For decades, it has been believed that dogs lived in a world of monochrome or black and white vision, unable to distinguish the vibrant colors of the world that surrounds them. But all of that has changed now as a new study by a group of Russian Researchers has determined that dogs can, in fact, distinguish colors. The study was published on July 17, 2013 as part of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The discovery was made after a test was configured giving dogs choices between boxes that contained meat distinguished by different shades of yellow and blue. Only one of the boxes was unlocked for the dogs to retrieve the meat which was marked with the same color in each test. The dogs quickly learned which color corresponded to the unlocked box of meat.
Additional tests were administered to determine if the dogs were able to associate the unlocked box with the brightness or shade of the label color or if they were actually able to distinguish the color itself. The tests easily were able to determine that the dogs could determine which box had the accessible meat by the actual color. This came as a huge surprise to the researchers as it had always been assumed that dogs could only distinguish in shades of gray.
The history behind the belief that dogs could only see in shades of gray stems from the anatomy of a dog's eye. Unlike humans who have three cones in each eye, a dog only has two. This led to the assumption that dogs did not have the capacity to distinguish colors the way we do. At best, dogs have always been thought to be "red-green" colorblind because of the lack of a third cone. But, from the research just provided, it is apparent that dogs can see colors better than we believed.