Dog Vision Demystified
Are You Curious What Your Dog Can See?
I was super curious about whether Kilo the Pug could see different colors or watch TV or see himself in the mirror.
So how does a dog see colors? Can a dog see red?
It turns out that the common belief that dogs are completely color blind and only see black white and shades of gray is actually a misconception. Dogs see differently and perceive fewer colors and shades than humans. Humans who have three different light sensitive color receptor or cone cells in their retina that sense red, green and blue and see about 1,000,000 shades in between. Dogs only have two for blue and yellow – and only see about 10,000 shades in between. Dogs are less sensitive to variations in gray shades than humans are, as well as only about half as sensitive to changes in brightness.
Dogs can’t perceive the colors green and red, so if for example, we look at this picture of Kilo in his Christmas sweater. If Kilo himself were to look at it, he would likely think his sweater is yellow and gray. The red shows up yellow and the green appears gray as you can see in the “Dog Vision” applied photo.
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.
This can make it difficult for dogs to distinguish between green and red, but not impossible. This surprised me as so many dog toys and accessories are red. Must make it hard to find that red ball in green grass.
The Same Image Through A Dog’s Eyes- With ‘Dog Vision’ Applied:
Go ahead and try it for yourself with some of your favorite photos here!
What about distance?
Dogs also tend to be nearsighted to varying degrees. Dogs can only see about ¼ as far as humans, meaning that a dog would have to be 2ft away from something to see it as well as a human could from 8ft. (Dale breaks this down more in his video below.) But before you start feeling too sorry for your pooch, dogs are much more sensitive to motion at a distance — anywhere from 10 to 20 times more sensitive than humans. They also can see much more in their periphery than we can. Where a human’s field of vision is about 180 degrees, a dog’s field of vision is about 250 degrees.
Can my dog see himself in the mirror?
If Kilo were to actually look at that photo, he might recognize one of his favorite humans in the driver’s seat and a dog in the back, but unlike some animals (dolphins, elephants, magpies, and apes) dogs are not believed to be able to self-recognize. The level of cognition required to be able to be aware of your movements and what you look like is probably too complex for dogs. So, while they may recognize that the thing looking back at them through the glass is a dog, they would not realize it is a reflection of themselves. Kilo does not react to seeing himself in our mirrors.
However this adorable Bulldog puppy tries to get himself to play:
What about photos or TV?
Dogs can watch TV. Much in the same way as humans, they can perceive images and recognize them for what they represent in real life and hear sounds. National Geographic suggests a dog might even recognize an animal they’ve never seen in real life. They don’t have the same color or audio spectrum as humans and that’s why TV that’s now being made specifically for dogs (like DogTV where you can also watch our Talent Hounds documentary series for dog parents) takes into consideration their dichromatic (two-color) vision and frequencies (ones we might not recognize or hear at all as humans) to excite your pup’s senses.
Experts suggest that a Dog’s reaction to TV may be a matter of personality.
The reason many dogs might not react to TV or mirrors could be because when dogs perceive the world, they rely a lot more heavily on scent than humans. So (until we come out with 4D TVs that emit smells into your living room) they might just find it boring and confusing.
Other dogs though may be excited enough by the sound of dogs barking or the lights and images flashing to become huge couch potatoes. That’s where it comes down to the individual dog and personality. Some dogs may recognize the TV as a magical box where dogs may be seen and heard but not touched, and others might run around behind it sniffing for their new friend.