We all see the world with our own eyes, but do you know how dogs see the world around them? Dogs vision, like cats vision, is unique and they perceive their surroundings in a peculiar way, including seeing what we see in a distinct color spectrum. While humans enjoy a vast range of vibrant hues, dogs have a different visual experience because of anatomical limitations. In this blog post, I’ll be shedding light (pun intended) on their visual perception to unveil the world of colors that dogs can see.
The anatomy of a dog’s eye
The cornea sits on the outside of the eye is, acting as a protective shield for its internal parts. Next one inis the iris, which is responsible for giving the eye its distinctive color. Maybe next time instead of telling your dog “You have beautiful eyes” you can say “You have a beautiful iris”!. The iris can expand and contact, and this allows it to controls the size of the pupil, adjusting its diameter to regulate the amount of light entering the eye. The lens sits right behind the pupil, and the lens’ main role is to provide focus and transmit incoming light to the nerves in the back of the eye, so that the brain can process these information in the colors that dogs can see.
Understanding Dog Vision
Living beings perceive the outer world through their eyes thanks to an elegant collaboration between the retina, made of two cell types called rods and cones, and nerve cells. Rods detect movements and light, while rods perceive colors. Once the signal comes in, then the colors are processed by the nerve cells. While we, as humans, benefit from three kind of rods, dogs have only two, and they can only see in shades of blue and yellow. This makes dogs dichromats, meaning they possess only two types of color receptors in their eyes, unlike humans who are trichromats because we possess three.
What are the colors that can dogs see?
The world of colors for dogs is more muted compared to our vibrant human perception. Dogs primarily see in shades of gray, brown, blue and yellow, with limited differentiation in the red and green spectrum. This means that red, orange, and green color can be perceived as shades of yellow or blue by dogs. On the other hand, blues and purples are more distinguishable to dogs due to their heightened sensitivity in the blue-violet range. However, small differences in shades of blue my go completely unnoticed by your pup. See the image below from the American Kennel Club showing how a dog could see a tennis ball.
Enhanced Night Vision:
While cats remain the undefeated night stalkers, dogs do really well in low-light conditions. Their eyes maximize their night vision capabilities thanks to a large pupil and a high concentration of cells called rods, whose role is to intake as much light as possible. By having a lot of them in the eye, low amounts of light can still be detected and processed. This is clearly advantageous in the wild, especially if a pack of wolf has to hunt at night. For most of the house dogs , this can still be extremely useful to sneak in the kitchen at night trying snag that cookie left on the table.
The Influence of Breed:
Just like different breeds excel in different things, you dog’s breed will directly affect its visual perception. Siberian Huskys and Alaskan Malamutes thrive in snowy environments, and their vision is optimized to detect subtle variations in white. This is advantageous since potential preys will try to blend in with the snow thanks to their white camouflage coat.
Conversely, breeds with prominent eye structures, like Pugs or Bulldogs, may experience visual limitations due to their unique anatomy. This is often caused by Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome, defined by an abnormal protrusion of the eye, wide eyelids and the presence of skin folds around the eyes .
How to Enrich Your Dog's Visual Environment:
Understanding the colors that dogs can see gives you the knowledge that you need to enhance their daily experiences. As a practical example, when picking a toy, you can choose one that maximizes your dog’s potential to identify it against the background.
A white-ish ball tossed during an overcast day may be hard to track due to the limited color contrast. Similarly, dogs see green as yellow, and even if they see yellow well, a yellow toy laying on a green grass can be tough to see.
Because of this, contrasting shades of blue, yellow, and violet can make a toy easier to track.
Although dogs experience a more limited color spectrum compared to humans, their visual world remains captivating and unique. By appreciating the colors that dogs can see, we can better their lives by using visually stimulating colors and toys.
So, the next time you gaze into Fido’s eyes, remember the science of blues and yellows that shape their colorful world.
If you are looking for other ways to improve your dog's wellness, check out GiandWin CBD treats, they are tasty and visually appealing :)
Seb has been a research scientist for the past two decades and is the founder and owner of My Blissful Pet. Seb grew up with cats and dogs and married his passion for science and animals with My Blissful Pet by wanting to help dogs and cats live healthier lives.