During my time in AnimalSense Academy (now CanineLink), I did a presentation about Canine Myths. One myth I busted was that dogs only see in black and white. I found it very interesting, so I thought I’d share my findings with all of you! Hope you enjoy!
So do dogs only see in black and white? If not, what colors do they see? Found in both human and canine species, the retina contains 2 types of photoreceptors, cones and rods. Cones are responsible for color perception and details of objects. Rods detect motion and are responsible for night vision. Dogs have far fewer cone cells than humans, but more rod cells. Dogs are dichromatic seeing only two primary colors; blue and yellow. We humans are trichromatic seeing blue, yellow, and red. So can dogs see in color? Yes! But are dogs colorblind? Yes! Check out this picture to the left you can see a dog and a human’s color spectrum.
Also, since dogs have fewer cone cells their ability to see detail, or acuity, is 6 times less than a human’s. Acuity is how many lines that can be seen as distinct entities. Here you can see what can be seen clearly to a human and a dog. The diagram that we see clearly would be a grey blur to a dog.
Dogs have a higher concentration of rod cells in their eyes. Rod cells see in shades of black, white, and grey so dog’s have better night vision. This also makes them more aware of movement. So while a dog may not be able to see sharp detail they are more sensitive to tracking movement. Example: If you throw an orange ball (it will appear yellow) onto green grass (it will also appear yellow) their tracking abilities will allow them to follow the movement and retrieve the ball.
Red, green, and orange appear somewhere on their yellow to blue spectrum. Fewer cone cells make their acuity 6 times less than ours and give them about 20/75 vision. And lastly, due to their high concentration of rod cells, they are better equipped to see in the dark and track movement (those of us who have dogs that chase small animals, leaves, and the like already know this!).