they do have some sensitivity to red, although it's much weaker than in humans.
  • Bees can't see red. Additionally, they use UV flower patterns that are imperceptible to humans as guides for where nectar lies during pollination.

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