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How do dogs see?

May 23, 2023
how do dogs see


How do dogs see?


Understanding the World of Canine Colour Vision


What Colours Do Dogs See?

Have you ever wondered how dogs perceive the world around them? While us humans are blessed with trichromatic vision, enabling us to see a wide spectrum of colours, dogs have a more limited colour vision. Let’s have a look the fascinating topic of canine colour vision and explore the colours that dogs see as well as their other remarkable vision skills.


Understanding Canine Colour Vision

To understand how dogs perceive colours, we need to understand the concept of colour receptors in their eyes. Dogs have two types of colour receptors, known as cones, which are sensitive to different wavelengths of light. These cones are responsible for the detection of colours and the formation of our visual perception.


Dichromatic Vision

Dogs are classified (at this moment in time although studies continue) as having dichromatic vision, as opposed to humans who possess trichromatic vision. Dichromatic vision means that dogs have only two types of cones in their eyes, whereas humans have three. The two types of cones in dogs are sensitive to blue and yellow wavelengths of light suggesting that dogs have a limited colour spectrum compared to humans.


Perception of Blue and Yellow

As a result of their blue and yellow colour receptors, dogs are believed to perceive shades of blue and yellow more than other colours. Blue objects would appear relatively vibrant to dogs, while yellow would also stand out in their visual perception.


Limitations in Perceiving Red and Green

The most significant distinction between human and dog colour vision lies in the perception of red and green. Humans with normal colour vision can differentiate between a broad range of red and green hues, but for dogs, these colours may appear desaturated or even indistinguishable. Dogs lack the cone cells that are highly sensitive to red and green wavelengths, thus making it challenging for them to discern between these colours. Red and green objects may appear as various shades of grey or brown to dogs.


Factors Influencing Canine Colour Vision

Not all dogs have identical colour vision, and various factors can influence their perception. Some dog breeds may possess a slightly different distribution of colour receptors, leading to subtle differences in their colour perception. It’s also believed that the age and health of a dog can also impact their colour vision.


Comparing Canine and Human Vision

While humans may consider their trichromatic vision superior to that of dogs, it’s important to remember that dogs have other remarkable visual abilities. Dogs excel in detecting movement, low-light vision, and have a wider field of view compared to humans. These visual attributes make them excellent hunters, trackers, and companions.


A dog’s other remarkable visual abilities.


Peripheral Vision

Dogs have an expansive peripheral vision resulting in a wider field of view compared to humans, allowing them to detect movement and objects in their surroundings more effectively. Their eyes are positioned more to the sides of their heads, providing a field of view of approximately 240 degrees, compared to humans' 180 degrees. This enhanced peripheral vision is a result of their evolutionary adaptation as predators and hunters.

Low-Light Vision

Dogs have a superior ability to see in low-light conditions compared to humans, they possess a higher number of rod cells in their eyes, which are responsible for vision in dim lighting. These rod cells are more light-sensitive and enable dogs to see better in the dark. This exceptional low-light vision is another evolutionary advantage that has made dogs excellent nocturnal hunters and reliable companions for night-time activities.

Motion Detection

Dogs also have a heightened sensitivity to motion, adept at detecting even subtle movements in their environment. This skill is a result of their well-developed visual tracking system, which allows them to track and pursue prey efficiently. Their ability to perceive motion helps them excel in activities such as herding, search and rescue operations, and even playing catch.



Understanding canine colour vision allows us to appreciate how our dogs perceive the world around them. So, the next time you choose a toy or outfit for your beloved canine companion, consider their colour vision, and opt for hues that emphasise shades of blue and yellow, ensuring an aesthetically pleasing experience for them.