Are Dogs Color Blind Or They Can Actually See Color?


This is is a complete guide to answer the question of whether dogs are color blind or they can actually see color.

I am going to be demystifying some myths about the color vision of our four-legged friends and also give a detailed breakdown of how dogs see the world.

Let`s get started.

Are Dogs Color Blind?

No. Dogs can actually see color but unlike humans their vision of color is limited to colors within the range of blues, violets and yellows.

But this answer is not complete unless it is fully explained so in the next few sections this article we are going to cover everything about the visibility of color in dogs.

Can Dogs See Color?

Yes. Dogs can see color and they are not color blind. Color blindness can be defined as color vision deficiency and it is usually when a person or animal can only see black, white and gray. Dogs can however see beyond these colors but their color range is limited to seeing blues, violets and yellows.

In fact, the dog`s retinal structure possesses two cone types which clearly provides the potential for color vision.

Recent experiments controlling for the brightness information in visual stimuli demonstrated that dogs have the ability to perform chromatic color (any color in which one wavelength predominates) discrimination.

In short, dogs can actually see color but the colors that they can see are limited as compared to humans.

Read More: Reasons Why Your Dog Is Peeing A Lot

Why Do People Say That Dogs Are Color Blind?

So why do people say that dogs are color blind if they can actually see color?

Well this is a common misconception and it can be traced back to 1937.

In the same year Will Rudy wrote a dog training manual called Training the Dog where he famously said…

“It`s likely that all the external world appears to them as varying highlights of black and gray”.

-Will Rudy

This was the beginning of a misconception that would take a long time to be corrected.

However, new studies have revealed that although their perception of color is limited, dogs can discriminate objects based on their visible color spectrum.

But it is also important to note that dogs only have two types of color receptors unlike humans who have three.

The color receptors are commonly called cones and it is these cones that are sensitive to different lights of color which are called wavelengths.

In humans the three cones receive different types of wavelengths and they combine them to form one color or wavelength.

But since dogs only have two cones they can only combine a few wavelengths than humans and as a result the way that they see color is different from how a normal human will perceive that same color.

What Colors Can Dogs See?

So now that we know dogs can actually see color but their visible color spectrum is different from that of humans,

Let us now take a closer look into the colors that are visible to dogs and how they see some other colors.

To fully understand the colors that are visible to dogs we must firstly take some time to understand that canine species are dichromats.

This means that they only have 2 types of color sensitive cones as we have mentioned earlier.

These 2 cones are only sensitive to blue and yellow lights.

Scientists have suggested that canine color vision is similar to a person with severe red-green color blindness but this can not be possible because humans with red-green color blindness still have all the three cones (red, green, blue) while dogs only have two (blue and yellow).

These are huge differences in eye composition and they have a great impact on the colors that are visible to dogs.

Below is a comparison of the color spectrum that is visible to both humans and dogs:

color spectrum visible to dogs

So instead of seeing the rainbow as violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow, orange, and red, dogs would see it as dark blue, light blue, gray, light yellow, darker yellow (sort of brown), and very dark gray. 

Dogs see the colors of the world as basically yellow, blue, and gray. They see the colors green, yellow, and orange as yellowish, and they see violet and blue as blue. Blue-green is seen as gray. 

Below is an image illustration of how a dog`s vision of color really looks like in comparison to the normal color vision of humans.

how dogs see color

What Color Is A Dog Most Attracted To?

To fully answer this question, let us go back to a 2004 experiment conducted by Bridget P. Fox at the California State Science Fair.

This experiment used papers of different colors and the results were recorded after multiple trials so they are fairly accurate.

The dogs went to the purple 10%, the blue 15%, the yellow 5%, the red 30%, and the green 40%.

So the hypothesis for this experiment is that dogs are mostly attracted to green and red but here is what the person who conducted the experiment had to say for the conclusion…

My hypothesis is correct and incorrect. I think that my hypothesis is incorrect because the dogs did not go to the yellow the most they went to it the least. I think my hypothesis is correct because in my research I found out that the colors green, yellow and orange all look the same to dogs. The dogs went to the green the most. I conclude that dogs can see green the best.

Bridget P. Fox

How Many Colors Can A Dog See?

Dog eyes can only detect two colors accurately and as you might have noticed in the color spectrum image I shared above, the colors that dogs can accurately see are blue and yellow.

Verdict: Is Your Dog Color Blind?

Dogs are not color blind and they can actually see color.

It is a common misconception that dogs can only see the world of color as black, white and gray but this is not true.

Recent studies and experiments have revealed that dogs are able to differentiate between objects of color but their visible color spectrum is limited in comparison to that of humans.

Dogs have two sensitive color receptors called cones and humans have got three.

These cones are responsible for combining wavelengths (strings of color in form of light) to form one set of color.

So since dogs are dichromatic (have 2 color receptors) and humans are trichromatic (have 3 color receptors) the way dogs see color is different from the way humans see color.

But this does not mean that dogs cannot see color. It simply means that dogs are able to notice color but their visible spectrum is limited.

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