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What Colors Do Dogs See?
Explaining a Seeing Eye dog’s vision to children
Beth Finke talks to students about her Seeing Eye dog, Whitney.

Whitney and I visited a school on the North Side of Chicago recently, and for some reason the first and second graders seemed particularly interested in color blindness. When one of them asked me if it’s true that dogs can only see black and white, I explained that dogs do see some colors, but they can’t tell the difference between red and green.

“If we’re at an intersection with a stoplight, it’s my job to judge when it might be safe to cross.” I described the way I stand up straight, concentrate and listen for the rush of cars. When it sounds like the traffic is going the direction I want to go, I take a guess the light is green and command Whitney to go forward. Whitney’s ears perk up; she listens for traffic and looks left and right to confirm it’s safe before pulling me across.

The students seemed satisfied with that answer and went on with other questions. Are you blind all of the time? When you were at the Seeing Eye school, what was your teacher’s name? Does Whitney like to lick a lot? What do you and Whitney do to have fun? Their thoughts eventually returned to colors, though.

One girl told me that her school uniform is red. “But does Whitney think they’re green?” I gave that question some thought, and realized I couldn’t answer it. When I got home, I did some research.

Dogs see colors, but not the same way humans do. People can see variations of violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. Dogs can only see blue, violet, yellow and some shades of gray.

My source? An article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association called “Vision in Dogs,” written by P.E. Miller and C.J. Murphy. A credible source, but not sure it answers this sweet first grader’s question.

If dogs can’t see the color red, what do they see instead? Blue? Violet?

Yellow? If any of you blog followers have an answer, by all means leave a comment. I’m curious to know now, too!

Beth Finke's book, Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound—about her bond with her Seeing Eye dog—won an ASPCA/Henry Bergh children's book award. Follow Hanni and Beth's travels on the Safe & Sound blog. bethfinke.wordpress.com
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Maria | April 30 2012 |

The article states dogs can't see red, so why does my dog growl at anyone wearing red? She doesn't do this to anyone else wearing any other color, but we have had several instances of her barking and growling at people wearing red.

Submitted by Beth Finke | May 23 2012 |

Maybe she sees red as some other color, and she doesn't like *that* color? Dunno.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 15 2012 |

Your dog is autistic.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 15 2012 |

Your dog is autistic.

Submitted by Jennie Panes | January 22 2014 |

Dogs see the color red as dark gray, close to charcoal which is close to black. Black is sometimes too overwhelming to some dogs.

Submitted by Ron | March 8 2014 |

Your dog could of had a bad experience with someone wearing red! She would see the
Color red as a shade of yellow and could differentiate on that shade reminding her/
Him of that bad experience. How dose your dog respond to red toys? Hope this helps
Everyday is a learning process. Please let me know if this helps


Submitted by Aurora | June 25 2012 |

My dog sent me 2 mental images the night before she passed and they were heavily in red, white and muted shades of gray/green. I know it sounds wishy-washy, but I wholeheartedly believe that a) my dog telepathically communicated with me and that b) she almost exclusively saw red. I was thinking my own train of thoughts of how much I would miss her when her 2 messages interrupted my thoughts. I had no idea where these images came from and then realized they were all from the perspective of a dog, and it was odd that I was wearing red pants and the shade of red in my hair wasn't quite right, it had to have been the way she saw me. I believe there must be some breeds out there who have the opposite of the yellow-blue-violet-gray vision. My dog was a Heinz 57 however...

Submitted by Anonymous | March 22 2013 |

Wow...and you think we're thinking, "wishy washy" when we read that your dog sent you telepathic images?

Submitted by TED | August 4 2012 |

My Jack Russel will chase a red laser but shows absolutely no recognition to a green one
so I'm assuming he sees red.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 7 2012 |

I wanted to buy a toy for my dog, so i bought him 2 different ones. One of them was red and one of them was white with some blue, red, and yellow stings around. But he seems to like the red one the best. I dont know why, i thought dogs could not see red. And now i want to buy him a toy with a color he likes and that skweaks. But i dont know which one.

Submitted by Monty | October 13 2013 |

Lol you spelled "Squeaks" wrong. Sorry, I don't mean to be that guy but I just wanted to point that out. Total jerk move. Sorry!

Submitted by Anonymous | August 25 2012 |

I was reading an article on Animal-Eye-Center you should really check it out it was called,Two eyes I thought it was helpful

Submitted by Anonymous | September 15 2012 |

dogs see the color red as an extremely dark shade of brown, or black. Visit this website ane it will give you the best understanding I have seen yet. http://m.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/200810/can-dogs-see-colors

Submitted by Anonymous | September 15 2012 |

Also, dogs see green as a shade of yellow. Instead of seeing the rainbow as violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow, orange and red, dogs would see it as dark blue, light blue, gray, light yellow, darker yellow (sort of brown), and very dark gray or black. In other words, dogs see the colors of the world as basically yellow, blue and gray. They see the colors green, yellow and orange as yellowish, and they see violet and blue as blue. Blue-green is seen as a gray.

Submitted by CJ Murphy | October 7 2012 |

you may find the following website useful

Submitted by Anonymous | October 12 2012 |

thanks man. this help with my scifi searches.

Submitted by Zoe Garnett | February 2 2013 |

Dogs see red as a grayish-brown or even black!Not another color such as blue, they see blue as blue!

Submitted by Anonymous | March 31 2013 |

dogs see alot different to us
basically dogs see dull colours but we see bright colours
they miss out on flurecent colours they see boring things we see beautiful colours

Submitted by Anonymous | April 3 2013 |

Can dogs see color or do they see black and white.

Submitted by jada perea | February 15 2014 |

Dogs can't see color but the reallyyyy like blue also red they see as a brown black or even greyish color
........... Green they see as a yellowish color ..........Hope this helped nye

Submitted by Anonymous | April 3 2013 |

Can dogs see color or do they see black and white.

Submitted by Kae | June 22 2013 |

My dog prefers all his red and purple toys over everything. He sleeps with them, takes them outside with him, they are always the first ones out of the toy box and the most played with. Even at Petsmart the other day he picked a bright red toy. He also loves the red car in the parking lot ... goes right for it everyday. Also, the red fire line. He must facilitate on or near it. Always. I thought dogs couldn't see red.

Submitted by Lauren V | July 9 2013 |

I used to have a yellow Labrador named Buddy. He always chose a red toy. My mom noticed this so she made a line-up of different colored toys. He chose a red one. We repeated this a few times and he continued to always choose a red one.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 30 2013 |

Uhh...to anyone who is questioning about the fact that dogs cannot see the color red, it's true. There's no getting around it, dogs physically lack the structures in their eyes necessary to distinguish the color red. Humans and other animals (primates, birds, etc.) Who can see red have three types of cone cells that allow them to see the full spectrum we are used to. Dogs and other animals who are unable to see red only have two types of cone cells. No matter how much it may seem that your dog can see red, it is no more capable of seeing red than we are capable of seeing in infrared or ultraviolet (though many animals can).

Submitted by Chelsea | February 6 2014 |

If dogs cant see the color red why does my dog get mad at red blankets?

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