If you're like most pet owners, anytime you spare a glance at the family pet, you wonder what’s going on in their heads. If they could speak to us, what would they say? What does the world look like through their eyes?
This last question seems to have loomed over the majority of us for what feels like millennia, but it seems as though the jury has always been out on a solid answer to the question, are dogs colorblind?
This is no longer the case, however, as science has recently answered the question with an air of definitive certainty.
Dogs are not colorblind.
In fact, a dog’s vision may be closer in function to ours than you may think! Let’s discuss some of the misconceptions and facts of canine eyesight, and look together through the eyes of man’s best friend.
Why Did We Think Dogs Were Colorblind?
Our furry friends’ lack of colored vision has been a popular kitchen table rumor for as long as most of us can remember, but where did this deep-seated misconception get its roots?
Most signs point to Will Judy, founder of National Dog Week, as the proprietor of the myth. Judy wrote a training manual in the year 1937 explaining that dogs could only see different shades of black and white-ish gray.
Following Judy’s logic, scientists in 1960 hypothesized through testing that primates are the only animals that could see color.
The myth, seemingly backed by scientific research, then became commonplace until the year 2013, when scientists eventually challenged the question again, and started testing dogs’ eyesight specifically.
Their findings proved that dogs could in fact distinguish between different colors, effectively dispelling the myth that took hold in the 30’s, and proving that dogs do, in fact, see color.
What Colors Can Dogs See?
Answering this question also answers the question of, “how?”
Humans have 3 different photo-receptors, called ‘cones’, in their eyes that help us perceive color. Those that have color blindness, specifically red-green color blindness, have one cone that is dysfunctional, with the other two cones working normally. This means that someone with color blindness may not see certain shades of a color, and may only see one shade instead.
A dog’s vision is incredibly similar to this.
Dogs only have two cones in their eyes that perceive color, meaning that certain shades of reds, greens, yellows, and oranges are lost to them. This, however, doesn’t mean they don’t see the color altogether, just like a person with red-green color blindness can still tell you what color a firetruck and a banana are. The only difference is that a dog’s color spectrum just isn’t as wide as ours!
This new knowledge allows us to better connect with our pups, as we can better try to sympathize with how dogs see the world around them.
Although it was interesting to think that all the vibrant color we see every day was lost to our pets, it is just as interesting to think that we don’t see the world so differently from our dogs.
So, rest assured that next time you walk your dog through that beautiful flower garden, or play fetch with that bright yellow tennis ball, your dog will be admiring the sights just as you are!