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What Colors Do Dogs See Best?

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How Many Colors Do Dogs See?

And does it matter? Well let’s investigate. A common belief about dogs is that they are color-blind. Well, I have always wondered how we came to that conclusion. And if they are color-blind, then what colors do dogs see best, with respect to the spectrum available to them?

Why Are Dogs Color-Blind?

There is often confusion surrounding this word or should I say spelling. Is the correct spelling colorblind, color blind or color-blind? It seems that each is acceptable and certainly understood. But if we consult dictionary.cambridge.org we find that the hyphenated version is used in the US. On the other hand, the UK version is typically one word without the hyphen.

So, getting back to the question at hand: Why are dogs color-blind? This question already infers the assumption that color blindness is indeed a characteristic of dogs.

How do we know this and is it true?

First, we should consider an accepted definition of color blindness:

Color-blindness is the inability to distinguish the differences between certain colors.


How Do We Know That Dogs Are Color-Blind?

You are I are not in a position to know for sure. So let’s consult the Britannica Encyclopaedia.

Many a movie has possibly led us to believe that a black and white view of the world is all that our canine friends can hope for? And discussions among my friends have often reflected this preconceived notion.

However, according to the Britannica Encyclopaedia, a dog’s view is not black and white but rather color-blind.

Apparently humans have 3 color receptors in their eyes, whereas dogs have only 2.

Even with 3 color receptors, some people can still suffer from color blindness if a receptor is impaired.

Furthermore, there seem to be different types of color blindness. A family member has what is termed red-green color blindness. You can point to a gorgeous bright red flower in a nearby bush and receive the reply: “What flower?”

Eye receptors register wavelengths of light. As you would imagine, 3 receptors can produce more combinations of color than 2. Whilst humans can have combinations of red, green and blue, dogs are restricted to blue and yellow.

dogs see only in combinations of blue and yellow


So what does this really mean, particularly with respect to dog owners and groomers? Does it matter? Let’s consider if there are impacts that matter.

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What Colors Can Dogs See Best?

So what about a dog’s view of the world? What do they see with their reduced number of receptors, namely two?

Dog behavioural studies have been carried out to further examine how dogs respond to different colors. Such studies look at whether or not dogs can distinguish between certain colors more easily than others.

You can read, via the following link, a fascinating experiment designed to research red-green colorblindness in dogs. It is very interesting to see how they conducted the experiment along with their conclusions regarding which colors dogs see best.

Given a dog’s blue-yellow seeing range, certain colors probably become more murky or certainly less-distinguishable. For example, research suggests that the bright reds and green colors are probably viewed in a brown-grey shade by dogs.

What Color Is a Dog Most Attracted To?

Given that dogs find it easier to see blue and yellow, it stands to reason that toys in these colors would be of more interest.

You can experiment with this yourself.

Try taking 4 different colored toys to see which your dog is most attracted to. Mind you, a familiar toy might skew the results somewhat. For example, Rover might go for the toy that squeaked the loudest last time he pounced on it. Therefore, unfamiliar or new toys might make for a more effective experiment. You might then find the experiment produces more reliable results.

Here are some dog toy options (affiliate links) for your experiment:

The Colors Dogs See – Why it Matters

For starters, this can be a consideration in dog training. If you are standing a distance from the dog that you are training, you might want to re-think your choice of clothing colors. You want to be easily recognized against any background.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to agility training. Milliseconds count here. The dog needs to be able to spot all non-verbal cues with ease and respond accordingly without any delay. You don’t want to merge into the background with dark, brown or gray colors.

Groomers can find this information useful as well. A fidgety dog or nervous puppy can be very difficult to manage on the grooming table. A distracting toy, in a dog-appealing color, can help to calm the nerves, of both dog and groomer.

Enjoy watching your dog responding to different colored toys next time she wants to play.


Pampering Dogs