Are dogs color blind?
No, dogs are not color blind in the sense that they see more than just black, white, and gray. However, the color range they perceive is limited compared to the spectrum we see.
How dogs see colors
To put it in very basic terms, the canine color field consists mostly of yellows, blues, and violets. “Human” reds, greens, and oranges are not distinguishable to dogs. Instead, those hues appear somewhere on their yellow-to-blue spectrum.
Why dogs see differently
The reason? The retina of both species contains two types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. The human eye, however, contains more types of cones. The canine eye has more rods and no fovea, which is responsible for sharp visual detail in humans. The result is that dogs have superior night vision and are better at tracking movement than we are. The downside is that they see fewer colors. Additionally, shapes and objects appear in much less detail in canine vision.
Dogs also have a wider field of view than humans, encompassing around 240 degrees compared to humans’ approximate 180-degree field of view. However, this comes at the cost of reduced binocular vision (the overlap in vision from both eyes), affecting their depth perception and ability to focus on close objects.
How canine vision translates into play
Canine vision is complicated, but let’s demonstrate how it affects something simple, like playing fetch. Dogs are great at spotting moving things, like balls, and can catch them well. They can see a wide area around them and guess where the ball will go. They might have trouble judging distance, but they’re good at timing jumps. Even in the dark, they can play because they see better at night. Even if they can’t see things very clearly, they can find hidden balls using their sense of smell and memory. Canine color perception explains why dogs love tennis balls: the bright yellow ball on green grass “pops” for them. This shows how dogs’ special way of seeing helps them play fetch, even though they have some vision limits.