What your dog sees is no longer black and white

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...which is why it's important to pay attention to colour for training routines and choosing toys.

Originally, scientists thought dogs could only see in black and white. It’s now been proven that our four-legged companions are able to experience colour.

To prove this theory, Italian researchers created a measurable way to assess colour vision in animals using a modified version of the Ishihara’s Test (used to determine colour blindness in humans). What was discovered is that a dog’s range of colour vision would be similar to yours and mine IF we were affected by red/green colour blindness. The Ishihara’s Test for humans uses numbers, disguised in a circle of red and green dots. 

People with red/green colour blindness can't see the green W in the first circle. They might also have problems seeing the green 3 in the second circle.

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 For dogs, the scientists used images of cats (animated frames) instead of numbers, and according to the study's lead author, Dr Marcello Siniscalchi, the findings have a bearing on how you train your dog, especially when trying to improve their ability to pay attention.

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Dogs see a simpler palette than we do. Where we can see dozens of variations between hues, dogs can only see shades of blue, yellow, and some shades of gray. A dog's colour vision is limited because they have only two types of cones, compared with three types in human eyes. Dogs would see a rainbow as dark brownish yellow to light yellow, grays, and light blue to dark blue. They can’t see red, orange, or purple (violet).

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So remember to choose your dog toys with colour in mind. Stick to blue instead of red since dogs do have the capacity to see some blue shades. A red toy is going to be hard to distinguish from the grass if it's lying on the ground in the backyard.

In addition, if you're outside, avoid red clothing and shoes for training since it will be harder for your dog to see your body movements against the green grass. Dogs also function more accurately with agility training when the equipment is painted in colours they can easily see.

Coupled with a limitation of colour vision, dogs are also very nearsighted. In the following chart, compare our average 20/20 vision on the left, to a dog's average 20/75 vision on the right.

The term 20/20 refers to the clarity and sharpness of human vision at a distance of 20 feet.

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Below, the picture on the left shows how we would experience this moment. On the right is the same scene depicting how our dog would see it.

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And...as the canoe gets closer

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 And your dog's toy box, within a few feet

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In closing, before you assume your dog is at a disadvantage it's important to remember that vision is only one of five senses humans and canines use to navigate the environment around them. A dog's sense of smell is up to 10,000 times stronger than ours. A dog's hearing is also better than ours when it comes to high-pitched sounds and a variety of very low sounds below our level of detection. When it comes to survival, evolution has prioritized other senses, over vision, for most creatures on earth.

THE DOG BLOG is a great resource for tips on training and canine well being. Got questions or a topic in mind? Let me know via the comments box. I would love to hear from you.