What Colors Can Dogs See?

Learning about what colors can dogs see helps you train your dog!

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A dog’s eyesight is significantly different from ours, starting with the fact that they are red-green colorblind. What colors do dogs see best? While dogs can see the colors blue and yellow very well, reds and greens fade into yellows and browns. Dogs’ view of the world lacks much of the visual richness that ours has.

Additionally, dogs’ eyesight is also fuzzier; much of the detail we humans see is lost on our canine companions. While we humans strive for 20/20 vision, a dog’s eyes are more like 20/50 vision, which means dogs need to be approximately 20 feet away from something to see it as clearly as we humans see it at a distance of 50 feet.

What does this mean for our interactions with our dogs? It could help explain why their noses are so terrific: because their eyes aren’t! This is one reason why it’s important to let your dog explore the world with her nose sometimes, rather than constantly thwarting her attempts to sniff.

It’s also important if you’re doing any kind of training with dogs that involves asking them to make choices based on color. (See: “Are Canines Cognitive?“)

If you’re teaching color discrimination, you can ask your dog to choose between a blue ball or a yellow one, but don’t expect her to be able to distinguish red or green ones. This could be especially important for service dogs, who are often asked to perform object-selection tasks.

What do dogs see?

Want to be able to see how your dog sees the world? There’s a fun app for your phone called “Dog Vision”.

After you load it you just point your phone at something and it will show you how that thing, or that scene, looks to your dog. Give it a try… it’s a real eye opener!

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WDJ's Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn "Pat Miller Certified Trainer" certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.

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