Dogs, our furry companions, have a unique perspective on the world, and it’s not just because they wag their tails instead of shaking hands. These four-legged friends perceive colors and the world through a visual system that’s fundamentally different from our own.
A world without colors?
While dogs can’t be considered true color enthusiasts like us, they are far from seeing everything in black and white, as some may believe. Dr. Emily Blackwell, a lecturer in companion animal behavior and welfare at the University of Bristol, clarifies that dogs have a limited but distinct ability to perceive colors. “Dogs do have some color vision. They see similar to people that are red-green color-blind,” explains Dr. Blackwell.
Furthermore, dogs have roughly 4.8 million fewer photoreceptors in their retinas compared to humans, with only about 3% of their retinal cells being cones, as opposed to the 5% in humans. In essence, dogs see a more limited range of the color spectrum than we do.
But there’s an intriguing twist in this tale of canine vision: dogs can perceive ultraviolet light.
Dogs’ night vision is second to none, thanks to the abundance of rods in their retinas, enabling them to detect movement in low light conditions.
Doggy eyes can outperform ours
While you may perceive dogs as having a less detailed and somewhat blurry visual experience compared to ours, there is an aspect where their vision outperforms ours — their exceptional ability to detect motion. This advantage stems from something known as the critical flicker fusion rate.
To illustrate how doggy eyes can outperform ours, picture a light that flickers at an increasing rate. When the light flickers around 60 times per second, humans perceive it as a continuous and steady source of light. However, according to a 1989 study featured in the journal Physiology and Behavior, the light must flicker at approximately 75 times per second for dogs to be similarly deceived.
In the eyes of a dog, the colors we see may look different to them, however, their remarkable capability to detect motion likely equips them to identify moving objects, such as prey, with much greater speed and precision than humans.
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