Do Dogs See Color?
General News | Aug-29-2020
A dog's vision is perhaps one of the most often pondered upon questions; how he sees colors is quite an interesting mystery. People misinterpreted the simple answer, namely that dogs are colorblind, as meaning that dogs do not see any color but only shades of gray. This is wrong. Dogs do see colors, but the colors they see are neither as vibrant nor as numerous as human-viewed. Both people's and dog's eyes contain special light-capturing cells called cones that respond to color. Dogs have fewer cones than humans, meaning their sense of color will not be as vibrant or powerful as ours. The technique to see color, however, is not only to have cones but to have many different types of cones, each tuned to various wavelengths of light. Human beings have three different types of cones and this combined activity gives people their full range of color vision. Color blindness is the concept used to indicate changes in color perception. The degree of color blindness in humans depends upon which color receptors are affected in the eye.
There are two basic types of blindness in people: blindness in red-green and blindness in the blue-yellow color. A person with red-green blindness cannot differentiate between these two colors. That makes for a pretty boring Holi! Equally, a blue-yellow color-blind person cannot tell the difference between a yellow shirt and a blue one. When it gets down to distinguishing color, the normal vision of a dog is most similar to a person with red-green color blindness. That said, no further degrees of colorblindness in dogs have been registered. The most prevalent characteristics of human colorblindness arise when one of three kinds of cones is missing from the individual's eye. The person can still see colors with just two cones but far less than those with the regular vision of the light. This is the state of affairs for dogs, who also only have two types of cones.
Dogs generally see color, but they do have far fewer colors than normal humans. Rather than seeing the rainbow as black, blue, blue-white, green, purple, orange, and red, dogs will see it as dark blue, light blue, black, light purple, deep yellow (a kind of brown), and very dark gray. Dogs see the world's colors as essentially yellow, blue, and grey. Canines have other sensory benefits over humans. Dogs have a visual sense that is more set on the sides of the head giving them a greater range of peripheral vision than we do. The tradeoff is a smaller range of visual acuity so dogs don't have the perception of depth we do.
Dogs have pupils which dilate to the full allowing them to absorb as much light as they can. Their tapetum provides the illusion of the "shiny eye" to dogs, which also increases their ability to see in dim light. Within the eye, even dogs have more rod cells than their human relatives. So, dogs see better in dim light (dusk and dawn) compared to humans and can detect movement more accurately. And when you're lucky enough to be blessed by a rainbow in the sky next season, be confident that your dog will always enjoy it. He won't see ALL of the rainbow's hues, but he might see a bit of yellow and blue. And that's just going to be perfect with him!
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