Common lore tells us dogs are color-blind. Based on scientific research, however, this is not true –not completely, at least. What colors do dogs see?
It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. Let’s start with a little eye biology. Eyes have two types of receptors: cones and rods. Cones are responsible for perceiving color; rods are responsible for detecting light levels and motion. Humans have more cones than dogs do, allowing us to see more colors and see them brighter than dogs do. Dogs have more rods, however, giving them the edge when it comes to seeing in low light and being living motion detectors.
What does this mean for dogs seeing colors? They can see blacks, whites, and grays like we always thought, but it seems that they can see yellows, blues, and violets as well. If you think back to the acronym Roy G. Biv for the order of colors in a rainbow - Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet - dogs' vision is mainly at the "Biv" end of the rainbow. They most likely do not see these colors as vibrantly as we do, but they’re still there. Reds and greens are out of their range, though. That means that according to human standards, dogs have some color blindness, but their range of color vision is not limited to shades of black and white.
Why does this matter? Next time you pick out something for your dog, consider his range of vision. A red toy would be more difficult for a dog to see than a blue toy unless he sees it in motion. If you’re looking to stimulate your dog’s senses, look for toys in shades of yellow and blue to appeal to your dog.
These toys are excellent examples of toys that appeal to your dog's visual range:
• Kong Blue – This Kong is in a bright blue that your dog can see. It was designed for police dogs so it's tougher than any other Kong available, even the Kong Black Extreme, making it perfect for strong chewers.
• Dog Puzzles For Dogs – The yellow of the compartments on this puzzle draws your dog's eye to the spots where treats are hidden. It engages their senses of sight and smell (the treats), plus their puzzle-solving abilities.
• Interactive Tornado Game - This game has multiple levels of puzzles where treats are hidden. It has different shades of blue plus white, all of which your dog can see.
What colors do dogs see? They can see shades of blues, purples, and yellows in addition to the blacks and whites we knew about. When we incorporate this into our selection of fun things for them, our dogs get an extra level of sensory stimulation.
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Photo credit: Jared Tarbell