Are Dogs Color Blind?
Estimated read time: 2 minutes
Summary: In this blog, we'll discover if dogs can only see in black and white, or if they can see in color!
Dogs’ eyes are extremely expressive, coming in all shapes and sizes, and, just like us humans, they come in different colors, too. From heterochromia (two different colored eyes, e.g. one blue and one brown), and icy blue eyes to deep chocolate brown, puppy dog eyes are famous for being hard to say no to...
But just because dog eyes share a resemblance to our own on the outside, it doesn’t mean they see the world in the same way that we do...
For a very long time, it has been a common belief that dogs can only see in black and white, but is that true? Are dogs color blind?
Are Dogs Really Color Blind?
Turns out, they can see color – but only some...
The eye perceives and processes color through optic receptors, also known as cones. In a typical human eye, there are three cones that deliver a full range of the light spectrum;
- S cones (short): purples, blues, and other dark shades
- M cones (medium): greens
- L cones (long): reds, oranges, and yellows
Dogs’ eyes only have two cones, unable to see reds or greens, which also includes shades of these colors, like oranges and pinks.
What Colors Can Your Dog See?
Now we know dogs only have two cones, what colors can dogs see?
Those large puppy dog eyes can actually see blues, yellows, browns, and some shades of gray, black, and white.
In humans, this type of sight and color recognition is called red-green blindness, or a more common term, 'color blind' – which is why it has been believed for a long time that dogs are also color blind.
To be able to understand how your pup sees colors, we have an example in the image below. You can see how your dog might process the orange ball, seeing it as a pale yellow.
Left: A standard human’s vision of a black cockapoo, standing on a beach with a light blue collar and an orange ball in its mouth.
Right: The same image but through a canine’s vision, generated by Woofme’s Dog Vision Converter tool.
Do The Other Senses Help?
Just because our pups see the world in a slightly different way from us, it doesn’t mean they’re missing out...
From their super sensitive and intelligent nose (around 10,000 times for powerful than our own!) to their elite hearing abilities, our canine companions can paint a picture of their surroundings better than we ever could.
Their other senses completely make up for the ‘loss of color’, helping your dog process and ‘see’ their surroundings through their hearing and superior sense of smell!
Knowing now what colors your dog can and can't see, it might make you choose their toys, food bowls, bedding, and other doggo accessories in a different way. A bright blue ball will be more vibrant and visable to your dog's eye compared to a red ball - which could make that game of fetch a lot more exciting!
So, the simple answer is, yes, dogs can see more than just black and white - mystery solved!
London, Karen B, PHD, “Are Dogs Actually Color Blind?”, The WildestTM, January 10. 2022. https://www.thewildest.com/dog-lifestyle/are-dogs-color-blind
Marcello Siniscalchi, Serenella d'Ingeo, Serena Fornelli, and Angelo Quaranta, “Are dogs red-green colour blind?”, The Royal Society Open Science, November 9. 2017. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.170869#