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What color do dogs see orange?

What color do dogs see orange?

Dogs see the world very differently than humans do. Their color vision is limited compared to humans, but they are still able to perceive colors. Dogs are essentially red-green colorblind, similar to some humans with color vision deficiency. This means they can’t distinguish between reds, greens, and yellows/oranges as well as humans can. But they don’t see the world in simply black and white either. So what color does orange look like to dogs? Let’s take a closer look at how dog vision works.

How Dog Vision Compares to Humans

Human eyes have three types of color-sensing cones that allow us to see the full spectrum of colors – red, green, and blue. Dogs only have two types of color cones, which limits their color vision. Here’s a comparison:

Vision Ability Humans Dogs
Color Sensing Cones Red, Green, Blue Yellow/Blue
Color Spectrum Visible Full spectrum Limited spectrum
Shades Discernible 10 million 10,000 – 100,000

As you can see, human eyes have specialized cones for seeing red, green, and blue light. But dog eyes lack the red and green cones. They only have cones that sense blue and yellow/orange shades.

This means dogs can distinguish between blue, yellow, and gray colors reasonably well. But they can’t pick up the difference between red and green hues.

What Colors Dogs Can and Can’t See

Since dogs lack red and green color receptors, they have trouble differentiating between reds, greens, and yellows/oranges. Their world consists mainly of yellows, blues, and grays.

Here’s an overview of how dogs perceive different colors:

Color How Dogs Perceive It
Red Shades of yellow/orange or gray
Green Shades of yellow/orange or gray
Blue Can distinguish shades well
Yellow Can distinguish shades well
Orange Can distinguish shades well
Violet/Purple Shades of blue or gray
Brown Shades of yellow/orange or gray
Pink Shades of yellow/orange or gray
Gray Can distinguish shades well
Black Appears darker gray
White Appears lighter gray

So while dogs can’t appreciate the difference between green grass and red bricks, they have a keen ability to notice shades of yellow, blue, and gray.

How Dogs See Orange

Specifically looking at the color orange, dogs are able to distinguish different shades reasonably well. However, orange probably appears as a shade of yellow to dogs rather than the reddish-orange humans see.

Dogs essentially have a form of red-green color blindness. So while oranges contain a mix of red and yellow wavelengths, dogs just process the yellow wavelengths.

Some experts believe dogs may perceive orange as a very bright yellow. Others think it appears more brown or grayish to dogs. But in general, dogs can pick up on different shades of orange, even though they don’t see true orange like humans do.

Why Dogs See Fewer Colors

You may be wondering why dog vision evolved differently than human sight. Researchers believe there are a few reasons dogs ended up with fewer color sensing cones:

  • Their ancient ancestors were nocturnal hunters, so color vision wasn’t essential.
  • Seeing a limited color palette may help dogs better notice movement.
  • Reducing color cones leaves room for more rods, which aid night vision.
  • Dogs rely more on senses like smell and hearing than sight when hunting.

While humans evolved to have intricate color perception for gathering food, dogs hunted at night and developed senses to track prey even in low light. So color vision took a back seat for canine survival.

How Dogs Perceive the World

Even though dogs don’t see the same rainbow of colors as humans, their vision is well adapted for their needs. Here are some ways dogs perceive the world differently than people:

  • Better motion detection – Dogs see fast movement better.
  • Enhanced night vision – Dogs have a reflective layer behind the retina that improves night vision.
  • Wide field of view – Dogs have a 250 degree field of vision compared to 180 degrees for humans.
  • See more shades of gray – Dog eyes have more rods tuned for shades of gray.
  • Wider range of light detection – Dog eyes adjust better from darkness to brightness.

So while dogs may not admire the green grass or red fire hydrant like we do, they have strengths in their visual abilities too. Their limited color perception allows them to excel at tracking motion and seeing in dim light.

Do Dogs Understand Color Names?

An interesting question is whether dogs can learn to associate color names with the limited colors they see. Evidence indicates dogs can learn to distinguish between some colors when a name is paired with showing them a color sample.

However, researchers note that dogs don’t have a true concept of color categories like red, green, or orange. They are simply associating a word with the limited shades they can perceive. So while you can train a dog to fetch a red or orange toy on command, they don’t have an understanding of what red or orange really means.

How to Choose Dog Toys and Accessories

Knowing dogs see a limited color palette can help you choose suitable dog toys and accessories. Here are some tips:

  • Opt for blue or yellow toys they can easily spot in the grass.
  • Avoid red toys that will blend into green grass or brown dirt.
  • Try different shades of orange and yellow balls to see which they track best.
  • Use gray or white leashes and collars that show up against surroundings.
  • Consider a flashing light collar at night since they rely on movement.

Testing out different color toys and paying attention to which ones your dog spots most easily can provide insight into how they see shades of yellow, blue, and gray.

Dog Vision vs. Human Vision

In summary, here are some of the key differences between dog vision and human sight:

Characteristic Dog Vision Human Vision
Color Sensing Cones Yellow and blue only Red, green, and blue
Total Color Spectrum Smaller spectrum focused on blues and yellows Full spectrum with over 10 million discernible colors
Sharpness 20/75 vision on average 20/20 is normal
Motion Detection Superior at noticing movement Moderate motion perception
Night Vision Excellent due to more rods Poor night vision compared to dogs

As you can see, dogs have visual strengths like motion detection and night vision. But they miss out on the vibrant color spectrum humans enjoy.

Fun Fact About Dog Vision

One fun fact about dog vision is that while they only have two color cones, their eyes sometimes contain a third vestigial cone type. While rare, some dogs may retain a limited form of red or green color perception thanks to this third cone. However, it’s not known exactly what effect this has on how they see the world.


To summarize, dogs are essentially red-green colorblind. They have only two color sensing cones compared to three in humans. As a result, dogs see orange as a shade of yellow rather than the vivid reddish-orange humans perceive. However, dogs are able to distinguish different shades of yellow, blue, and gray quite well. And what they lack in a colorful worldview they make up for in enhanced night vision, motion detection, and other visual strengths that serve their needs as hunters and companions. So while you don’t need to stick to blue and yellow toys, realize your pooch isn’t admiring the vibrant colors the way you do.