It’s a common misconception that dogs are colour blind. New research shows that they don’t see the world in black and white, but they also don’t see the same colours that we do.
At one point, the veterinary world thought dogs were colour blind. We now know they do indeed see in colour, although not the way most humans do. In fact, they view the world more like a person with red-green colour blindness.
Recently, Italian scientists created the first measurable test designed to assess colour vision in animals. Using a modified version of the Ishihara’s Test – commonly used for the diagnosis of human colour blindness – the researchers proved the hypothesis that dogs struggle to distinguish red from green.
The Ishihara’s Test uses images of numbers disguised in a circle of red and green dots. People who are red-green colour blind cannot see the numbers. The new test for dogs used images of cats instead of numbers to engage the test subjects – one Irish Setter and five mixed-breed dogs between two and 13 years of age.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Marcello Siniscalchi, the findings have direct implications for trainers and pet parents who want to improve their dogs’ attention skills. If you’re playing with your dog, he recommends using blue balls or discs instead of red. He also suggests you avoid red clothing or shoes if working with your dog on grass, because your dog will struggle to see your movements.