I wanted to do a bit of research to see if Monty (my 2-year-old Labradoodle) can see colors. What I already know is that there are different color bumpers—such as orange ones that dogs aren’t supposed to be able to see.
Can Labradoodles see color? Yes, Labradoodles can see color, but they don’t see as many different colors as people do. Also, the colors will appear less rich in the eyes of a Labradoodle. But there is more to a dog’s vision than if they can just see color.
But let’s see what surprising things I also discovered.
How the Eye Perceives Color
How the eye works is that at the back of an eye, there is a blanket of photoreceptive cells, and where some of these cells are cones others are rods.
These rods are the ones that are responsible for the black and white vision we see.
The cones in our eyes are the ones that allow us to interpret colors. These cones can catch the light of different wavelengths. It is a common belief that someone with more cones will be able to perceive light more richly than those with fewer cones.
Different versions of cones are attuned to capture varying wavelengths of the light, which in turn will allow us to see a wide variety of colors. Those that are considered to have a normal vision have three distinct types of cones. These three versions of cones are what give us “trichromatic” vision.
The most common types of color blindness occur when people are missing just one of these three types of cones. If you only have two types of cones, you would still be able to see color, but the number of colors would be quite limited.
Are Labradoodles Color Blind?
If you’re like me, you’ve always been told that dogs are color blind, and it still something you hear quite often these days.
This is why a lot of people have the idea that dogs are only able to see in different shades of gray. That isn’t specifically the case. While they might technically be color blind, they are still able to see colors.
Are Labradoodles color blind? Labradoodles are color blind because they only have two variants of the cones that receive the light in their eyes. This is known as “dichromatic” vision. While dichromatic vision is indeed limited, it isn’t just different hues of black and white.
So, even though they are color blind in the way we humans use the word, this limited vision is as normal for Labradoodles is it is with a lot of other mammals.
They are able to see colors, but not as many as humans (unless they are color blind themselves). To put it in a way we’re more familiar with, Labradoodles (and all dog breeds) are actually red-green color blind.
In addition to missing one type of cone from the full spectrum, Doodles also have fewer cones in total in their eyes, which is why experts believe that dogs can only see colors with less richness than we humans.
Benefits to Dog-Vision
Luckily it’s not all bad, as there are some benefits to having fewer cones. Specifically, the space that’s freed up by fewer cones is instead packed with extra rods.
These extra rods makes a Doodles’ eyes great tools for vision in low light.
So when the darkness creeps upon you, the cones stop working and now it’s time for the rods to take over. Dogs aren’t able to see when it’s pitch black, but when we’re talking about dusk and dawn, your dogs’ eyesight truly shines.
Due to the breeding programs of Labrador Retrievers and other retriever breeds, dogs such as Labradoodles that are direct descendants of those breeds are much more likely to have better vision than many other breeds.
These retrieving breeds have been bred for hundreds of years for their strong ability for work, and how successful they will be in the field is hugely influenced by the breeds ability to see.
And poor vision, on the other hand, will be a severe disadvantage in the field and this is why these traits likely won’t be present in the breeding programs of any respectable breeder.
Those reasons are also why working retrievers, will have much better vision than dogs that’s been bred entirely for shows.
The Doggy-Vision Experiments of Jay Neitz
A professor at the University of California, named Jay Neitz, once set up a research project to study if dogs were able to see in color.
Mr. Neitz showed every dog in this study three differents lights on a panel. The purpose then was for the dog to identify which of the those lights was wasn’t like the other (two of the colors were the same). If a dog then chose the light that wasn’t the same, they would be rewarded with a special treat.
What Mr. Neitz found out was that while dogs can see color, they do see fewer colors than us humans, as he suspected. As an example, dogs aren’t able to see green, orange and yellow as they all appear a yellow-ish to a dog. And to a Labradoodle, blue and violet are just blue and blue-green looks gray.
This can explain why the chosen colors of some bumpers are orange, and evenhough the bumpers aren’t completely invisible to the dogs, that specific color does make them harder to see, especially when they are placed laying on the ground 30 yards away.
And while Neitz discovered that Labradoodles could see colors, he wasn’t entirely sure if they used their ability to see or if they instead relied on different senses such as hearing and smelling.
After the study done by Jay Nietz was completed, a team of russian researchers picked up the task and continued where he had left off. They wanted to determine if dogs were able to consciously choose to use their color sorting abilities or if they would rather prefer to use brightness over color information.
You can read their findings here.
The experiment was summarized in Psychology Today like this:
The experiment itself was actually quite simple in concept, but it did require elongated testing. What the researchers started out by doing was to print four pieces of paper with either a light yellow, dark yellow, light blue, or dark blue color.
The reason they chose those specific colors was that they contained two different dimensions visually, that dogs should be able to distinguish, particularly the brightness (light or dark) and the color (blue or yellow).
In the preparation phase of the test, each dog was shown two boxes that contained a small piece of meat, but one of the boxes were locked. A colored card was then placed in front of each box, in either a light blue or dark yellow color.
One of the cards was then chosen as the correct one for each dog and was then linked with the box that wasn’t locked, and the dog would be able to get the treat from there. Every dog underwent 10 training tests every single day for 9 days.
The dogs quickly learned about this discrimination and by the end of the trial period, every dogs were able to complete the test almost perfectly.
During one of the normal trial sessions, one of the trial cards was changed so in instead was one light yellow and the other a dark blue. Assume that the dog had been conditioned so that the correct choice was the dark yellow.
The reason for that was that the researchers wanted to see that if a dog was making their choices based upon the brightness alone, instead of the color, they would also select the dark blue.
But if the dog actually used the color for the information he would still be able to choose the yellow color, even if it was now suddenly the brighter of the pair.
The Findings: Labradoodles See Color
What this research showed was that, in more than 70% of the time, the dogs choose to respond to color and not the brightness. Basically all of the test dogs relied on color in 95% to 100% of the time. This shows us that Labradoodles aren’t only able to see color, but they are able to consciously base their conclusions on exactly how they interpret these colors.
Why Colors Matter to Labradoodle Owners
The fact that Labradoodles are able to see color and then base their decisions on what they see is very important as there are some colors that they aren’t able to see. So giving a dog the choice between something that is green or yellow, it will most probably only confuse the dog. To their eyes, it’s basically the same color.
So if you’re at the toy story or browsing Amazon for some great new toys or bumpers for your dog, this is something you should keep in mind. Unless the purpose is to hide those items from your dog, you should try and avoid those colors that don’t register on the Labradoodle Color Scale.
But if you’re actively looking for items that’s meant to be work for your dogs’ nose instead of their eyes you should get a few orange ones. The orange color will blend perfectly into the weed and grass of most backyards and parks.
Doodle Eye Concerns
Just as with people, eyesight is crucial to the well-being of a dog. And it’s your job as a responsible dog owner, to be aware of the most basic eye care for your Doodle.
The most essential thing you must do is to recognize what your dogs’ eyes are supposed to look like when they are completely healthy. So take some quality time where you’re staring into the eyes of your dog, and if you’ve been out walking, take the time to check out their feet, mouth, nose, ears, and eyes when you get back home.
Your dog could get unlucky while running through the park, and suddenly a stick or something is stuck in one of those very sensitive areas, and a possible injury or infection could lead to blindness if left unattended.
If you ever discover that your dogs’ eyes are beginning to look a bit cloudy, or if you get even the slightest impression that their vision is in any way impaired, you should immediately take your dog to the vet.
Biodifferences.com – Differences between cones and rods
Verywellmind.com – The Trichromatic Theory of Color Vision
Anna A. Kasparson, Jason Badridze and Vadim V. Maximov – Colour cues proved to be more informative for dogs than brightness
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