How Many Colors Can A Dog See? A Simple Explanation


Have you ever wondered how many colors can dogs see? Of course, you did that’s why you are here.

Vision is a very intriguing thing, because you can never really tell how another creature sees the world and how their vision makes them see a completely different world from the one we’re seeing.

Our dog’s vision is indeed quite different from ours, and it all starts with colors.

How many colors can a dog see? Dogs can see three main colors; blue, gray, and yellow. so if they see a rainbow it will be grey, dark yellow, light yellow, dark blue, and light blue. However, unlike us, they can not see purple, orange, or red.

That was the short answer. To know more about the colors they can or cannot see? What colors can they see best? And can dogs be color blind? Keep reading to find out.

What Colors Can Dogs see? 

The dog color spectrum vs the human color spectrum to illustrate how many colors can a dog see

Dogs can see three main colors:

  • Yellow
  • Blue 
  • Grey 

Let’s go quickly over these and find out why can dogs only see these three colors and what it means for their vision of the world to be only able to see this portion of the light spectrum.

Yellow 

Dogs possess only two types of cones and they can discern yellow. They have a limited color perception called dichromatic vision.

This explains why dogs go nuts over yellow tennis balls and they couldn’t care less about the colorful red toy that can catch most human’s eyes in a second.

Blue 

Colors in every human being are discerned by the nerve cells in the eye, and the retina of the eye has two main types of cells; cones and rods.

Cones are responsible for helping us to see the difference in colors. Rods can detect light levels and motion.

We have three types of cones that can help us identify combinations of blue, green, and red.

But dogs only have two types of cones which can discern blue.

Grey 

After scientists did some behavioral tests, they suggest that dogs see in shades of blue and yellow but they have a lack of ability to see the range of colors from green to red.

Which means they can basically see gray, blue, and yellow.

Here is an example of how we see the world (Top) vs how we see the world (bottom)

A simple comparison of how we see the world (top) vs how our dogs see the world (down)

What Colors Can Dogs see best? 

In the past scientists, vets, and everyone thought that dogs can only see black and white but recent studies suggest that they do have some color vision, but they can’t see all the colors that humans can see, and they can not see them as bright as do.

Dogs have limited colors because dogs only have 20% of the cone photoreceptor cells, which is the part that controls the color perception.

That is why the colors that dogs can see best are yellow, blue, and grey and they can’t distinguish the other colors the same way we do, so red and purple, for example, will be seen by dogs as black or brown. 

Are Dogs Color Blind? 

No, Dogs are not totally colors blind but they have limited colorvision which means they can’t see all the colors that we can. Dogs can not see green or red which limits their color vision as they only have two types of cones and they are missing the third one. 

Just like people with red-green colorblindness, they perceive colors in a different way than humans with their normal color vision.

Dogs are more likely to see green or orange as yellowish (it’s something between blue and green), red as dark brown, and purple just looks blue to them but blue (the color of the pool water) will look grey to them.

How to know if your dog is color blind? 

All dogs have limited color vision and can be considered colorblind to some degree since they can only see three colors because they have only two color receptors (cones) in their eyes, while most humans have three (color blind people only have two cones too).

That’s why all dogs are technically color-blind to a certain degree, but not in the same way that most people think about.

Dogs do not see the world in black and white, this is what I’m trying to say. They don’t see the world as an old movie, but rather as a heavily-edited indie film that doesn’t have certain colors like red and is more muted than the world we see.

If you have a golden retriever, you can learn about golden retriever eye problems here and learn how to spot them early and protect their eyes.

What is the easiest color for a dog to see?

The easiest color for a dog to see is blue because colors such as green, red, or purple will all be perceived as a shade of grey ( dark brown to be more accurate), followed by blue and yellow which are the most attractive colors for them to see. 

This means that buying your dog a toy should be based on these colors.

If you tossed them a red toy in your backyard while there is grass everywhere and they didn’t go after the toy it’s not because they are trying to annoy you or they have weak eyesight, it’s because they can’t find the grey toy on the grey grass. 

The same thing can happen on the sea, ocean, pool, or lake. Do not throw your dog a purple, orange, green, or red toy in these places because it’s difficult for them to see their toys. 

However, if you think that your dog might have weak eyesight , you can tell by some signs.

Signs your dog may have weak eyesight:

  • Squint
  • They cover their eyes with their paws
  • Sensitive to light
  • Redness in their eye
  • Change in their eye color
  • Cloudiness in their pupil
  • Dry eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • They pump into the furniture, family members, or a wall.

If you notice these signs, and you notice them more than once, you should take them to the vet because it can be a much bigger problem.

A big sign of a weak eyesight may be your dog’s eye changing color, and you can learn why your dog’s eye is changing color here.

Related Questions 

Can Dogs see TV? 

Yes, just like us dogs can see TV, they perceive images on television normally and they also recognize sounds. Dogs are intelligent enough to identify onscreen animals even if they have never seen them before and they will not be tricked if they heard another dog barking on the screen.  

What Colors Do Dogs Don’t Like? 

Orange. Dogs do not like orange because it looks like a dull gold to them but they can’t see all colors anyway so they can’t dislike many colors for example they see green as yellowish color and red or purple as dark brown or black, and they can only see yellow, blue, and grey.

What does a dog’s vision look like?

Dogs do not see in black and white their vision is actually similar to people with red and green color blindness, however, there are some other ways humans are different from dogs such as less sensitivity to both brightness and variations in shades of grey.

Sources

Vision in Dogs

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