Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your dog.

Are Dogs Color Blind

Can dogs see all the colors humans can?

For decades, people thought dogs live as though they are in an old black and white movie, unable to distinguish colors. It seems that it must be 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 gray orb lolling about in bleak gray grass? Well, not quite.

Can Dogs See Colors?

Until rather recently, the 1990s in fact, it was thought that dogs could not see color at all. After advanced research, science has come to find that a dog's retinas actually do contain the color-sensitive photoreceptors called cones.

So, dogs can see color. However, they have only two types of cones in their retinas, while humans have three. Dogs probably see the world in much the same way as a person who has red-green color-blindness does.

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:


Through this chart, we can see that certain colors are indistinguishable to dogs, and colors look less rich and vibrant 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, but purple also looks blue. Greenish-blue and green look grey.

More Interesting Information About Dog Vision

Just because we can see more colors than our canine pals doesn't mean that they don't have other advantages in the area of eyesight. This is because, along with cones, dogs' retinas also contains rods, and they have more rod cells than we do. Having more rods allows dogs to see better than us in dim light, have a greater ability to distinguish differing shades of gray, and detect motion better than we can.

Dogs are near-sighted and do not see clearly at distances of more than 20 feet. So, while they are able to detect movement at great distances, they don't have the ability to differentiate between a person and a small tree until they are closer.


  1. 1. Plonsky, M. (1998). Dr. P's Dog Training - Canine Vision. Retrieved from the web 3/4/2010.

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