Are Dogs Colorblind?
Over the years, there have been several speculations on the color blindness of dogs. This has led to many opinions on the fact that dogs can’t see the same way humans do. Others conclude that dogs can only see in black and white, while others have the notion that dogs can see only distinctive colors. The question of, ‘are dogs color blind?’ is commonly asked, yet with unresolved answers. This is the major avenue that spurred many individualistic understanding towards this topic. Thankfully, we have made insightful research and put together the needed information to properly deliver on the topic of sight and vision for dogs.
Dog Color Vision
Color vision works by constant communication between the eye and brain to adequately translate light rays matching a distinctive color. Light receptors in the eye are the helpful agents that make this possible, as they carry out their duties, and transport the right messages to the retina, alerting the brain on the color that was received. Objects don’t just possess distinctive colors in this case, but they reflect the wavelength of colors, which the eye absorbs and transmits to the brain. Admittedly, this process doesn’t work for humans alone, but also for various animals.
A dog’s color vision is quite similar, but operates on a slightly different level. For dogs, when they look at things having colors, there isn’t an allowance for proper distinction of colors from the object to the retina. Hence, the brain doesn’t always fully identify the nature of color that is being radiated. Dogs’ color vision is dependent of the sensitivity level of the light receptors to communicate the factual color being absorbed, but in more cases than none, the sensitivity levels vary, bringing up the notion that dogs cannot see color. However, knowing that a dog’s color vision is based on the sensitivity levels, which may be higher for some colors, and low in others, we can deliberately say that the basis of the absence of color in a dog’s vision is non-factual. Some colors would have active receptors with high sensitivity levels, whereas, other colors would have low sensitivity levels. It’s just a matter of knowing which colors have the high reception levels, and which ones don’t. These facts will be deciphered as we continue in this article.
‘Why are dogs color blind?’ some may ask. Color blindness in humans is a natural occurrence, spurring from a genetic disorder. In dogs as well, it is a similar occurrence that naturally happens with all dogs. Just the same way it cannot be cured with humans, is the same way it cannot be cured with dogs. Color blindness occurs as a result of the sensitive light receptors, also referred to as cones, not being sensitive enough to the wavelengths of colors being radiated from objects. The variation in sensitivity levels from one cone in the eye to another, is the major cause for color blindness.
Dog Color Spectrum
Visible spectrum is visible to the eyes of humans, and is only a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that is revealed. In reality, the spectrum doesn’t possess all the colors that the human eye will be able to distinctively tell apart. This is because some colors would only be visible from a mixture of other wavelengths of light. There are two main types of light mixtures of which the eye can see numerous colors: the additive and subtractive light mixture. The primary colors in the additive light mixture of which other colors are formed is red, green, and blue. When pairing these colors in multiple manners, all the colors in the visible spectrum can be formed.
Dogs’ color spectrum is quite different from us humans, due to the fact that the light-receptors in a dog’s eyes are of different proportions. These light-receptors which are able to detect the light waves being radiated from a visible spectrum, is in two forms: rods and cones. Rods are light-receptors that allow the eyes to absorb light waves radiating colors in the dark; while cones help the eyes to absorb colors in the presence of light. The major difference in the color spectrum of a dog’s eye and in humans’ eyes, is that dogs have more rods than humans. This is why they have great sight at night, in comparison to humans.
Do Dogs See in Black and White?
The inability of the eye to properly distinguish between the colors formed in the visible spectrum is what is referred to as color blindness. In humans, looking at the cases of color blindness, the most common case is the inability to distinguish between red and green. On the other hand, others may have issues with colored pairs such as yellow and blue, and in rare cases, can only see in black and white.
Based on research, dogs don’t have monochromatic disorders. This means that they don’t only see in black and white. Based on the difference in color spectrum, and the disparity in the number of rods and cones, dogs are notable declared to be dichromatic, meaning they have only two types of cones. On the other hand, humans are generally trichromatic with three types of cones, which help in the perception of color in comparison to dogs.
Each type of cone is associated to a certain light wavelength in the light spectrum, and our trichromatic advantage includes the red to green additive spectrum colors. According to studies and research, the omission of one cone in the color spectrum for dogs, means the omission of the red to green additive spectrum. Just like in most cases of color blindness in humans, the red to green light receptors cannot sense the light wavelengths from the objects with such colors, making it difficult for them to distinguish between the two. This is the same with dogs, as they can’t distinguish between the two colors properly, also appearing in a brown or gray hue.
Can Dogs See Color?
The myth about dogs only being able to see in black and white is completely dissolved with several studies that show the dichromatic existence of cones, which absorb and interpret certain light wavelengths in the light spectrum. Contrary to popular knowledge, dogs indeed can see colors, but just not the way humans do. According to scientists, the color vision of dogs is similar to those having red to green color blindness, meaning that the different shades close to these colors are hard to tell apart, and like explained earlier, would simply appear in a brown or gray hue.
In a similar manner, for humans with the color deficiency, all other colors in relation to individualistic light receptors would adequately be able to transmit the light wavelengths with intense sensitivities to their factual colors. Dogs in general would have no problem with other colors, leaning to the fact that dogs indeed can see colors. However, since they are dichromatic, based on their type of cones, their perception of color would still be different from ours.
What Colors Do Dogs See?
We have established that dogs have color deficiencies similar to those with red to green disorders. We have also established that they can see other colors, but the question, ‘what colors do dogs see?’ is yet to be answered. According to scientists, with the omission of red to green color spectrums, and dogs’ dichromatic adaptation to color, dogs have light receptors that are great at comprehending yellow to blue hues. They can also assimilate other combinations formed from these colors, making their chain of color vision incredibly secluded. Based on research, dogs have better reactions with these colors, and this is due to the fact that they are easier to assimilate for them.
Ironically, dog products are commonly made in either red, pink, or orange, which have close similarities. Due to the red to green disorders that dogs have, they wouldn’t be able to properly see these products in their factual hues, as they would appear in brown or gray colors. On the subject of balls on grass lawns, if the ball is in a red or green hue, the dog might have a hard time distinguishing between the ball and the lawn, making it quite difficult to retrieve when thrown. In most cases, scenarios of a dog running past a red ball that was thrown in its direction is simply due to the fact that the dog is having a hard time distinguishing the grass’s hue from that of the ball.
With this knowledge on the colors that dogs find hard to see in factual colors, and the balls they can easily assimilate, this should further affect your decision making towards the product choices for your dog. Balls in either yellow or blue hues serve as great play toys for dogs, making the work easier for them. Any dog product in these colors would generally appeal to a dog more than the other colors, which makes it a focal point for making insightful decisions.
- Are Dogs Colorblind? – Penn State