The world of dogs: can dogs see colors?

As a dog owner, you make every effort to make the environment as beautiful as possible for your dog. You buy leashes, scarves and dog toys in many different colors and try to make the world of your four-legged friend a little more colorful and happier. But can dogs even see colors and correctly perceive these efforts on our part? For a long time the rumor persisted that dogs are color-blind and can only see black and white. It was not until the end of the 20th century that the much discussed questions “Can dogs see colors?” And, if so, “What colors do dogs see?” Were scientifically investigated for the first time. In fact, the color spectrum of a four-legged friend is not quite as pronounced as that of a human, but dogs can definitely see some colors. The dog's eye is constructed in a similar way to the human one, but a dog's point of view is clearly different from ours. Dogs not only have a limited perception of colors, but they are also all shortsighted. This predisposition is due to their nature as a hunter. They can hardly see any stationary objects or living beings in the distance. To do this, their eyes are geared towards perceiving movements and seeing them clearly and distinctly, even in poor lighting conditions. With a human, it's just the opposite. While we can see up to 20 meters without any problems, at dusk we often have problems reacting to visual stimuli just as quickly as in daylight. Fast movements become blurred for our eyes, so that it is almost impossible for us to perceive smaller details in a moving person or object.

What colors do dogs see?

To learn what colors dogs can see, many experiments and studies have been conducted over time. The results clearly show how dogs see and what causes these differences. You can compare their perception with that of a red-green color-blind person. Their spectral range includes various shades of yellow, gray and blue. Red nuances are reflected differently for dogs than for us. While it is a very recognizable signal color for us, what you see instead is more of a yellowish tone. As a result, if you throw a red ball in a green meadow, your dog will have a hard time telling the difference between the ball and the ground. For him, both surfaces are yellow and therefore difficult to differentiate from one another. We therefore advise you to mainly buy blue toys for your dog if you plan to use them often on green surfaces. Otherwise, you may have to repeatedly help your four-legged friend look for thrown toys.

How do dogs see? The anatomy of the dog's eye

In order to answer whether dogs can see colors and how exactly their visual apparatus works, one has to study the anatomy of the dog's eye. Just like in a human being, there are so-called rods and cones in the retina of a dog, which serve as light receivers. Humans have three different types of cones, each of which is aimed at a different spectral range. This means that we can perceive variations and compositions of red, green and blue tones in light. Thanks to these three basic colors alone, we are able to see up to 200 colors and enjoy a life full of colorful scenes. But how do dogs see? A dog is a dichromate, which in technical jargon means that only two different types of cones are anchored on its retina. It lacks the receptor that is responsible for receiving red color impressions. In return, however, a dog has significantly more rods that regulate light-dark vision. This structure means that he can see better than a person in the dark.

Why do dogs see the world so limited?

The origin of how dogs see can once again be traced back to the dog's past. Before the four-legged friends were domesticated and thus spoiled by us humans, they had to hunt their food independently and in the wild. They did this task either shortly before sunrise or at dusk. In order to see well at these times, one must be able to distinguish between different shades of blue. Without the rays of the sun, the light reflected from the sky has a very high proportion of blue. Dogs only discovered their prey so quickly because their anatomy allows them to distinguish between the different shades of blue. Other colors such as red or green, on the other hand, were less relevant to their hunt.

Are there other differences in how dogs see?

Aside from what colors dogs see and how they perceive optical stimuli in the dark, there are other differences to how we humans view them. These, of course, also stem from their previous hunting lives. Since dogs at that time had to search the area regularly for new prey, their field of vision has a larger angle than that of a human. Thus, they can see more within a shorter time and discover their prey more quickly. In return, however, their depth perception is less than half as good as ours. Ultimately, every point of view has its advantages and disadvantages and is perfectly matched by nature to the respective task area of the living being.