Dog vision: What colors can dogs see?

The eyesight of dogs and humans varies greatly. Though they may not perceive as many colors as humans, dogs do not always lack color perception. Dogs’ visual perception may not be as sharp or vibrant as ours, but they nevertheless have a better sense of motion.

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Cones are a type of color-detecting cell that are found in the eye. Our brains discriminate between red and green wavelengths and blue and yellow wavelengths based on how each of these cones is activated by incoming visual light. Like the majority of other animals, dogs have only two types of cones in their eyes. Their brains can now tell blue from yellow thanks to these, but not red from green.

Although dogs are not completely colorblind, Jay Neitz, a color vision scientist at the University of Washington who conducted many of the modern experiments on color perception in dogs, told Live Science that their eyes are structured similarly to those of people with red-green color blindness, whose eyes also lack the third kind of cone normally present in humans.

According to Neitz, if we believe that dogs’ brains interpret signals from their cone cells similarly to how individuals with colorblindness process signals from their brains, we can have some understanding of what dogs perceive.

Dogs and humans both depend on neurons located in the retina, a portion of the eye, to perceive blue and yellow. Cone cells, which are also found inside the retina, detect yellow light, which excites these neurons. However, when blue light enters the cones, the neurons’ activity is repressed. The stimulation or repression of these neurons is interpreted by the dog’s brain as feeling blue or yellow, respectively. Nonetheless, red and green light have the same neutral impact on neurons in dogs and colorblind humans. The dogs’ brains do not see color since there is no signal to interpret these hues. They perceive shades of gray where you see red or green.

“A human would be missing the sensations of red and green,” Neitz stated. “But whether or not the dog’s sensations are missing red and green, or if their brains assign colors differently, is unclear.”

Moreover, dogs may employ additional clues, similar to those who are colorblind, to discern between the colors humans refer to as “red” and “green.”


Dog eyesight is not only less crisp than human vision in certain areas, but it also lacks some of the colors that humans detect. In a 2017 study from Linköping University in Sweden, which was published in the journal PLOS One, researchers created a canine visual acuity test that is comparable to the exams that ophthalmologists administer to humans. The dogs were given rewards for successfully identifying pictures that had vertical or horizontal lines with ever-decreasing amounts of space between them, rather than needing to distinguish letters of decreasing size.


Even while the 2017 study found that dogs’ night vision is only about 20/250, it is still far more sensitive than that of humans. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs are crepuscular, indicating that they are often most active during dawn and dusk. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, dog eyes have more rods—light-detecting cells that can distinguish between light and dark—than human eyes, which are primarily composed of cones, which are responsible for color perception and function best in bright light.

According to a 2014 research published in The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, many dog breeds (but not all toy dog varieties) also have a unique layer in their eyes called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back into their retinas, so increasing the light that reaches the rods there. The Merck Veterinary Manual states that the tapetum lucidum is what gives dogs’ eyes their blue green glow in the dark.


Dogs’ vision is superior to ours in one area: they are far more adept at detecting motion, despite the impression that they live in a dreary, fuzzy environment. Something known as the crucial flicker fusion rate is to blame for this. Consider a light that flickers more and more quickly. People will assume the light is glowing consistently when it flickers 60 times per second. A 1989 research that appeared in the journal Physiology and Behavior states that for a dog to be tricked, the same light must flicker about 75 times per second.