Do Dogs Actually Only See In Black and White?

I am utterly obsessed with animals of all kinds, but especially dogs.  Loving dogs is something I believe a lot of us can relate to!  I always ask find myself wondering what the life of a dog would be like, specifically when I am stressed out of my mind running around doing a million things at once, while my sweet pups are snoozing away in their dog beds.  For as long as I can remember, I have always been fed the same fact time and time again that a day in the life of a dog would be much different than that of a human for obvious reasons, but also because they apparently only could see things in black and white or grey-scale.  Even as a child, I always had a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea that animals could only see black and white and grey considering they are anatomically pretty similar to humans and other animals that see a whole color spectrum.  Needless to say, that idea never sat well with me and I never truly entirely believed it.


Apparently I was right to not believe that because scientist Jay Neitz and a handful of Russian Scientists have proved otherwise.  Jay Neitz carried out a variety of simple studies to see if dogs could actually see in color or not.  It turns out there do have a much wider array of colors that they are capable of seeing, but they still cannot see the entire color spectrum that humans do.  The Russian scientists took the reigns shortly after that, using a test involving eight dogs and four differently colored pieces of paper that were placed in front of a locked boxes with food in them.  The null hypothesis in this case would be that dogs strictly only see in grey-scale and nothing more.  Whereas, the alternative hypothesis would be that dogs have a much large color spectrum than we ever knew before. They wanted the animal to make a connection between a color and a reward for picking that color, therefore they continuously put the dark yellow colored piece of paper in front of the box containing not normal dog food, but a piece of meat.  By doing so repeatedly, the dog was able to mentally comprehend that dark yellow paper meant meat and any other color meant regular food. After all, what pup wouldn’t want the meat over the normal dog food?  I found the study even more well conducted when I noticed they checked for a very important confounding third variable of it the dog was choosing that paper due to the actual association with seeing the dark yellow color or because of the brightness of the colored paper itself.  This factor could have really skewed their data which is why it was crucial for them to test it.  The Russian Scientists decided to put a very contrasting color of dark blue as a choice and a light yellow color as a choice to prove if the dogs choices were color based or light based.  The dogs still picked the yellow paper which meant that it’s choices were most definitely colored based.  Their results proved that the dogs most definitely could differentiate between certain colors because they made color based decisions more than 70 percent of the time.  Along with the experiments of the Russian Scientists, an experiment by the University of Santa Barbara in 1989 ran an experiment regarding dogs vision.  Through the tests run on the three dogs, they discovered that dogs have two color-sensitive cones in dogs’ eyes that actually allow them to see in color and not strictly black and white.  There is a chance that this conclusion could be false positive or be due to chance but since there has a been a variety of studies on this topic that all deduce the same results as well as an electroretinography test that proved the cones existence, it is unlikely that these results are due to chance and thus the null hypothesis can be ruled out.  This certain article even expressed the idea that dogs could most likely be given a full sighted color spectrum like humans, but no one has tried it at this point in time.


I am not sure why, but something about knowing dogs can see the world in a colorful and vibrant way makes me a little happier inside because dog’s bring so much happiness and color the world on their own, I’d hate if they could not see it for themselves.  I’m starting to think living a dog’s life is sounding better and better.

Leave a Reply