Are Dogs Actually Color-Blind -- What Colors Can Dogs See?

Posted by Tiffany Brenner

Are dogs really color-blind? Some people assume that color blindness looks like an old-fashioned black-and-white movie. Really, in dogs and people, color blindness usually does not describe the absence of any other colors besides white, black, and shades of gray. It's more like a deficiency in the way that color-blind eyes perceive some colors.

By that definition, yes, dogs are color-blind. They can see colors but not the full spectrum that people generally can perceive.  Understand why dogs are color-blind and how this might impact choices for training and even toys.


To understand how dogs see, it helps to compare dogs to humans. Most people have three cones in their eyes. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, these cones reflect the reds, greens, and blues of the spectrum. By mixing the colors, typical people can see a variety of colors.

In contrast, dogs only have two cones that pick up blue and yellow. For some simple examples:

  • What people see as a bright-red stop sign, dogs probably perceive as yellow-brown.
  • Green grass probably just looks brown to dogs.


Some folks might use this information to choose blue or yellow pet toys in the future. In particular, dogs might have trouble finding a green toy on a brown carpet, even though the contrast looks obvious to people.

When training dogs for agility sports or tricks, color choices can matter a lot. Notice that agility bars on dog tracks generally have white, yellow, and blue stripes. Dogs can see those colors. Also, the dog may not pick up hand signals well if the handler wears brown gloves against a dirt road or even what looks to the human like a green lawn. Experienced dog handlers already know this and choose clothes and accessories they're sure dogs can see.

One pet trainer with 20 years in canine agility sports picked up on this through observation, as reported on in Pet Helpful. She said when she wore her favorite tan shirt on a dirt training area, her dog, Asher, struggled with cues. When she switched to a blue shirt, the dog obeyed flawlessly. She said that Asher didn't want to ignore her; he just couldn't see her well when her clothes blended into the background.


Dogs don't perceive colors the same way that most people do. Pet owners will probably want to keep this in mind when they choose toys or even select outfits to wear to the dog park. For instance, dogs will have an easier time finding their owners if they wear blue jeans and a yellow shirt than khakis and a green jacket.

Most importantly, color blindness doesn't refer to the absence of any colors but black and white; it simply means that dogs see some colors differently.

Related Products

We know that we can't snap our fingers and change the way that dogs see. However, we can and do provide ways to keep them healthy in other ways. Our Natural Defense bundle can help your pup become their best self - even without seeing all colors. 


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