In a few ways, humans and dogs view the world differently. What you know to be a fire hydrant is a can’t-miss statement to your pet dog. You know it as a vacuum cleaner, but your dog looks at it as a sinister “thing” that is lurking around. However, there is one thing that is similar in both human and dog vision, and it is that both see the world in color.
What is Color Blindness?
The idea goes back to the 18th century when English scientist John Dalton carried out the initial studies on congenital color blindness. Dalton was eager to understand why he and his brother couldn’t recognize some colors, as they confused pink with blue and red with green. The red and green perception is the most common color blind effect in humans. It results from abnormalities with the molecules that detect color in the retina.
Are Dogs Color Blind?
Your furry friend’s vision is not as black and white as it may seem, but neither is it perfect. While early research suggested that dogs couldn’t perceive color, this popular myth has since been debunked, and now it’s known that they can tell some colors apart.
The Science Behind It
The retina in the eye contains cones and rods in both dogs and humans. While the rods are responsible for seeing in dim light, the cones help in distinguishing various colors. It turns out – dogs have a few rods only, which implies that they cannot perceive many colors.
Humans have three kinds of cones in the retina, and each of them is sensitive to a particular color: blue, green and red. That is why human beings can see an array of colors, and it is known as trichromatic. On the other hand, dogs have only two-rod types: the yellow and blue. Therefore, canine vision can be said to be what humans perceive as color blindness. This is known as dichromatic.
So, next time you wonder why your pup can’t seem to find the red ball in the grass, cut him slack. Now you understand that it is not that your canine friend does not see color, but the color range is compressed into the green and blue part of the spectrum. If you are color blind, you might be surprised to find out that an afternoon in the park with your pet dog is not very different from yours. Dogs see shades of green, blue and yellow combines. When these colors are combined, they can be seen as grayish yellow, dark blue, grayish brown and light blue. This explains why most dogs like chasing yellow balls under the blue sky on the green grass.
Can Dogs See in the Dark?
Compared to human night vision, dogs see better at night than you do. Even though they have fewer cones than humans, dogs have more rods in their eyes. It is the rods that are responsible for night vision, which automatically implies that dogs have near perfect night vision. The abundance of the rods also helps in improving a dog’s sensitivity to motion at night.
Dogs also have large pupils, which like the window blinds, are responsible for letting in light into the eyes. Also, since dogs are naturally nocturnal, they have a reflective covering at the rear of their eyes that’s known as tapetum lucid. The membrane functions as a mirror, and it bounces extra light into the eye for added vision. Have you ever walked with your dog at night and looked at him while in the dark? The sparkle in his eyes is the extra bounced light.
How Accurate is a Dog’s Eyesight?
If you have ever been to an optician’s office, the doctor might have tested the accuracy of your vision. This is done using an eye chart, which has letters and numbers placed at a distance away from the patient. It has a fixed standard to ensure uniformity across all optometrists’ offices. The chart is based on what someone with normal vision can see at a distance of 20 feet.
So, a dog’s sight is not perfect at all. while humans can see as well as 20/20 on the chart, dogs are limited to 20/75. This means that anything below this mark is a blur. Even without the minor details, dogs will only see a basic picture idea of what could be in front of them, but cannot tell what exactly it is.
There’s More to Sight Than Color
Sight goes beyond color. It is never only about the colors of the rainbow, but the sharpness, the arch and the plane going through it. Although humans have a better sense of sight, canines have the upper hand when it comes to perceiving fine detail in the environment.
Evolution has made it possible for dogs’ eyes to adapt to various situations and see beyond the colors. Traditionally, dogs were used for hunting and tracking down prey. That is why their eyes are adjusted to high sensitivity motion from a distance. They can feel things that are 10 to 20 miles further than humans can. Their hunting background also implies that their vision is best during some hours before sunrise and after the sun sets. Not only this, but your furry friend has a broader peripheral vision than yours.
Even though dog’s sight is not as heightened as that of humans, other senses are sensitive than those of human beings. For instance, a dog’s sense of smell is way better than yours. For example, a human will smell salad and the dressing, while a dog will smell the tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables in it. It might even tell the specific breed of the lettuce. Therefore, a dog will smell all the ingredients separately.
The things that have high value to dogs is going for the brightly colored berries and fruits. With time, their eyes are suited to meet their needs. It’s worth noting that dogs rarely depend on their senses, but preferably on their smell. This can be attributed to the heavy lifting done by their extremely sensitive snout. A dog doesn’t require a heightened color perception as they can small everything they need.
How is it That Dogs Have a Broader Peripheral Vision Than Humans?
This can be attributed to the placement of the eyeballs on the dog’s forehead. Since they are placed on either side of their heads, they can manage to see an average of 250 degrees. This is about 60 degrees wider than you can see since humans see up to 190 degrees. However, some dogs see less than this, such as a Labrador, which has a different facial structure than a pug.
The advantage of having close-set, front-facing eyes is that the central vision where both eyes meet helps in seeing details of perception and depth. Human beings have a binocular vision that dogs don’t have, which is to the dogs’ advantage.
What Colors do Dogs Perceive Best?
If you threw a green and a yellow ball at your dog, which one do you think they would get first? It will find the yellow ball more efficiently than the green one. This doesn’t mean that they won’t find the green ball, only that they will find it much later than the yellow one.
Dogs see better when the color is blue or yellow. This would mean that most of what dogs see in the world is grayish-brown because that’s how they perceive a combination of these two colors. The lush green grass that you love seeing in the park and tagging your pet dog so that they can see it too is merely a layer of hay to dogs.
Now that you understand that dogs do not see color in the same way humans do, it’s advisable to purchase toys based on what will please your dog rather than what seems appealing to your eyes. Always buy toys that are easily visible to your dog so that it can enjoy playing with them.
Natural Ways to Support Your Dog’s Vision
As a pet parent, you are tasked with ensuring that your dog’s vision is at its best. Here are a few tips to help you with this:
- Keep the eyes moisturized using eye drops recommended by your vet, because moisture is essential to dogs’ sight
- Feed your pet with zinc-containing foods to help prevent harm by the sun rays and keep inflammation at bay
- Feed it on seafood and meet to supply it with taurine, which is an amino acid that helps in protecting the retina
- Give your furry friend foods that are rich in carotenoids, such as carrots and leafy green vegetables to protect the retina from sun damage and reduce the risk of cataracts
- Make sure that your pet has an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids to enhance cellular regeneration
So, you have been wondering whether your canine friend’s vision is as good as yours. Now you know the facts. Consider including the tips on how to enhance your dog’s sight into its routine.
- Can Dogs See Colors?, Psychology Today
- What Colors Do Dogs See?, petMD
- Dogs CAN see in colour: Scientists dispel the myth that canines can only see in black and white, Daily Mail Online