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Dogs see only in black and white, or do they?

In Everything You Know About Animals is Wrong, Matt Brown debunks common myths from the world of animals. Dogs are of course human’s best friend, but even though we know them well, they’re still not exempt from a myth or two. Today is International Dog Day, a day to celebrate our furry besties and a great opportunity to try and understand them a bit better. Read on as Matt sets the record straight on dogs’ vision.

by Matt Brown

Were you to ‘quantum leap’ into the body of a dog, you would immediately notice the change in your senses. A heightened awareness of smell and sound would transform your local environment. At the same time, your eyesight would wane. Dogs can see well, but not as sharply as humans. Until recently, it was believed that our four-legged friends lacked any colour vision, but this has now been rejected.

A dog watching The Wizard of Oz – perhaps a descendant of Toto himself – would notice the change in the visuals when Dorothy steps out into the land of Oz. While the human viewer sees a transition from black and white to full Technicolor, the mutt would see a Munchkin village of limited hues. Dorothy’s blue dress and the yellow brick road would still be present and correct, but the ruby slippers and Wicked Witch’s green face would appear a drab grey colour.

Or so is the best guess. It is not, of course, possible to experience the perceptions of other animals. Yet. Anatomical study of the canine eye does suggest, however, that the dog has the visual kit to detect a limited range of colours. Dog eyes have two types of colour-sensing cone, while humans have three. They can probably make out blues and yellows but not other hues. Behavioural studies lead to the same conclusion. Our four-legged friends may not care much for the rainbow, but they may appreciate a clear, blue sky.

everything you know about animals is wrong

Extracted from Everything You Know About Animals is Wrong by Matt Brown. Illustrations by Sara Mulvanny.