Can Dogs See Color?

Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
By Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
Updated: 7/16/20242-4 minutes
a girl with a dog

If you’re wondering, Can dogs see colors?, yes, your canine companion has the ability to perceive certain colors.  

It’s a good question as a dog’s perspective will always be a bit of a mystery to us. While certain behaviors like devouring a bowl of dog food may communicate a need, how your pet sees the world can be hard to understand.  

Their vision doesn’t work like ours, however.  

The anatomy of dogs’ eyes and their photoreceptors differ from that of humans (and other species), giving dogs a unique visual perspective. 

If you’re asking, What colors do dogs see?, here’s an overview of a dog’s vision to help you understand what they can – and can’t – perceive.   

Are Dogs Colorblind?

No, dogs are not colorblind, although they don’t see as many colors as we do.  

A dog’s retina contains a small amount of cones (cones are photoreceptor cells in the eye’s retina that allow us to see color). Humans have three types of cones in their eyes while dogs only have two. This means their vision is limited to certain colors.  

What Colors Do Dogs See?

Because dogs’ eyes only have two types of cones (just 20 percent of the cones in human eyes), their color spectrum is limited to shades of gray, brown, yellow and blue. 

This is called dichromatic vision, which is similar to humans who experience red-green color blindness. 

Some colors – like hues of red and orange – may show up as another color to dogs, like yellow. Greens may appear white. 

Dogs may also struggle to notice the difference between hues of the same color, like light blue and dark blue. 

Keep this in mind if your pet struggles to find toys or treats. It may not be due to lack of interest; it’s possible they can’t see what you’re trying to give them. 

The next time you’re shopping for dog toys, you might consider something blue or yellow that will stand out better for your pet. 

What Does a Dog’s Vision Look Like?

In daylight, a dog’s visual sharpness is 50 percent less than a human’s, possibly making things look blurrier. Fortunately, canines can rely on their heightened senses of smell and hearing for perception. 

Dogs are also near-sighted, meaning they can see objects up close better than those located far away.  

It’s believed most dogs have 20/75 vision. In other words, they have to be 20 feet away from an object to see it, compared to humans who can see it from 75 feet away.  

Can Dogs See in the Dark?

Dogs can see well in dark or low-light situations. This is because their eyes are anatomically different from humans’ eyes. 

While they have fewer cones, their eyes have more rods in the retina than ours. This means they’re more sensitive to motion, shapes and light. As a result, your dog can pick up on small movements and detect the presence of strangers or prey. 

In addition to having larger pupils, which lets more light into their eyes and enhances vision at night, dogs have a layer of reflective membrane at the back of their eyes. 

This membrane bounces light not absorbed by rods to the retina, which allows the eye to take in additional light and strengthens their nighttime vision. This also makes it look as if dogs’ eyes glow in the dark. 

Does Breed Affect a Dog’s Vision?

Most dogs’ eyes are located towards the sides of their heads, which gives them a wide field of vision. Some breeds, however, may experience vision differently.  

For example, a dog with a narrow face and long nose, such as a Borzoi, has a narrow field of binocular focus and a larger field of peripheral vision.  

A brachycephalic breed, on the other hand, such as a Pekingese, has a wider area of binocular vision, but an even bigger blind spot. 

Hopefully this article helps you answer the question of, Can dogs see color?. Learning more about your pet’s sense of sight can be a good way to imagine the world the way they experience it, which may help you better understand their behavior and meet their needs.  

To learn more about health and related topics from our experts, visit our Pet Expertise page.


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