Can Dogs See Color? Which Ones?

Written by Megan Martin
Published: October 7, 2022
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Have you ever heard that dogs see in black and white? It’s a common belief that dogs aren’t able to see in color. However, this isn’t necessarily true. While dogs may have a different type of vision than humans, they aren’t entirely color blind either. So can dogs see color? Keep reading to find out – and, if so, what colors they can see. 

Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!

What is Color?

When it comes down to whether or not dogs can see in color – and what colors they can see, if so – it’s important to know what exactly color is. After all, as humans, it can be hard for us to imagine other animals seeing in entirely different ways than us!

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Color is produced when our eyes receive waves of light from an object. Certain parts of the eyes, such as the retinas, are able to interpret these waves of light and relay the message to the brain. From there, the brain is able to understand it as certain colors.

How Humans See Color

While we mentioned previously that humans see color by seeing the light that reflects off of an object, it’s a bit more complicated than that. You see, light that comes from the sun is purely white. However, contrary to belief, white is the combination of all colors. Picture it like an envelope: the outside is white but the entire color spectrum is inside. 

When light hits an object, two things happen: some colors are absorbed, and some are reflected. Take an orange for example. When light hits the orange, all the colors but red and yellow are absorbed. Red and yellow are then reflected off the object and enter the eye through the pupil. 

It’s in here that things can get a little tricky.

You see, there’s much more to your eye than meets the eye. Although we may only see our pupils and iris at a glance, your eye is actually a highly complex organ with a variety of parts working together. Once light enters your eye, it travels to the very back, where it reaches tissue known as the retina.

Inside the retina, there are a variety of tiny cells known as cones and rods. Each one of these has the job of interpreting the light that entered the eye. From here, your retina sends electrical signals down the optic nerve, which connects to the brain. In the brain, the electrical currents sent by the cones and rods of the eye are interpreted as color!

Can Dogs see Color?

Dogs can see color apart from black and white.

©220 Selfmade studio/

So now that we know how humans can see color, can dogs see color? Despite the old myth that dogs only see in black and white, dogs actually possess rods and cones in their eyes as well. This means that, just like humans, dogs can see color.

However, despite being similar, dogs’ eyes aren’t identical to ours. Not only do they have differences in aspects like depth perception and the ability to process shadows, but they also have differences in the number of colors they see. This is because they have fewer cones and rods than humans do, meaning they can see fewer colors. 

What Colors Can Dogs see?

Believe it or not, the vision of a dog is actually quite similar to a person’s vision when they have red-green colorblindness. 

While humans see on a spectrum ranging from blues to reds to yellows, it’s not the same for dogs. Instead, they see a spectrum that ranges from blue to yellow. Blue is the easiest color for a dog to see. Red appears as a dark color for dogs, like dark brown or black. Yellow, orange, and green all appear to be different shades of yellow for dogs. Colors like purple just appear as another shade of blue.

However, not only do dogs see different colors than us, but they also see different hues and saturations. For dogs, most colors seem a little muddy and dull. However, they have certain sight advantages compared to us that helps to keep their visual world interesting!

Since dogs technically only see two colors, this gives them dichromatic vision.

Do all Animals see like Dogs?

Cats see in shades of green and blue.

©Sunanta Suwanphen/

Not all animals see like dogs. However, not all animals see like humans, either!

Cats see in shades of blue and green – just slightly different than dogs. They can also see shades of red better, although cats still get them confused. Rather than seeing red as a dark color, it can appear slightly more red or green, depending on the exact hue. 

Bears see more similar to dogs, while deer see more similar to cats. Deer, however, cannot see the color red. 

When it comes to certain animals, however, they actually see in shades of grey! Animals that only see in just a color have what is known as monochromatic vision. Take whales, for instance. Whales are one type of animal that only see in shades of grey

Not all underwater creatures have monochromatic vision, however. Certain species of shrimp, such as the mantis shrimp, can see more colors than humans, and they can detect UV (ultraviolet) and polarised light!

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About the Author

I'm a writer with almost five years of experience. I recently graduated from Wingate University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a double minor in biology and professional and technical writing. I love everything animals and nature related! The American kestrel is my favorite animal, but I also like sharks and alligators. In my free time, I like to watch documentaries and explore nature.

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