Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Myth of Colorblind Canines

Daniel and I have one of those electronic picture frames, to which one can upload photos for display.  Recently, I was selecting photos for the frame and found a photo of our dog Mason with me, dating to Christmas 2010.  Mason has changed a bit since then: his snout is starting to turn white and there are flecks of white hair around his eyes.  But he’s still our rambunctious, hyper-affectionate canine companion. 
But a few moments of free-association brought my thoughts to a subject I’ve long meant to raise on this blog: the common misconception that dogs are completely colorblind.  You’ve doubtless heard this statement many times, as have I: "Dogs can only see in black & white".  Whenever popular entertainment shows the world as seen through a dog’s eyes, that world is invariably shown as black & white – I vividly recall an episode of The Simpsons which made this error. 
While dogs cannot see the range of colors humans can, they do have some color perception.  More precisely, the type of color impairment dogs have is Dichromacy – commonly known as Red-Green Color Blindness.   (Also, while nearsighted by human standards, dogs have a superior perception of motion and better night vision than humans.)  There’s a wonderful site called DogVision which allows users to upload their own photos and adjust them for canine vision.  I’ve done this with the two photos below, and also included the full color versions below for comparison.

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