Can Dogs See Color?


♪ INTRO ♪ Maybe you’ve heard that dogs can only see in black and white. It’s one of those fun factoids that people like to toss around sometimes. But this, like so many things we talk about on quick questions, is a misconception. And the misconception stems from the fact that dogs are, from a human perspective, colorblind. But that doesn’t mean they can’t see color. We perceive color through a series of receptors in the retinas of our eyes called “cones.” And humans have three kinds, each of which is activated by a specific wavelength of light corresponding to a certain set of colors. Most humans have cones that can detect blue, green and red wavelengths of light. But dogs, kind of like humans who are colorblind, only have two kinds of cones that work. For dogs, the two colors they can register are blue and yellow. So dogs can’t see the color red but they can see and distinguish between various shades of yellow, blue, gray, and something that probably comes through as a dirty-greenish-brown. So while we see this, your dog sees something more like this. It’s not exactly technicolor, but it’s a lot more information than just black and white. And setting the record straight about dogs’ partial color vision is teaching us a lot about how pups experience the world. Recent experiments have found that dogs who are trained to find dark yellow objects could still find them, even if they were replaced with very light yellow ones. And they didn’t mistake dark blue objects for the dark yellow ones, either, suggesting that dogs can clearly distinguish between many different shades and colors and don’t just see in gray scale. So the next time you ask your dog to fetch your blue slippers and he comes back with a pair of bananas, he’s not color blind. He’s just messing with you. Thanks for asking and thanks especially to our Subbable subscribers who get these answers a little early. If you’d like to get a sneak peek or other perks like a SciShow tie or SciShow stickers, go to Subbable.com/SciShow. And of course if you have a quick question, let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or in the comments below. And don’t forget to go to YouTube.com/SciShow and subscribe. ♪ OUTTRO ♪

99 thoughts on “Can Dogs See Color?

  1. @SciShow Why are street lights usually orange, not white? Is it simply more economical, or does it have something to do with human vision?

  2. While i'm loathed to interject yet again lest I be thought the quinessential prig, I understand apodictic correctness as your modus operandi. So with this in mind, factoid does not, nor has it ever meant trivial or superfluous titbit that is nevertheless true or accurate. Such describes a factlet. Almost conversely, a factoid is a presented specious, even spurious statement with no evidence. I generally consider it somewhat dogmatic.

  3. hmmm. Why was the example of what dogs blurry? It should just be a different shade of color but still clear as 'day' so to speak

  4. My friend's mother tells her dog to, "Go get the blue ball!" I was amazed the first time I saw her go get the blue ball. Not that I thought dogs couldn't see color or were dumb. I had just never seen someone train their dog to recognize and retrieve an object of a specific color.

  5. Actually, we see violet, green and yellow-green. Any three colors would do but sensitivity goes up when they are widely separated in frequency.  The fact that they have only two receptors means they see a lower number of colors, but they are just as sensitive as ours.

  6. A dogs sense of smell is way more keen than their eyesight. Most dogs experience the world first with their nose, then with their eyes, and lastly with their ears. If you've ever noticed when your dog didn't see where the ball landed when you threw it, they start sniffing for it instead of looking for with their eyes, regardless of color or shape.

  7. Why am I seeing adds for Olive Garden all over youtube all of a sudden?? I never got adds before a video until today. And that stupid restaurant is not even in my country!

  8. Ok so when red lazer pionters are shown to your dog they see green? I wonder if you show them a green dot they wouldnt tell?

  9. we were doing diffraction and refraction spectra in physics and the only colours on the spectrum i could see was blue and yellow, but i am red green colourblind. in person though i can still tell that the grass is green and blood or whatever is red and they are distinctly different from the other colours like blue and yellow. can anyone explain why/how this happens

  10. Here's a question: Why are humans afraid of spiders? The largest spider on earth is only about a foot long, and most people freak out about ones that only have a legspan of around 0.5 to 1 inch. Not only that, but nobody can come up with an actual reason why spiders are so scary; most people say something like "They walk so creepy!" or "They're so gross!" (The latter of which is funny, because of how clean spiders actually are.)

  11. If dogs are color blind because they can see fewer colors than we can then we are all color blind too because the mantis shrimp has like 16 different cones.

  12. then why do bulls charge at red and not other colors and how can scientist be sure? i mean they cant because are they the dog?

  13. The comparison made at 0:55 is quite awful. Except for the color of the guy's hair, every thing else is the same…and why so BLURRY???  This was supposed to be a comparison regarding CoLoR…not sharpness…(sigh…)

  14. This was so informative. I have a dog I rescued and I bought her some orange tennis balls. She would not even chase them. Then I bought her pack of three balls. Pink and Green, Blue and Yellow, and pink and orange. She did go after them I think mainly because they squeaked. Once I threw the Blue and Yellow that is the only ball she will play with. This was amazing.

  15. I have a question, not about this video though. Why is our body temp 98.6 F. Why not 97 or 100? There must be some advantage to 98.6! What?

  16. Yet the two most popular colors of dog toy (by a VERY large degree) are red and green…..
    These manufacturers redefine what it means to be a fuckin idiot

  17. also, brighter colors are the same for them, while they can distinguish very well between dark colors like blue, violet, etc

  18. I'm just going to go ahead and assume dogs see like colorblind people do, therefor I see like a dog, which means to say that dogs can see the differences between colors and would probably be able to distinguish the difference between most reds and greens but would not be able to perceive them to the same level that most humans do.

  19. You know those glasses that have come out within the past two years or so that allow colour blind humans to ser colour? I wonder if those would work on dogs…

  20. tfw the dog vision and the normal vision examples look exactly the same colour wise…. 🙁

  21. Then dogs cant browse the internet yet? Im gonna wait until theres this one dog with that sharp eye sight has 100 babies

  22. Great video, I just read about this yesterday at https://splashanddashfordogs.com/blog/can-dogs-see-color/
    I think it's so crazy that people have been buying green tennis balls when all along they should have been buying blue/yellow ones!

  23. When conducting your test, did you used a light meter to make sure that the 2 shades had the exact same reflective property? If not, then it is safe to say that the dog was picking up on the subtle difference of the shades, not the colors themselves. In an experiment done a few years ago, where the reflective shades were EXACTLY the same, the dog could not tell the difference between the 2 colors.

  24. My son always asked me whether dogs see color and I didn't know what to answer. But later I found the article http://dogsaholic.com/care/are-dogs-color-blind.html and was able to let my child know everything about dog's vision

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