Dogs Not Color Blind After All

August 14, 2013

Growing up I was told, as I’m sure were most others, that dogs are color blind.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned that the early studies on dogs being color blind were never completed.  According to a recently completed study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, as reported by the Smithsonian Magazine,  a group of Russian scientists in a very limited study of mixed breed dogs have determined that dogs are able to distinguish colors.

Dogs, like most mammals, have two types of color receptors (usually referred to as “cones”) in their eyes while humans have three.  Each cone is receptive to a different wavelength of light.  By detecting and then combing the quantities of the different wavelengths detected in the cones we “see” different colors.   Dogs, according to the study, with only two cones cannot see the full spectrum of colors.  This situation is similar to people with red-green colorblindness since they also only have two cones.  The study indicates that dogs can see grayish brown, dark yellow, light yellow, grayish yellow, light blue and dark blue (which if you remember from school are combinations of the primary colors yellow and blue).

So what does this mean to the average pet parent?  At first probably not too much as the study will need to be replicated on a wider scale.  But if it holds up it could impact dog training as trainers might start using color as a cue instead of just brightness and even treat, toy and food as we learn more about the colors dogs prefer.  Of course, it might just make you feel better knowing your dog’s world is not simply shades of gray after all.

Thanks for reading!

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