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Are Dogs Color Blind? How Do Dogs See The World?

Labradoodle watching the landscape

Have you ever asked yourself if your dog sees the world like you do, or in a way different way?

Knowing that dogs have night vision while humans have no ability to see in the dark, it is more than likely that dogs see the world way differently than people do.

It’s funny that there are still people on the planet who think that dogs can’t see colors, so their vision is only in black and white.

Luckily for our four-legged friends, they do see colors, but in general, their vision is slightly different compared to human vision.

How Do Dogs See The World?

Exactly like cats or other animals, dogs see the world in a different manner compared to people.

Recent scientific studies say that dogs do see colors (so they don’t see only in black and white), it is true that they see less colors compared to us, but they can differentiate between colors much easier than we thought.

Vision, along with the sense of smell and hearing, plays a very important role in canine communication, and helps them to satisfy their basic needs, but compared to people, they see the world in a pretty different way.

Cones, Rods And Ganglion Cells

Vision in most organisms living on the planet is possible due to the presence of cones, rods and ganglion cells, which are photoreceptor cells found in the retina.

Rods are responsible for night vision, while cones are able to register and perceive colors.

The human eye has about 6 million cone receptors, and about 120 million rod receptors, while dogs have 1.2 million cones and much more rods than we have.

This means that dogs were built to see well in the dark (their eyes are 5-times more sensitive to light compared to the human eye), but they see less colors.

When comes to colors, the average human eye has trichromacy, which means that we have cone receptors within our eyes that are able to perceive one of three colors (red, green or blue).

Trichromacy gives people the ability to see about 1 million different colors.

Dogs Have Dichromacy

Dogs have dichromacy, which means that they have cone receptors that are able to see only two different colors (blue and yellow).

Dogs and all the other animals that have dichromacy, can only perceive about 10,000 different colors.

It seems that dogs can’t perceive the red color at all, and this is the reason why is better to buy a blue toy, or even a yellow toy for your dog instead of a red one, because your four-legged friend will have a hard time to see the red toy in a green background (grass), due to the fact that dogs make no difference between the red and the green color.

However, even if they see a smaller number of colors, dogs do have some advantages over humans because they have a wider field of vision, and they also have better night vision.

I mentioned that dogs have a wider field of vision compared to humans, because most dog breeds have a 250 degree visual field, while we humans have only a 190 degree field of vision.

Dogs also have improved night vision compared to humans due to the larger number of rod receptors in their retina.

Tapetum Lucidum

Dogs do see better in the night due to a very large number of rods in their retina, due to larger pupils (compared to human vcxz bfvdszfd pupils), and due to a layer behind their retina called Tapetum Lucidum, which acts like a mirror and reflects the light entering the eye back and forth, back and forth, to give the eye the ability to absorb more light and see better in the dark.

Tapetum Lucidum is the layer behind the dog’s retina, which makes their eyes glow during the night.

The increased number of rods in their eyes also gives them the ability to have better motion detection than humans.

However, the average human has 20/20 vision, while the average dog has only 20/80 vision.
This means that a dog has to be at 20 feet away from something to see it just as clearly as we could at 80 feet away.

The Way Dogs See The World (in pictures)

A recently created app called ‘Dog Vision’, can show us the way how dogs are actually seeing the world.

The following images will show different scenes seen by people and dogs.

In these images that are full of colors for people, dogs can see only a small number of colors, and also if the scene shows people or things that have some distance from the viewer, dogs will not be able to distinguish much detail.

Mardi Gras Scene

Mardi Gras scene

Mardi Gras scene human vision, image source: sciencealert.com

This is a Mardi Gras scene seen by people.

Mardi Gras scene dog

Mardi Gras scene dog vision, image source: sciencealert.com

And this is the same Mardi Gras scene seen by dogs.

Matadors Scene

Matadors scene

Matadors scene human vision, image source: sciencealert.com

The Matadors scene seen by people is again full of colors.

Matadors scene dogs

Matadors scene dog vision, image source: sciencealert.com

The same scene looks way different in the eyes of our four-legged friends.

Lake in the Fall

Lake in the Fall

Lake in the Fall human vision, image source: sciencealert.com

Giving the fact that this is a Fall landscape with lake, we have a variety of colors coming from those distant trees.

Lake in the Fall dog

Lake in the Fall dog vision, image source: sciencealert.com

When dogs see the same image, everything becomes mainly purple and green, and of course blurry because all those trees are pretty far away.

The Difference Between Human Vision And Dog Vision

1. People can see distant objects, while dogs can see clearly only close objects due to the fact that they have 20/80 vision instead of 20/20 vision like people have.

This means that if people can see an object clearly at 80 feet away, a dog has to be at only 20 feet away from the object to see it clearly.

2. Dogs see in the dark much better than people do, due to the large number of rods in their retina, and due to the presence of a structure called ‘Tapetum Lucidum’ on the back of their retina that reflects light back in the eye to improve night vision.

3. People are able to see up to one million different shades of color, while dogs due to the fact that they have 5-times less cone receptors in their retina, they are able to see only about 10,000 different shades of color.

4. Dogs can see moving objects much better than we do, and this is also due to the increased number of rods in their retina.

Final conclusion

It is true that dogs don’t as many colors as we do, and their vision is not very good during the day, but let’s not forget that they see much better in the dark, they have a great sense of smell, and they will always be our best friends.

Article written by:

Darius Savin is a lifelong animal lover and protector and the chief editor of Checkmember. He writes and edits articles and is also the creator of the distribution maps for all the creatures featured here.