Can dogs see colour?

Have you ever thought about what your dog's vision is like? Do they only see the world in black and white, or is it in full colour?


It’s commonly believed that dogs can't see any colours, and they only perceive black and white. But scientists have conducted many studies on this subject, and have proved that a dog's eyesight does actually enable them to see colours, but not all the same ones as us. Could that be the reason why they struggle to find brightly coloured balls in the bushes?

Why do dogs see differently from us? 

The retina is the part of the eye that contains the cells working as light sensors. Within retinas are cones. Both dogs and humans have cones in their eyes that enable us to see colours. In each eye, humans have three cones. Our eyesight is known as trichromatic. Dogs have only two cones in each eye, making them dichromatic. This is why humans see more shades of colour than dogs. An extra cone gives us humans a greater depth of colour and intensity.

Dogs have better eyesight than humans during dawn and dusk. If dogs didn’t live in a domestic situation, they would choose to hunt at this time of day when they can see the best.

They have excellent peripheral vision, almost a panoramic view of their local environment. Your dog's eyes are placed more on the sides of their head. It enables them to view things we would need to turn our heads to see.

Dogs rely more on their super sense of smell to detect what is going on in the distance. Objects further away become more blurred to dogs as they are near-sighted. But they can detect movement far better than us humans. Combining better motion detection with the ability to see well in dim light turns dogs into hunting machines in the evening and early mornings.

What colours can dogs see?

It is thought that dogs see shades of yellow, blue, and grey. Missing from their visual spectrum are red, green, and orange. Dogs are likely to see items of those colours as a dull shade of yellow or blue.

Which dog breed has the best eyesight?

Sighthounds are the breed with the best eyesight! They have incredible panoramic vision with a 270-degree field. Their eyes set more towards the sides of their heads increases their view, allowing them to spot movement on the horizon. Strangely, this extra visual ability is found in dogs with longer noses, but not shorter-nosed breeds. Short snouted dogs, like French Bulldogs, do not have this improved peripheral vision. 

So, there’s the difference between your eyesight and your dog’s eyesight. If you find your dog keeps losing their toys in the undergrowth, consider buying a bright yellow or blue toy. They will definitely have a better chance of finding them again!

With a Kennel Club Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.