Many people think that their pet dog lives in an old black and white movie, unable to distinguish colors, and it seems that it is a ho-hum world indeed. Poor Fido can’t even enjoy that handsome winter sweater we so carefully picked out for his days at the dog park. And what about that fancy blue ball he loves to fetch? Is it merely a dim grey orb lolling in bleak grey grass? Well, not quite.
Until rather recently, the 1990’s in fact, it was thought that dogs could not see color at all. After advanced research, science has come to find that your dog’s retinas actually do contain the color-sensitive components called cones.
Dogs have fewer cones than we do in our retinas so they don’t see quite as many colors as a human, and the colors they see are not as robust and vibrant, but they do see color.
The following graph (courtesy of Dr. Mark Plonsky PHD, University of Wisconson, Stevens Point) is a wonderful and easy to read example of how your dog’s vision compares to our human vision.
In looking at the chart we can see that certain colors are indistinguishable to them. Red looks brownish-grey or brownish-black, and orange, green and yellow all look yellow.
Your dog is able to see the color blue. Purple seems blue to them. Greenish blue and green seem grey.
More Interesting Information About Dog Vision
Another component of a retina is called a rod. Dogs have more rod cells than we do. Rod cells help see in dim light and also to distinguish the color gray.
It is believed that dogs can not only comprehend grey well, but that they can see many shades of grey that we cannot. Dogs, like cats, also see much better than we do in dim light situations.
Dogs are nearsighted creatures and do not see clearly at distances of more than 20 feet. They are able to detect movement at great distances, but cannot see the detail that would allow them to distinguish you from a small tree.
- Plonsky, M. (1998). Dr. P's Dog Training - Canine Vision. Retrieved from the web 3/4/2010. http://www.uwsp.edu/PSYCH/dog/LA/DrP4.htm
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