Can dogs see colour or do they only see in black and white? This is a question many pet owners ask and if only dogs could talk, they would probably enlighten us on many things, but the answer is not as straightforward as you might expect as dogs do see in colour, but not in the same way we do.
Can dogs see colour or black and white?
Research has indicated that dog’s eyes have the capacity to see colour. Like humans, dogs have cones and rods in their retina, which means that they can differentiate between colour and black and white. However, although both cones and rods are present, dogs have far more rod cells. This enables a dog’s eyes to function much better in low light conditions since rod cells allow dogs to see shades of grey and therefore need less light to function than cone cells.
Can dogs see colour right across the spectrum?
Although dogs have the capacity to see colour, their colour range is much more limited than ours and they see some colours as shades of grey. This is because dogs have dichromatic vision whereas humans have trichromatic vision. Humans can see colours all the way across the visual spectrum of light, but dogs only see some of the colours and are in effect colour blind.
Why do dogs only see some colors?
The reason why dogs can only see some colours is because they have only two colour receptors in their eyes: humans can see all the colours in the rainbow, but dogs cannot. Some scientists believe that dogs are only able to detect red, yellow, blue, indigo and violet; the other colours look the same, specifically orange, yellow and green.
Scientists also believe that dogs are much more sensitive to different shades of blue and violet, so they can differentiate between even the most subtle of colour changes (humans have a yellow pigment in their eye that blocks blue light on shorter wavelengths, whereas dogs do not).
Try a “can dogs see colour experiment?” at home!
Scientists are able to conduct vision tests on dogs to see if they can determine how well dogs can see colours, but at home your options are a lot more limited. About the best you can hope for is to try and work out if there are some colours your dog cannot distinguish between—for example between green and blue.
Teach your dog that fetching a blue sock will reward them in some way—food is a great motivator. Then put out three identical socks, but in three different colours (including the blue one) and see if your dog can pick the right one.
Ultimately, it probably does not matter whether dogs can see colour or not since their survival does not hinge on their ability to tell the difference between red and green. If it did, their colour vision would probably be far superior to ours, but as it does not, their vision has adapted in other more useful ways: dogs can see much better in the dark and they have far better peripheral vision than humans.