What colours do dogs see?

by | Dog Care |

Have you ever wished you could spend a day in your dog’s shoes – ahem – paws? While we can’t help you conjure a Freaky Friday situation, we can help you understand how your pooch sees the world!

Although dogs don’t see the world in as many colours as we do, they do see in colour, not just in black and white as was previously thought.

How does it work?

Humans see in colour because our brains respond to stimuli that are produced when incoming light reacts with specialized types of photoreceptor cells in the eye’s retina called cones. When these cone cells are triggered, they send a signal to the brain, which we perceive as a particular colour.

According to an article by Pet MD, humans possess three types of cones, while dogs only possess two. This means their ability to perceive colours is limited compared to the human eye.

Dr. Erin Wilson, Director of Shelter Medicine at the ASPCA Adoption Center, explains that dogs’ photoreceptors or cones are blue and yellow. On the other hand, humans have red, blue and yellow cones. This means dogs can see blue and yellow best.

What colours do dogs see then?

Dogs cannot see all the colours of the rainbow. According to the ASPCA, what humans process as red, orange, yellow or green can appear as different concentrations of yellow to dogs. Blue-green, blue and violet appear as saturations of blue. Colours like green or red are indistinguishable.

According to a post by Pet MD, humans are able to see more colours and fine detail in well-lit environments, but dogs have the upper hand when it comes to low light situations. This is because canines have more rod photoreceptors needed to see in dim lighting in the middle of their retinas. Dogs also have a tapetum lucidum (like a biological reflector system) that reflects light through dogs’ retinas twice— this is why we can see dogs’ eyes shining in the dark.

Have you ever noticed your dog tracking something in the distance, especially in dim light, and thought, ‘what are they looking at?’ This is due to the fact that dogs’ overabundance of rod photoreceptors helps them pick up movement more readily than humans can.

Hopefully this helps you understand your pooch a bit better! While we have different strengths when it comes to eyesight, dogs generally experience the world in a similar way to their owners.