Another Myth, Busted: Dogs Are NOT Black-and-White Color Blind

Add this to your list of dog facts: A recent study shows that dogs can see color.

Michael Leaverton  |  Jul 23rd 2013


Are you part of the rather large segment of the population who once heard and have steadfastly maintained the belief that dogs see only in black and white and shades of boring gray?

You shouldn’t have done that. Of course dogs see colors.

At least that’s what a new study is showing us, according to Smithsonian.com. Dogs, like most mammals, have only two color receptors (or “cones”) to humans’ three, but that doesn’t mean they can see only gray. The article states that dogs’ sight is limited on the level of humans with what’s known as red-green color-blindness.

“Whereas a human with full color vision sees red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet along the spectrum of visible light, a dog sees grayish brown, dark yellow, light yellow, grayish yellow, light blue and dark blue, respectively,” reads the article.

In visual form, that looks like this:

Researchers have long suspected that dogs rely more on brightness than color to discriminate between objects, but Russian researchers, in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, dispute that.

In the study, the team used light and dark colored paper in a variety of colors, along with boxes containing raw meat. The dogs began to associate the boxes of raw meat with specific colors rather than just the lightness or the darkness of the color.

The bolster the findings, the researchers put the dogs through 10 trials a day for nine days.

“After 10 tests, all the dogs went for the color-based choice more than 70 percent of the time, and six out of the eight dogs went for it 90 or 100 percent of the time. Clearly, they’d memorized the color associated with the raw meat, not whether it was dark or light,” reads the story.

The only drawbacks to the study are the small sample size — just eight dogs — and the fact that all the dogs were mixed breeds. But the findings seem pretty solid. If they hold up, it could change some aspects of dog training, as some trainers often avoid color and rely on brightness as a cue.

And it could change the way you dress your dog. It might not be the rain slicker he hates, but rather its horrid yellow-green color.

Via Smithsonian.com

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