Are Dogs Color Blind? What Colors Can Dogs See?

Most people believe that dogs see in shades of black and white. So, are dogs color-blind? If not, what colors can dogs see?

Old research did indicate that dogs couldn't see colors. This research has caused this common misconception to live on for years, even after research to the contrary has been proven.

What is this new research? Is color blindness in dogs a thing? What colors can most dogs see? Keep reading this article to answer all of these questions and more.

Are Dogs Color Blind? What Colors Can Dogs See?

are dogs color blind

Are dogs color blind?

Dogs can actually see in color. They can’t see as many colors as humans, and their ability to see different hues is limited as well. 

The human eye and the canine eye are very similar, but they have some very important differences. These differences are what limit a dog’s ability to see colors.

Recent research has been done to discover exactly which colors a dog can decipher and what hues they can see the best. We now know that dogs can see in color, but do they use their color vision to discriminate between objects in their environment?

What colors can dogs see?

Humans have three types of cones in their eyes and each cone has cells sensitive to specific color. These colors are red, blue, and green.

Unlike us, dogs have just two receptors, which are sensitive to blue and yellow. Dogs can also process various shades of gray.

That means that the color range that dogs can see is compressed into the green and blue part of the spectrum. This is very similar to red-green color blindness in humans.

Since dogs have fewer cones than humans, the number of colors dogs can see is significantly lower and not as intense.

Researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow have tested this theory with eight dogs that have not been previously trained. They used pairs of square papers in contrasting colors.

This study concluded that animals with two types of cone photoreceptors can distinguish colors under natural lighting conditions.

Another study from researchers at the University of California drew a definite conclusion that dogs see colors. This is one of the latest studies to answer the question, are dogs color blind? 

MORE: 9 Dog Eye Problems & How To Treat Them

what colors can dogs see

This study also answered the question of what colors can dogs see. It touched on how they use their understanding of different colors to explore the world around them.

In a column for Psychology Today, Stanley Coren writes:

“Contrary to what many scientists might have predicted, the dogs were clearly basing their choice on the color associated with getting the meat reward rather than whether the card was dark or light. This means that dogs were using color information as the basis of their conscious choices.”

Likewise, Russian and American scientists worked together on a study in 2013 to figure out if dogs could make choices based on color.

They found that dogs respond to the color and not just the brightness. More than half of the dogs in the study made conscious choices based exclusively on color.

In conclusion

That was a lot of information! So, are dogs color-blind? What colors can dogs see?

In layman’s terms, the eyes of humans are similar to the eyes of dogs in that they both contain light-catching cells called cones. These cones respond to color, and dogs have fewer cones than humans.

For this reason, scientists believe that dogs can see in color. However, the colors they can see are not as rich or deep as the ones that humans see.

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Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.