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What Colors Do Dogs Like Best? Canine Vision Explained

Written by: Luxifa Le

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

What Colors Do Dogs Like Best? Canine Vision Explained

We’ve almost all heard the myth that dogs see the world in black and white, but this myth just doesn’t hold up to reality. Despite this, dogs can perceive, process, and may even be attracted to certain colors; the scope of their color vision is just much smaller than that of a human. Your dog may have developed color “preferences,” and you just don’t know!

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What Is Color Blindness?

In short, color blindness is an inability to differentiate between colors or see specific colors in any way, shape, or form. Color blindness comes in different shades and severities. The most common color blindness in humans is red-green colorblindness which affects a person’s ability to differentiate or see shades of red and green.

Are Dogs Color Blind?

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Using a very loose interpretation of the word, dogs are color blind. The error comes from the fact that color blindness must be a deviation from the norm. In dogs, it is typical only to be able to see blue and yellow. Thus, for a dog to be “color blind,” they have to be unable to visit either blue or yellow. Something that we’re currently not able to test for since, even in people, color blindness is usually diagnosed through a self-reporting of signs.

Rather than thinking of dogs as being “color blind,” it makes more sense to think of a dog’s vision as fundamentally different from a human being’s vision. Dogs aren’t “lacking” red color cones because they never had them. They just don’t have them. It’s not a “lesser” version of our vision. It’s a different version.

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A Dog’s Vision…What Is It Like?

As we’ve covered, dogs can see and process color. But, unlike humans, they don’t know the world in shades of gray. So, how does a dog’s vision differ from a human’s vision? There are a few features of vision that we talk about when analyzing a creature’s vision.

saint bernard great pyrenees mixed breed dog
Image Credit: audreyelizabeth, Shutterstock

Visual Acuity

When analyzing your vision, the first thing we look at is your visual acuity—that is, how sharp the images your eyes perceive are. People generally express their visual acuity in 20/X feet, meaning what you see at 20 feet away over how far away other people can see with that same clarity.

“Perfect” vision is what you see at 20 feet away over how far away typical-sighted people can see the same image with the same clarity, or 20/20 vision.

Dogs have a visual acuity of roughly 20/75 when tested with an augmented vision test dedicated to dogs, meaning we can see from 75 feet away what they can only see from a maximum of 20 feet away. That’s quite a significant difference in image clarity!

Depth Perception

Dogs also have poorer depth perception than humans. Depth perception is the ability to perceive objects from a distance; the world looks flat, like a cartoon without depth perception. However, dogs have poor depth perception compared to humans.

Dogs’ poor depth perception is primarily due to their eyes not being as close together as humans’ eyes. Wide-set eyes decrease the power of an animal’s binocular vision and hamper their depth perception on a large scale.

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Image Credit: Alexas_fotos, Pixabay

Color Vision

Dogs also have a different color vision, as we’ve discussed. While humans see the full spectrum of trichromatic vision, dogs only have access to blue and yellow dichromatic vision. This means that humans can see colors that dogs can’t see.

Low-Light Vision

Low-light vision or “night vision” refers to a creature’s ability to see in the dark. Dogs’ eyes have more light-sensing cells than color-sensing ones, so they see much better than we do in the dark. Our night vision is quite terrible, as is the case for most diurnal creatures. On the other hand, dogs are traditionally nocturnal animals with sharper night vision than humans.

jack russell terrier dog on a walk in the city at night in neon light
Image Credit: shymar27, Shutterstock

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How Does Their Vision Compare With Humans?

Besides night vision, dogs’ eyes are outmatched by our own in every category. Even in night vision scenarios, they would still only be able to see at a maximum acuity of 20/75. However, that doesn’t mean dogs “see” less of the world than we do. Dogs don’t rely solely on their sense of sight to navigate the world around them. Experts estimate that dogs have as little as 20% of the visual acuity of humans.

How Do Dogs “See” the World?

Dogs see the world using all their senses, just like humans do. You don’t have to know a chicken roasting in the oven to smell its presence and know it’s there. Dogs are similar. Their primary sense is their sense of smell, and they use it to detect all kinds of things, from the presence of prey to toxins in their food. A dog’s nose is estimated to be between 10,000–100,000 times more sensitive and accurate than yours. That’s why your dog can smell their food when it’s still in the bag and how they know when another dog is intruding on their territory by walking by the house.

Dogs make up for their poor vision using their heightened sense of smell and hearing. Their other senses carry them through the world with the same ease as a human’s sight!

What Colors Do Dogs Like?

The colors dogs see best are bright yellows, blues, and greens. When looking for a toy, think less about whether your dog will like it and more if they’ll be able to enjoy it. A toy that’s a rich red color won’t have a visible color to a dog the way a toy in a vibrant yellow does. Your dog can’t tell you what they like and prefer, but you know what they’ll be able to see and best and enjoy.

docked dogo or presa canario playing with ball toy
Image Credit: 825545, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

While it’s unfortunate that we can’t give you much information about what your dog likes, we can tell you what they’re most equipped to enjoy, and that’s going to be toys in shades of vibrant yellows, blues, and greens.


Featured Image Credit: Jeniffer Fontan, Shutterstock

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