Scientists explain: Dogs are not colorblind

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Mammals are classified as a group of species that have hair or fur, they are able to nourish their young with their own milk and they have a backbone that consists of vertebrae. Dogs are part of this class, and so are humans, pigs, goats and cows. While these are important similarities, there are differences between humans and dogs. Humans have larger brains, and they have opposable thumbs. That is why they are the ones with jobs and the ability to use a can opener on dog food. One other ability they generally have that dogs lack is being able to see the full-color spectrum.

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Dogs have often been characterized as being colorblind, but it is not accurate. A normal dog can actually see every color in the spectrum that humans do, but they are not necessarily seeing it in the same way. They are missing the colors red and green from their eyesight for a very specific reason, but it does not mean they see nothing. The colors they see are changed due to their physical makeup in the retina, but they can still see any object of any color that a human can also see.

Humans are biologically advanced, and their eyes are able to see more than a million colors. They have three cones in their eyes that give them the ability to distinguish the differences between even subtle shades of the same color, so their vision is much greater than any other animal’s. Dogs are not too far behind because they are dichromats. Rather than possessing the three types of cones humans have, their eyes only contain two. The missing cones are the ones that cover the spectrum of red and green, so a dog’s perception of them is different than what a human would consider as normal.

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Rather than seeing only black and white, dogs have their own range of colors. They see much of the world in shades of brown due to the amount of green and red surrounding them. Colors such as orange and purple are seen as simply more shades of darker brown because they have either a red component the dog is not able to see as that color. When it comes to the color green, a dog will see many shades of it as light brown because of the yellow component of that color.

While their world is filled with a rich scent palette, the same can be said for their sight. It might seem dull to humans to see so much of the world in shades of brown, but this is normal for dogs. They can still discern different leaves and grass by looking at them, and their sky is still as blue as it is for humans. Yellow is the other color on the spectrum that is not affected by their lack of color cones, so it might be the reason the dog is eager when they see a toy that is banana yellow and has blue spots all over it.