Can dogs see color? What you need to know about canine vision
- Dogs can see some colors, but they see the world like someone who is red-green color blind
- Your dog also has a wider field of vision than you because his eyes are further apart.
- Dogs also have more difficulty seeing over long distances – they have 20/65 to 20/85 vision.
There is a common misconception that dogs can only see in black and white – in reality they can see colors like blue and yellow, although their color vision is much more limited than that of humans .
Dogs also have some visual advantages over humans, such as being able to see more clearly in the dark. Here’s how dogs see colors and some other fun facts about dog vision.
How does a dog’s vision compare to a human’s?
Your eyes pick up color using a type of cell called cones in your retina. The same goes for dogs, although our cones are not exactly the same.
- humans have three types of cones, “allowing us to see different shades of red, blue-violet, and green,” says Alison Meindl, DVM, veterinarian and professor at Colorado State University.
- Dogs have two types of cones that pick up blue-violet and yellow shades, says Lara Sypniewski, DVM, professor of small animal medicine at Oklahoma State University.
This means that dogs see similarly to humans who are red-green color blind. “They don’t see red or green and they see everything in shades of blue and yellow,” says Jay Neitz, Phd, researcher and professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington.
You might notice this when playing with your dog — “dogs aren’t good at seeing a bright red or orange ball on green grass, but they’re good at seeing the blue of all other colors,” says Neitz. .
Humans may have the edge in color vision, but dogs definitely beat us when it comes to night vision. That’s because dogs’ eyes have more light-gathering power than ours, Neitz says.
A dog’s retina is largely made up of cells called rods, which can detect light even in very low-light conditions, Sypniewski says.
Fun facts about dog vision
There are several other specialized skills in dogs and a few other key ways that dogs’ vision differs from that of humans.
- Dogs are particularly good at detecting movement. “The increased number of rods in the dog’s retina also increases its ability to detect movement,” says Sypniewski. This ability can help them detect small prey like squirrels.
- Dogs have a wider field of vision than humans. Dogs’ eyes are set slightly farther apart than human eyes, so they can see farther to the side in each direction.
- The dogs have blurred long-distance vision than humans. A human with perfect vision has 20/20 vision, while dogs have 20/65 to 20/85 vision. That means “a dog needs to be 20 feet away to read a letter that a human with 20/20 vision would be able to read at 65 or 85 feet,” Sypniewski says.
- Dogs have trouble seeing things up close. Dogs can see objects clearly if they’re at least 13 to 20 inches from their eyes, “but if the object is closer, the image can be blurry,” says Sypniewski. Humans can see objects slightly closer – about 10 inches from the eye.
- Dogs’ eyes can shine brightly in flash photos. Dogs have a thin reflective layer at the back of the eye called the tapetum which increases their vision in low light. “Many owners notice this tapetum when they take a photo of their dog with a flash and see a yellowish/green color reflected in it,” Sypniewski says.
- Dogs can recognize you by your shape and movements. “If your dog recognizes you from a distance, it’s not because he can see the details of your face like a human would, but rather because of your shape or the way you move,” says Neitz.
“Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t see in black and white,” says Meindl. Instead, their color vision is similar to that of red-green color-blind humans.
Dogs also have certain visual skills that humans lack, such as increased night vision, a wider field of vision, and a keen eye for movement.
If you have any concerns about your dog’s vision or notice he’s having trouble seeing, call your primary care veterinarian for a thorough eye exam, Sypniewski says.
“Vision loss over time is common in both aging dogs and humans, but any abrupt changes should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible,” says Sypniewski.