Studies have proven that dogs can distinguish at least three shades of yellow, which means yellow is the color they see best. Dogs can also see shades of blue. Most other colors are perceived as gray. When shopping for toys, be sure the toys have shades of blue or yellow.
There are a lot of myths floating around about dogs’ vision. Contrary to one popular myth, dogs are not entirely colorblind, they just see colors differently than MOST humans..
Right now, you probably have a bunch of questions. What do you mean by “most” humans? What colors do they actually see best? What does their color vision mean for you as a dog owner? We have the answers to all these questions and more.
Why Dogs See Differently Than Most People
Dogs only have two types of cones (which allow them to see color) in their eyes; humans have three. This one simple difference has a significant impact on the colors that dogs can perceive.
Humans typically see all the combinations of the primary colors red, yellow, and blue. The most common deviation from this normal vision is red-green colorblindness, which causes the person affected to not be able to discern between red and green.
If you can imagine that, you have a general idea of what colors dogs perceive. Here’s a hint: red and shades of red are definitely not their forte.
So Which Color Do Dogs Perceive Best?
Red is out, but there is the rest of the color spectrum to consider as well. Dogs see blue and yellow better than any other colors. Arguably, dogs see yellow better than blue. Studies have shown that dogs can discern at least three different shades of yellow.
This is especially helpful information if you wish to keep your dog engaged with a toy or want to work on specific training.
Dogs Live in a Brown World
Many people seem to think that color blindness in dogs means that they only see in black and white. But, now that we’ve established that dogs aren’t entirely colorblind, what does that mean?
For starters, dogs do not see in black and white, so we can throw that right out the window. In fact, dogs have a hard time discerning black and white at all. This is a pretty significant deviation from the tales of colorblindness we’re all familiar with.
Other than blue and yellow, dogs do have difficulty discerning color. What we know suggests that dogs perceive most things that aren’t blue or yellow to be shades of brown. For your pooch, that means that objects that aren’t blue or yellow can easily blend in with their surroundings.
The Color of Dog Toys
Have you ever wandered through aisles of dog toys and wondered what all the colors meant? The answer is both straightforward and complicated: toys are meant to achieve different aims, so they come in different colors for a reason.
Blue and yellow toys are attention grabbers that dogs easily see and engage with. The bright yellow tennis ball practically shows up like a strobe light for a pup. Similarly, a blue brain-game feeding toy will be easily seen and hold a dog’s attention.
You have probably also noticed toys that have multiple colors. A common one to see on the shelves is a stuffed duck toy with green, white, gray, and often some other colors. None of these colors are in a dog’s wheelhouse, but the colors contrast enough that the profile of the object is broken up. This allows dogs to readily discern that the object they’re seeing is their toy.
If you dig deep into your browsing recollections, you might recall that you’ve seen training dummies in or near the toy aisle. If you think a little harder, you will probably realize that these tools are almost never a color dogs can see well. There’s a reason for that too.
Why Are Training Dummies Never Blue or Yellow?
It seems kind of mean to have training dummies in colors that dogs don’t see well, doesn’t it? This seemingly nonsensical coloration actually has a great deal of purpose. When dogs are training, it is a good idea to use colors they can’t readily see.
Basically, if a training dummy were blue or yellow, dogs wouldn’t have to work for it. When the aim is to prepare a dog for hunting or seeking, blue and yellow just wouldn’t do. Orange, black, and white are the most common training dummy colors, and here’s why.
Orange Training Dummies
Orange training dummies are perhaps the most difficult for dogs to discern. This is because there are no distinct yellow or blue tones for the dog to pick up on–all they see is a bunch of brownish colors mixed together.
While this seems a little unfair–after all, there is nothing in nature that is the color of a hazard cone–it’s actually a great way to hone a dog’s attention and other senses. Because they can’t see the dummy, they have to really pay attention to where it landed or what it smells like.
Black, White, and Black/White Training Dummies
Black, white, and black/white training dummies are also very popular. These tools are used selectively by people training their dogs. They commonly use black training dummies on dark backdrops and white on light backdrops to make the dummies harder to discern.
Black/white training dummies are a combination tool that can be used on both land and water for training. One side is less dense than the other, so the dummy will always turn right side up to make it hard to see in the water.
Using This Information to Engage With Your Dog
Now that you’re armed with knowledge about how dogs perceive color, you probably want to know what you should do with that knowledge. The answer is, it depends…
If you simply want to have a good time playing with your dog, bright blues and yellows are sure to delight them. These easy-to-see toys don’t present a challenge and your pup will be able to easily retrieve them.
If you want to work on your dog’s skills–like scenting–then you could opt for something more difficult for them to see. This will help them hone their seeking skills by forcing them to use senses other than sight.
Regardless of what your aims are, one thing to keep in mind is that your dog won’t be able to easily differentiate objects by color unless they’re shades of blue or yellow. If you want to work on taking and leaving specific objects, be sure they are different objects or colors that are easy to distinguish so your pup doesn’t get frustrated.
A Myth Dispelled
Now you’re armed with the knowledge that your pooch can, in fact, see different colors. Their strong suits will be shades of blue and yellow, while other colors will appear to be brown tones. You can use this knowledge to your advantage while trying to reach different training objectives.
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