Are Dogs Really Colorblind?
Here's how your pup actually sees the world 💙💛
You’ve probably heard that dogs are colorblind, which leaves every dog parent wondering the same thing: “What does my dog really see?”
The Dodo reached out to veterinarian Dr. Rachel Barrack of Animal Acupuncture in New York City to find out what dog colorblindness really means.
“Dogs see the world with a little less color and a bit blurrier than humans do,” Dr. Barrack explained. “Scientists believe that a dog’s color vision is similar to a person who has red-green color blindness. Due to dogs having more rods and fewer cones in their retinas, they have limited color vision.”
Rods are responsible for vision in low lighting, while cones are responsible for color vision. This means dogs are better at seeing in low-light conditions, but the trade-off is they’re worse at seeing color.
And while humans have three types of cones, dogs only have two, which is called dichromatic color vision. So instead of the technicolor world humans see, a dog’s color spectrum is limited to shades of blue, yellow, brown and gray.
But you shouldn't feel like your dog is missing out just because his world isn’t as colorful as yours. He has lots of advantages to make up for it — like that night vision!
“Dogs have a layer of eye tissue humans do not, which helps to boost their visions at night,” Dr. Barrack said. They’re also great at motion visibility — which means spotting that squirrel scurrying up the tree before you do.
While knowing these key differences between dog and human eyes is important, nothing will ever let us see exactly how our pups see the world. However, you can rest assured that your dog’s other senses have got his back.
“It seems like we don’t know how much color and brightness may play a role in dogs’ vision; however, dogs rely heavily on their other senses to make up for what they may not see in color,” Dr. Barrack said.
Senses like touch, smell, and hearing can step in to assist your dog. Feeling their environment, sniffing for familiar smells such as their favorite human (hint: it’s you!), and listening for warnings of danger are all useful actions that help your dog navigate a world with limited color.