Every time I walk into a pet store, I see hundreds of dog toys in a variety of bright colors. So naturally, I am drawn toward some of the more vibrant colors, such as red or purple especially when considering balls and discs for playing fetch. But I also stop to consider what colors my dogs may like the best.
Ironically, even though many dog toys are often red, purple, or bright green, these are not necessarily the best colors for your dog. The colors that dogs like the most are the colors that they can actually see, which are yellow and blue. So having toys in a variety of other colors may be lost on your dog. Keep reading to learn more about what dogs can actually see and why certain colors stand out.
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Dogs See a Limited Rainbow of Colors
Dogs do not see the full spectrum of colors that humans see. They really only see yellow and blue, so those colors are the ones they will naturally be drawn toward. This is because dogs only have two cones or receptors in their retinas, while humans have three allowing us to see three primary colors including red. While dogs can see the colors blue and yellow very well, reds and greens fade into yellows and browns.
However, contrary to what some people believe, dogs are not colorblind according to this article by VCA Hospitals. Rather, they see the world around them in shades of two primary colors– blue and yellow as well as shades of gray. These findings were documented in a study done at the University of California, Santa Barbara. See this article, Can Dogs See Color, by Dr. Stanley Cohen, 2008 for highlights of the study.
Because dogs see yellow and blue the best, these colors will seem the most vibrant and interesting to them. So they will be better able to see and find balls and toys of these colors during a game of fetch or when digging around in their toy box. Teaching your dog to play fetch will be more successful using balls in these colors that are more apparent to them.
|Colors As Humans See Them||Colors As Dogs See Them|
|Red||Dark Gray/Brownish Gray|
Best Balls and Colors For Fetch
As you can see by this chart, the colors that dogs are more likely to see the best are blue, yellow, green, and purple or violet. Red will probably be the most difficult color for your dog. However, a toy with contrasting colors such as many of the Snug balls have, can actually be helpful especially if throwing a yellow ball on a green lawn. The Snug balls can be purchased in yellow/blue, red/blue, and orange/blue.
Balls with two colors will allow both you and your dog to see these balls well. And the contrast of colors will be noticeable to your dog as it flies through the air. Another ball brand that does this are the Chuckit balls. They are usually orange with blue stripes. Both of these brands are among my dog’s favorites. They are safe, non-toxic, very durable, not easily chewed up, and bounce really well. Be sure to see my resource page, Dog Toys, for more suggestions.
How the Vision of Humans and Dogs Differ
In addition to having only two receptors for color rather than three, dog also have less clarity. A dog’s field of vision is not nearly as good as ours. A canine’s vision is closer to 20/75 versus our human standard of 20/20 vision. That means that something that looks like it is 20 feet away to us may look like it is 75 feet away to a dog. This causes things to look a little more blurry and smaller to our furry friends.
Despite the fact that their vision is less crisp, dogs excel at perceiving motion. If you have ever noticed your dog suddenly whipping his head around while you are on a walk, it is because he has seen something moving from the corner of his eye. This quick reaction to movement is an evolutionary trait that has helped dogs to hunt and protect themselves from prey.
A dog’s eyes are set farther apart in the head, which partly accounts for more poorly focused vision. But it helps tremendously with peripheral vision. Nothing escapes the view of my dogs when they are sitting in their yard watching birds and horse flies! They will quickly snap at any bug or flying thing that dares to come too close.
Night and Low-Light Vision
Have you ever wondered why your dog seems to see perfectly when he runs around the yard at night while it is pitch black? Compare this to your own night blindness as you run out after him to stop the barking only to trip over the lawn chairs. This is because dogs have many more light-sensing cells in their retina’s. These cells are called rods that can catch light and enable them to see in the dark. Humans have fewer rods, which is why we stumble around more in the dark.
Additionally, the cones in dogs eyes also have a greater ability to catch light and assist with night-time vision. Have you ever noticed how dilated your dog’s pupils are compared to your own? Wide open pupils also assist with low-light conditions by allowing in my more light and better vision at night.
Dogs’ Other Senses are More Acute
Dogs have evolved to rely less on their vision and much more on their keen sense of smell and hearing. A dog’s nose is estimated to be between 10,000–100,000 times more sensitive and accurate than yours. Dogs can hear sounds (pitch and frequency of sounds waves) as high as 47,000 to 65,000 Hertz, while the average human cannot hear sounds above 20,000 (Hz),
Just as we have learned to rely on our acute eyesight, our pups have learned to rely on their other senses to enable them to perceive their surroundings.
What the World Looks Like to Dogs
To get an idea of what my dogs might actually see compared to what I see, I purchased a small app for my phone called Dog Vision. It allowed me to do split screens of human/dog perception of images and also take photos from either human or dog viewpoints. Below are examples of a very colorful painting of flowers as well as a collection of my dog’s favorite toys:
You can see that the flowers in the painting appear more as blurry splashes of yellow, light blue, and white as opposed to the more vibrant shades of blue, yellow, orange, and red that humans see. The same is true of my dog’s favorite toys. Even though they appear to me as chartreuse, purple, bright pink, orange, green, blue, and red, my dogs only see a more blurry version of toys in shades of yellow, blue, and gray.
It actually makes me a bit sad that they cannot see the same vibrant colors that I can see. However, they don’t seem to mind and they get much more excited about what they can smell and taste!
The next time you play fetch with your favorite pup, give him a break if he doesn’t always see where you are throwing his ball. If it isn’t a color he can see well, he may just see it fade into the background. So buy toys in colors that your dog can see well like blue and yellow to raise his interest and get his attention.
Our dogs’ ability to hear, smell, and see at night more than make up for their more muted sense of color and depth perception. Dog’s have amazing abilities. We just need to help them put their best paw forward!
Deanna Euritt is a dedicated dog enthusiast with over three decades of experience in raising and training a diverse range of dogs, including many rescue pups. Her practical expertise is rooted in real-life experiences, where she has successfully navigated the challenges of nurturing rescue dogs into confident, well-adjusted companions. Residing in Northern California, Deanna’s days are filled with adventures along trails and beaches with her beloved dogs, Charlotte and Georgia. In her writing, she offers insightful, compassionate advice to fellow dog lovers, leveraging her extensive personal journey in the world of dog care and training. See About Us.