While looking at a rainbow, one can easily witness marvelous shades of red, yellow, orange, indigo, green, blue, and violet. But have you ever wondered how a rainbow looks through the eyes of a dog? Can dogs see colors of the rainbow, or are they color-blind to such a variegated display?

The answer is: Yes, dogs can see these colors but not the way we humans observe colors. So, where does the difference lie?  What colors do dogs see? And why don’t they see the world as we do?

To understand the difference, let’s examine how dogs differ in their color spectrum from human beings.  

Difference Between Human Vision And Dog Vision

Compared to human beings with three cone receptors, dogs have two types of cones in their retina. These cone receptors are limited only to recognizing yellow and blue. Moreover, dogs have more rods than cones in their retina, making their color perception different from ours.  For having only two sets of cones, dogs are often described as dichromatic. Being yellow-blue dichromatic in vision, dogs are very good at distinguishing between various blue and yellow shades but cannot see red and green at all. This means that the vision of dogs is similar to red-green color blind humans. This is why, dogs are considered color blind.

While they may not see colors the way we do, they are better than us at detecting motions. The lower number of cones in dog retina is compensated by the larger number of rods. Due to the higher number of rods, dogs enjoy better motion visibility as compared to humans. With their rod-dominated retinas, dogs are better equipped to track motion even in the dark. If you are standing still in the dark, your dog might not identify you. But if you make a slight movement, they will promptly recognize you.

Can Dogs See Color?

Can the dogs see rainbows as humans do? Can dogs differentiate between a red ball and a blue one? As we mentioned above, due to their dichromatic nature, dogs are not able to see colors as like us. Their perception of recognizing colors is very limited in contrast to human beings. They see the world through a unique color spectrum with colors like blue and yellow being the dominant colors in the field. According to PETMD, the shades of green and red would look like shades of grey and brown to a dog, while shades of blue and violent with look like changing shades of blue.  This means that if your dog has a red ball, it will appear brown to him, while an orange flower will look like a mix of yellow and red.

American Kennel Club

See It Yourself

Wondering how a view would look like from the eyes of your four-legged friend? You got it. Dog vision allows you to see how something looks like when seen from a dog’s perspective. You can visit them and see which colors your dog can see or how an image would look from your dog’s eye. To give you an idea about the difference between human vision and dog visions, let’s take a look at the following pictures.

image showing how a flowery garden looks through human eye vs a dog eyes
Human View (left) and Dog View (right).

Dogs can distinguish yellow and blue from green and can easily recognize the yellow color of the tennis ball.

What Does This Mean For You And Your Dog?

After getting the answer to your question “can dogs see colors”, you must be thinking of ways to help your buddy. The best part is that there are ways you can help him. Use this knowledge of dogs’ color blindness to choose only those dog products featuring colors they can easily differentiate, such as yellow and blue. Similarly, avoid buying any dog product that is either red, pink, or green in color. If you are planning on playing fetch with your dog, opt only for colors your dog can distinguish. Since dogs cannot detect green color, it might be of a stretch to expect agility from him with colors he cannot readily comprehend.

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