Can Dogs See Colours? How Many Colours Can A Dog See?

Can Dogs see colours

Yes, dogs can see colours. They just see it differently and not as clearly as human beings. 

How do dogs see?

Your dog’s eyes work like a camera. The pupil allows the light through, and the iris expands or contracts to control the amount of light that is allowed in. The light passes through the clear cornea and the lens, which focuses this light onto the retina. The retina is a light-sensitive layer and has two types of cells. Rods detect light and motion and cones help in differentiating colours. So, dogs’ retina has colour-sensitive cones and light and sensitive motion rods. These cones and rods convert the light into electrical signals. These electrical signals are sent by the cones and rods through the optic nerve to the brain that then, constructs an image from them. 

Human beings have three types of cones to identify red, blue, and yellow and a combination of these three colours. However, dogs have two types of cones that can identify yellow and blue making this a limited colour perception called dichromatic vision. Therefore, your dog can see colours, but not as many as humans can. Dogs’ colour vision is less intense and lacks the full range of colours. 

While dogs may not have as many types of cones as human beings, dogs have more rods that give them an edge during darker hours because they can see better in low light and can easily identify moving objects.

What colours can dogs see?

Dogs can see yellow, blue and shades of grey. Dogs cannot see red, purple, green, orange. Human beings can see rainbows in all their rich glory. However, dogs can only see rainbows as a brownish-yellow, and lighter shades of yellow, red, blue and green. If a dog were to see a brightly coloured uniform in red or green, it would appear gray or brown and would be indistinct. 

You can compare colourblindness between human beings and dogs. Human beings can be colourblind because they do not have one or more types of the three required cones. Fewer cones will still allow human beings to see colours but will have limited vision of specific colours. Similarly, dogs having only two types of cones, can only have a limited vision with regard to colours. They rely more on darkness or brightness of objects instead of colours.

Dogs are near-sighted, and it helps if their training is based on the colours they can see or discern. For instance, in the case of agility training, using poles, or boards in colours that the dog can see, the training is more successful. This is also one of the reasons that blue coloured toys are considered most suitable.

Can dogs see colours like humans?

While dogs may not have an appreciation of the entire spectrum of colours, they are able to perceive some colours. They may not see the richness of the colour, though.

For instance, the colour red appears dark and brownish or even black to some dogs. All three colours – yellow, orange, and green look yellowish to them. The best colour that dogs can see is blue. However, purple or violet will also look blue to them. 

Apart from colour perception, there are other visual differences. As dogs are near-sighted, what humans see with great clarity will appear blurred to dogs. Dogs are also not as sensitive to brightness as human beings with regard to rich colours and hues. 

Visual differences between dogs and human beings

Dogs have their eyes set on the sides of their head, and that gives them a broad range of peripheral vision. However, they lack the depth perception that human beings have. Dogs’ pupils capture as much light as they can because their pupils dilate to the maximum level. They also have a tapetum, which is reflective cells under their retina. This is what makes their eyes shine, and this is also what makes them see better in less light. 

Human beings have less number of rods when compared with dogs. The rods help detect motion, however small the movement may be. This enables the dogs to see better in dim light and makes it easy for dogs to detect motion. This is not the case with human beings.  

What do dogs see and why?

Dogs have the required level of the visual sense in order to survive in the wild. Being able to see in dim light and detect the slightest of movements helps dogs in their ability to defend or hunt. Now that dogs are domesticated and live with families as pets, their hunting needs have been met because healthy food is provided for them and they do not have to hunt for food. However, their visual abilities are never lost to them.

What do you need to know as a pet parent?

You will be able to make the right choices if you know what and how your dog can see. In particular, Toys would be a factor because your dog is more likely to enjoy playing with yellow or blue toys. Most often, people choose red toys thinking that it is bright enough. But it is only bright for your eyes. Dogs do better with anything in blue. 

Similarly, your activities with your dog will get the most attention if you stand directly in front of your dog. This is where the range of vision is at its best. You do not have to worry that your dog may not enjoy a rainbow as much as you will because while your dog may not see the entire spectrum of colours, shades of yellow and blue will still catch your dog’s vision. 

If you choose to train your dog on agility, use blues primarily when using boards, tunnels, or jumps. Keeping in mind the colours that your dog can see will play a big role in the efficacy of your training. 


The information contained in VOSD Vet Advice™ is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical action which is provided by your vet. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For any emergency situation related to a dog’s health, please visit the nearest veterinary clinic.

Do you find this information useful? For more medical advice, visit the VOSD website.