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Is My Dog Color Blind? Understanding Canine Eyesight

September 15, 2020

All dog owner s love to see their canine friend stare up at them lovingly, waiting expectantly for a pat on the head or a tasty treat. Have you ever wondered exactly your pooch sees you? Fido’s eyesight is better than yours in some ways and worse in others. The question is, do dogs see only in black and white, or do they perceive color?

I  s My Dog Color Blind?

It’s actually a myth that dogs are entirely color blind and perceive their world only in black, white, and shades of gray. You might be surprised to learn that this isn’t true.

Dogs see the world much like a color blind human does. They see certain colors better than others, and it can be hard for them to differentiate various shades of the same color. 

How Are Dog Eyes and Human Eyes Different?

Your dog’s eyes share many of the same components of your eyes—the optic nerve, a retina, and rods and cones that help to process light to perceive color. So what’s the difference between the way that humans and dogs see color?

The answer lies in the cones, or light-sensing cells in the eye. Human eyes are trichromatic, meaning that there are three kinds of cones. Each of those three types processes a different color: red, green, or blue. 

A dog’s eyes, by contrast, are dichromatic. They only have two types of cones, one to see blues and the other to see a shade that falls somewhere between what we think of as red and green. To put it simply, dogs have a type of red-green color blindness.

How Does My Pup Perceive Color?

So, how does your dog actually see the world? Fido’s eyes are great at seeing yellow and blue colors. Since your dog’s eyes take these colors in at the same time, they see the world mostly in dark and light yellows, grayish yellow, and grayish browns, plus various shades of blue. Maybe that’s why your dog enjoys yellow tennis balls so much. The ball likely shows up brilliantly against what your dog sees as a drab background of grass! 

To learn more about your dog’s health and behavior, call your local veterinary clinic.