Are Dogs Colorblind?
It’s a widely held belief that dogs are colorblind and don’t see many colors, but is that true? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Let’s look into it.
How Color Vision & Color Blindness Works in Humans
First, let’s see how it works in humans. You probably learned about this in science class at some point, so here’s a quick refresher.
Cones or cone cells are responsible for the perception of color. Typically, there are three types of cones in the human eye. One type is sensitive to long wavelength light (reds), one to medium wavelength light (greens), and one to short wavelength light (blues). The way these cones respond to the wavelengths of the light coming into the eye determines how color is perceived. All three cone cell types must be present in order to have normal color vision.
Color blindness in humans occurs when someone is born with missing or mutated cones. For example, someone may be born missing the cones that are sensitive to medium wavelength light (greens) and will be red-green colorblind. Or they may be born with a mutated form of the cone that’s sensitive to short wavelength light (blues) and will be blue-yellow colorblind. Some people are completely colorblind and see only in shades of black, white, and gray, but it’s exceedingly rare.
How Color Vision & Color Blindness Works in Dogs
Now that we know how color vision works in humans, we can look at how it works in dogs.
While humans have three types of cones to detect different wavelengths of light – corresponding to blue, green, and red – dogs have only two types of cones. These two types are sensitive to blue light and yellow light. Lacking cones that are sensitive to red and green, we dogs don’t see colors the way you humans see them.
How Your Dog Experiences Color
It’s impossible for science to know what the subjective experience of a dog is. That is, there’s no way to know how dogs experience color. But based on the cones and on research into the subject, it’s believed that dogs see in a range of browns, yellows, and blues.
That means that if you have a bunch of yellow tennis balls and one red tennis ball in a pile, to your dog the red tennis ball may appear yellow like all the others, since they don’t perceive red like humans do. Still, the red tennis ball may appear different due to brightness or some other quality.
Picking the Right Colors for Your Dog and for You
Humans are likely to pick out toys, clothes, bedding, and more for their dogs based on their own preferences, without thinking of how their dog will perceive the same items.
But next time you buy your dog a toy, think about how they will see it. Those red and orange squeaky toys look fun to you, but to your dog they likely appear as greeny-brown. If you play outside a lot, toys of this color can easily blend in with the grass, which also appears a little more brown than green to dogs. A bright blue toy is probably better, as dogs see blues very well and the color contrasts with the grass, or else bright yellow.
When it comes to choosing a dog bed, it’s not as important to pick something easily distinguishable. Instead, you can pick something that fits in well with your décor. Snoozer has a wide range of dog beds depending on your dog’s needs and they all come in a variety of colors and patterns. The Pool & Patio Round Dog Bed comes in 10 fun patterns while the Luxury Dog Sofa comes in 19 colors and patterns, for instance. Browse the whole collection to see more.
Maple's a little older, but with age comes wisdom, and Maple is always ready with great life advice! He's seen a lot in his lifetime, and he's happy to be spending his golden years sharing that experience with others.