We know our dogs love us unconditionally and that they’ll high-tail it out of the park if they so much as sense a squirrel. We know what it takes to train them and how protective they get, and we understand that they’re actually really smart (when they want to be). But what about the theory that our dogs’ vision is limited to black and white?
Do vizslas know how beautifully-colored their coats are? Do golden retrievers know just how golden they are?!
Recent studies have suggested that dogs do see color, but not as much as humans. Dogs only have about 20 percent of the number of cone photoreceptor cells, or the part of the eye that controls how our brains perceive color, that humans do. These photoreceptor cells are made up of rods and cones, the cones being responsible for color perception. To compare, humans have about 6 million cones, while dogs only have a bit over 1 million.
So, that means that their color perception is way more limited than ours is, so they just can’t see as many colors as us. Science has whittled it down to believe that dogs can see shades of blue and yellow, but are pretty much in the woods with reds and greens.
Even though dogs are more useless than us when it comes to differentiating color, though, they obviously make up for it in other areas. Dogs’ vision has evolved the way it has because the species was originally bred for hunting, so their eyes developed with more focus on things like detecting motion and keeping a wide peripheral vision than color.
And what dogs lack in cone receptors, they make up for in rod receptors. The rods are responsible for our reaction to brightness and dim lighting, and the dogs beat us in rod count, which is why they can see in the dark better than us.
So next time your pup zoomies by the red tennis ball you tossed to them in the yard, give them a break. It’s all a gray blur to them.