Have you ever wondered if your dog sees the world the same way you do? Dogs definitely do see things differently than humans, and the big difference mostly comes down to color.
So, what colors do dogs see? There are plenty of myths about dogs’ color vision. Read on to get the real scoop on how your pup sees the world.
Do Dogs Only See In Black and White?
Maybe you’ve been told that animals, and dogs in particular, can only see in black and white. This was widely believed for a long time, but scientists have now confirmed that it’s a myth.
In the eye, cone photoreceptors are responsible for generating the perception of color. Since dogs have these cones, your dog actually has a useful level of color vision.
In fact, there’s only one animal that has been confirmed to see only in black and white, because it doesn’t have any cones in its eyes. This animal is the skate fish.
RELATED: Why are my dog’s eyes red?
What Colors Do Dogs See Compared to Humans?
That said, your dog’s eyes still don’t work the same as your human eyes do. To see in full color, the human eye has three cones – one each for red, blue, and green.
Your dog’s eyes, on the other hand, only have two cones – blue and yellow. This is called dichromatic vision, and it means that while your dog can still see color, his perception of it is muted compared to a human. The biggest difference is that dogs can’t process red light, which can make it hard for them to distinguish certain colors.
Are Dogs Color Blind?
Since dogs’ eyes have blue and yellow cones, your dog can’t perceive red or green. This also means they can’t perceive the shades containing either of those colors, like orange, pink, or purple.
Dogs perceive shades of blue, yellow, and gray best. Some behavioral tests have shown they have trouble distinguishing red from green, and sometimes see green as gray.
So while dogs do perceive more colors than black and white, they see about like a red-green colorblind human does.
What Colors Do Dogs See At Night?
Another common belief is that dogs have night vision. Many people believe dogs can see perfectly even in the pitch dark. This is a myth, as some light is needed for the eye to function properly in all animals.
However, like most myths, there is a sliver of truth to the idea. Dogs can see normally with as little as 15% of the light that the human eye would need. So while they don’t have perfect night vision, they still see significantly better at night than we do.
Dogs evolved to have a high density of rods in their eyes, probably to help them with nighttime hunting. These rods contain cells that are sensitive to dim light, and they allow dogs to see much better than humans at night.
But even though dogs can see much better than humans in some situations, you still don’t want to leave your dog in very dark rooms. In the pitch black, he won’t see any better than a human does.
RELATED: Can dogs see in the dark?
How Do Dogs See Humans?
Dogs and humans don’t just see color differently. We also have different levels of visual acuity. This can affect how your dog sees you and other humans.
Most dogs have 20/75 vision, meaning if they’re standing 20 feet from an object, they’ll see it as well as a human standing 75 feet away. Part of this depends on breed, though. Labradors are often used as seeing eye dogs, because they’ve been bred for better eyesight over time. So they may see closer to 20/20 vision.
This means that if you’re standing still, far away from your dog, he may have trouble seeing you. Dogs see moving objects better than stationary ones, so your dog is more likely to recognize you if you make some kind of motion or gesture that is unique to you. He might also recognize you by smell or hearing before he sees you.
What About Blind Dogs?
Finally, some people wonder what their dog’s life is like if the dog goes blind. The simple answer is that while most blind dogs go through an adjustment period, blind dogs usually live very happy, full lives.
Sight is not a primary sense for dogs, and they’re used to relying on smell, hearing, and texture to form their impression of the world. So blind dogs will often cope very well, even in places they don’t know well.
Dogs adapt very well to losing their vision, and still enjoy many of the activities sighted dogs do: walks, car rides, being outside, running in the park, playing with other dogs and even chasing squirrels!