Are Dogs Really Colour Blind?
A dog is really a man’s best friend which is why we can’t help but wonder if our furry friends see the world the same way we do. And by “see,” we mean a dog’s literal interpretation of the world around them through their eyesight.
We know that dogs have much better night vision than we do, but what about their colour vision? Is there a scientific basis for the age-old perception that canines are colour blind?
The answer is a little complicated. Dogs aren’t technically colour blind in the same way that some humans are. According to the American Kennel Club, canines carry the same vision as humans with respect to the colour spectrum. In other words, they have red-green colour blindness, just like most people.
But that doesn’t mean they see the world in black and white. In fact, their colour vision is pretty similar to our own, but with less intensity and saturation. So while they may not be able to appreciate the subtlety of a sunset as we can, they can still see and process different colours.
What is Colour Blindness?
Colour blindness, or colour vision deficiency, is the decreased ability to see colour or differences in colour. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly eight percent of men and one percent of women with Northern European ancestry are affected by a form of red-green colour blindness.
Different types of colour blindness exist, but the most common form is called red-green colour blindness. People with this colour blindness have trouble distinguishing between red and green. The reason is that they’re missing or have limited function of the red cone cells in their eyes.
While it may seem like having trouble seeing certain colours would be a hindrance, for dogs, it doesn’t make much of a difference in their everyday lives.
Dogs rely more on smell and hearing than vision for communication purposes. They rely on scent to communicate with other dogs and identify things and people. And their hearing is much more acute than ours, so they can pick up on a range of sounds that we can’t even hear.
For dogs, vision serves more utilitarian purposes such as navigation and finding food. While they may not be able to appreciate the beauty of a rainbow as we can, they can still see and process different colours.
Dogs See Colour as Humans Do
Humans have different vision capabilities. For example, some of us have the luxury of normal vision, while others must deal with different forms of colour blindness.
But in general, the average human eye has three types of cones responsible for our colour vision. These cones are sensitive to blue, green, and red light. When all three of these colours mix, we see the world in what is known as “additive colour.”
Dogs have the same type of cones in their eyes, meaning they see a similar colour spectrum to humans. However, their cones aren’t as sensitive to light, so the colours they see are not as intense or saturated.
While we may see a bright red ball, a dog would see something closer to dark orange. The same goes for other colours like blue and green. This proves that dogs can see colours but aren’t as sharp as ours.
Fun Fact: Did you know that not having a clear vision of colours is an advantage in some scenarios? For instance, dogs with less sensitive cones are less likely to be bothered by bright lights, making them ideal candidates for search and rescue missions.
Yellow-Blue Dichromatic Vision
A dog’s vision is “yellow-blue dichromatic,” which means they’re adept at distinguishing blue and yellow colour variations. But as a consequence, they have a hard time seeing and distinguishing red and green.
Our four-legged friends see the world from a unique perspective. While they don’t carry the same level of intensity and saturation in their colour vision, they still see a wide variety of colours. Who knows, maybe they appreciate the world in their special way.
While blue and yellow are the dominant colours in a dog’s world, it’s important to note that every canine is different. Some will see a distinctive shade of blue when staring at violet and blue-green. Meanwhile, red and green may be more of a greyish-brown to them.
It’s also possible for dogs to see a little bit of ultraviolet light. This is why they’re able to find their way around in the dark and see certain types of stains that are invisible to us.
Different Breeds, Different Eyesight
The level of colour vision will also differ depending on the dog’s breed. For instance, Dachshunds and Basset Hounds are more likely to suffer from red-green colour blindness, while Dalmatians are prone to having blue-yellow colour blindness because they lack certain pigments in their retina.
Be that as it may, the truth is labelling dogs as colour blind is as inaccurate a description as it is for humans. They simply see colours differently, and there’s nothing wrong with that.