Are dogs colour blind? How dogs see colour - BC SPCA
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Are dogs colour blind? How dogs see colour

July 29, 2022

Humans are drawn to colours. We choose our clothing and interior design based on our favourite hues and what we think looks best. If you were given two options of something – let’s say, a ball — that were two different colours, chances are you would reach for the one that’s closest to your preferred shade.

But what about your dog?  If you were to give him a choice of colour in a ball or toy, would he have a favourite colour? Are dogs color blind?

How dogs see colour. What you see and what your dog sees.
How dogs see colour. What you see and what your dog sees.

How dogs (and humans) see colour

To answer that question, it’s important to understand how dogs see colour. The popular notion that dogs can only see black, white, and various shades of gray is incorrect. The truth is, while dogs can’t see the same colours as humans do, they can still see some colours.

Here’s why. Both humans and dogs are able to see thanks to two main types of cells in the retina – rods, which detect light levels and motion, and cones that helps us to differentiate colours. Human eyes have three different types of cones, which allows us to identify combinations of red, blue, and green. Dogs, on the other hand, have only two types of cones, which means they can only discern blue and yellow. As a result, dogs are red-green colour blind.

How dogs see colour. What you see and what your dog sees.
How dogs see colour. What you see and what your dog sees.

What does a dog’s vision compare to a human’s?

While humans have more cones, allowing us to see all the colours of the rainbow in their brightest form, dogs have a higher amount of rods, which helps them to see things better in low light or identify moving objects at a faster pace than you. This is why your dog might get distracted by a bird flying 40 metres away that you didn’t even notice or will bark at night at a small animal that you’re unable to see!
Because dogs have less cones in their eyes, when it comes to distinguishing colour, your dog can’t see the same spectrum of colours that we can see nor can they see them as brightly as we do. When a person is red-green colour blind, it means exactly that: they can’t discern between those two colours. The same is true for your dog. For example, red appears as a dark brownish gray hue or even as black to a dog. Additionally, shades of yellow, orange, and green all appear as a type of yellowish shade to your canine friend.

What colour is best for your dog’s favourite toy?

The colour that stands out most for your dog is blue! (Although purple looks blue to him, too).
Which is why when playing a game of fetch with a ball, your dog might have a hard time telling the difference between a red or green ball on the green grass since it all looks the same to him. However, he will be able to discern the blue toy over the rest, which makes playing more fun!

So if you’re wondering which colour of toy to buy your furry friend, your dog will enjoy toys that are blue and yellow over any other colour.
Grab a blue ball when headed outside so your dog is more likely to see the toy against the contrast of the green grass. If playing indoors, you can essentially choose any colour of toy that your dog can see – like blue, yellow, or purple.

dog toys colour

Now you know the answer to the question of “what is your dog’s favourite colour?” — it’s blue!

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