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Do Dogs See in Only Black and White?

What colors can your dog see and why does it matter to you on the agility course? Kristin Kaldahl has the scoop!

Growing up, I had always heard that dogs see in black and white. I have since learned that dogs see more colors, but they do not see the color spectrum that most humans see. Dogs, it turns out, are color blind.

How Do Dogs See Color?

"Cones" in our eyes help us see colors, and dogs and humans with color blindness have only two sets of cones. People with normal vision have three sets. This means dogs can see in shades of blues, yellows and grays. However, dogs have more "rods" in their eyes, allowing them to have better night vision.

Humans can see reds, greens, blues and yellows and mixes of these colors to create a beautiful array of colors. The loss of reds and greens cause the dog's spectrum to be much more limited, but not limited to only black and white.

Why Does this Matter in Agility?

If I am going to be showing in agility in an arena with dirt surface and dirty white or gray walls, I will choose shirts that are in the blue spectrum. I avoid reds, oranges, yellows and greens as they will become shades of yellow and brown. I also avoid solid whites as they can blend with the white walls. If I am going to be competing on soccer turf with white walls or walls covered in advertisements, I should again choose blue shirts unless the soccer turf is a bluish green. I can also wear black. I avoid reds, oranges, yellows and greens and solid whites. Remember, green looks like yellow to a dog.

Anytime a handler is having to give the dog a visual cue, it will help if the dog can see that cue clearly the instant it is delivered.

Dog Training Equipment Color Matters Too

But clothing is not the only consideration when it comes to understanding color contrast for the dog. Training equipment must also be taken into consideration. Agility clubs and schools need to have a full understanding of what colors dogs see when choosing paint colors for their equipment.

Dog safety is the most important consideration for any dog agility handler, and clubs need to be paying more attention to the colors of the trial sites where their equipment will be used, and based on that information, they need to be choosing equipment colors that will help the dogs see the equipment easily and quickly.

For more information on this topic, including color vision spectrum photos, more information about clothing selection, and details on how to choose the right colors for your agility equipment, visit

Kristin is the owner/trainer at City Dogs Agility School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She has three Shelties and has put a combined total of over 130 titles and five agility championships on her dogs. In addition to teaching agility, Kristin is also a writer who has had thousands of published by-lines. To read more of her agility related articles and creative writing columns, visit her blog at


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