Do Dogs Dream In Color: A Mystery

We’ve all heard the myth that dogs don’t see colors. The truth is that they have rods and cones in their eyes so that dogs can see some colors. However, they have a more limited visual spectrum than we do. As far as modern science understands it, your pet sees shades of yellow and blue. Does that mean they dream in black and white? I did extensive research on the subject, and the answer is, at best, still a mystery. I’ll walk you through what we do know and give you my best guess.

Do dogs dream in color? Dogs see in color, so they dream in color. Unfortunately, we don’t have the technology to ask them. Nor does science have a way to look into their dreams, so there’s no way to be sure. There’s no reason to believe that they’d dream less vividly than they see. 

How Your Dog Sees The World

Whatever a dog sees is probably playing out in their doggy dreams. The lack of ability to see red means a dog can technically be considered colorblind by human standards. However, some animals can see a lot more of the color spectrum than we can, so we’d be colorblind by their standards as well.

Although they lack the shades of red, your pup can appreciate a blue sky. Similarly, they see buttercups and sunflowers just fine. What they don’t perceive is orange, pink, and shades of purple, although they probably see greens.

You may feel a little sad learning that your dog can’t watch a sunset or a rainbow the way you can. However, your canine companion isn’t missing out on anything. They have an incredible superhuman sense that shows them more of the word than we’ll ever know right in front of their fuzzy face.

Seeing Through The Nose

Your dog can process some colors, but sight isn’t their primary sense like it is for us. Instead, a dog uses its nose to ‘see’ the world around it. Your pet has as many as three hundred million scent receptors in their snoot. That means their sense of smell is somewhere between ten thousand and a hundred thousand times more accurate than ours.

In addition to all those sniffers, your pup also has a unique organ that we don’t possess. The Jacobson’s organ helps your dog to translate what they smell into images in their brain. It’s possible that your pet can smell different pigments in objects. We can’t even imagine how much better a rose smells to our dogs than we’ll ever know.

Although we’ll never honestly know what that ‘looks’ like, to your dog, the world is a deep well of scents. They have a vivid and vibrant ability to perceive the world around them. In fact, you might well want to feel sad for yourself since, compared to a canine, you only smell a fraction of the world.

Instead of worrying about what your dog can’t see, give them an incredible toy that plays to their strengths. A PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat from Amazon will help keep your dog occupied and entertained for hours. Foraging toys challenge your canine companions; sniffer while treating them to a fun game and developing skills. Moreover, it helps feed them more slowly, so they eat healthily. To check prices and availability, click here. 

A Dog’s Eye

Before we can understand what a dog sees in his dreams, we have to understand what their eyes perceive. How different are dog eyes from ours? Why don’t they see red? Is your dog ‘missing out’ on the beauty in the world because of how their eyes work?

On the surface, dogs’ eyes are similar to humans in many ways. We share an outer eyelid, eyelashes, iris, and colored cornea. Both species use a lens that’s is found behind the iris. This lens changes its shape to direct the flow of light to our retina, and from there, it’s eventually translated to our brains.

Rods & Cones

Your dog doesn’t dream in red. The ability to distinguish light and color, as well as detail, is what makes up eyesight. Creatures that can’t see either lack eyes, or they don’t have functional rods and cones.

The rods in your eye or your dog’s allow you to perceive light. They help us to see better when it’s dark. While both species share this trait, among others, the most significant difference is arguably in the cones.

In eyes, the cone detects color. Humans may have a lesser sense of smell, but we have more cones in our eyes. This lets us see the color red in addition to yellow and blue, and all the shades between.  Since dogs have fewer cones, and they are slightly different, your dog lacks the sense of ‘red.’

In an evolutionary sense, they don’t need ‘red’ to understand and interact with the world around them. Survival isn’t dependent on exact color differentiation for your pet. They are carnivores, so there’s little reason for them to distinguish a plant color that might indicate danger.

As carnivores, they don’t need red. Since dogs eat freshly killed food in the wild, there’s no need to see the shades of preserved or rotting meat. Moreover, their sense of smell tells them everything they need to know about the world. Plus, a dog’s digestive system is stronger than ours.

Third Eyelid

Human eyes have two lids, but dogs, like many other animals, have three. The nictitating membrane, or haw, draws horizontally across the eye. While our two eyelids are comprehensive protection, for a dog, the third lid does some of the jobs while outer lids do another part.

Outer lids generally protect from debris. However, the haw has four crucial functions. Firstly it protects the cornea from damage. Secondly, it acts as a lymph node and has lymphoid tissue that makes the antibodies. Fighting off infection from microscopic intruders is vital to doggy eye health.

Next, the haw produces some of a dogs’ tears. Finally, it functions as a squeegee for your pets’ eye. It scrubs across and gently removes mucus and other ‘stuff’ away from the cornea to prevent scratching and maintain clear eyesight.

What does that have to do with dreaming? Well, have you ever seen a dog who’s sleeping with their eyes open, but it looks like their eye is rolled back in their head like a human eye? That is the nictitating eyelid protecting your sleeping dog from its involuntary sleep motions, like opening the outer eyelid.

Haw Problems

If you can see the haw when your dog is awake, then something might be wrong with your dogs’ eye. It can be a sign of infection like pink eye or other irritation. Always consult a vet if you think there’s a problem. However, it also pays to keep some gentle, soothing doggy-safe eye drops around the house.

When your dog’s eyes are uncomfortable, they can be miserable. Instead of letting them suffer, I skip the delicate drops and use a spray instead. Whether it’s pink eye or typical irritation I always keep a bottle of anti-irritant around for my dogs.

Make sure you pick up a trusted brand like Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Eye Spray from Amazon. Your dog may not see as well as we do, but they still treasure their eyesight. To help keep your dog comfortable and get your own bottle of Vetericyn, click here.

Doggy Dreams

Every dog owner can tell you that a dog has dreams. We can see them moving in their sleep. Sometimes a pup will whine or even bark as they move their paws like they’re running. Behavior like this is nothing to worry about. It shows that their brain is active, and it tells us other essential things about doggy sleep as well.

Normal, healthy dogs sleep for roughly half their lives, twelve to fourteen hours a day. That gives their brain plenty of time to process the information they pick up from experiencing the world. Dreams are how people, and we believe other mammals, sort, and process all the data in their heads.

According to Matt Wilson, an MIT neuroscientist, “When you look at brain structure when you look at sleep physiology, the brain activity that goes on, the equivalence of the sleep states, it’s all very comparable,” in short, dogs dream. Not only that, but they do so in a manner that is similar to what we experience.

The REM stage or Rapid Eye Movement shows that the brain is active even when we or our pups aren’t awake. Less obviously, our continued breathing and heartbeat are also indicators that the job is getting done without our conscious effort.

Sleep Motion

Those running legs are a big clue that your dog is dreaming, but most creatures are less active in their sleep. Why do dogs sleep run? It all comes down to a part of the brain known as the Pons Varolii. This unique part of mammal brains helps to paralyze us while we dream.

Stopping the brain from sending messages to our muscles based on re-living our daily experiences is important. Since we, or dogs, aren’t actually awake, we wouldn’t be aware of what’s going on and might hurt ourselves. However, the Pons Varolii is more active in most humans than in canines.

While it’s rare for people to sleepwalk or talk, a dog is almost certain to move around more than we do while they’re unconscious. Because of this strange behavior, it’s readily apparent that dogs are dreaming of something. If not, then why would they need to move at all? The simple answer is that they wouldn’t.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

It’s best to leave your dog alone while they’re dreaming. No matter how cute it is to watch, resist the urge to pet them. Just like humans, our canine companions need their sleep. The ability to rest and process information is an essential part of mammalian life.

You can take it a step further and make sure your dog sleeps in comfort and style. I suggest the BarkBox Memory Foam Bed for a sleepy doggy. I like the orthopedic design that gives my dogs a great night’s rest. Make sure your best friend sleeps in style. To find out more, click here.

The Exception

About ten percent of humans only dream in black and white. It’s possible that something similar occurs in dogs as well. So, for some dogs, their dreams could be colorless. However, as I’ve stated before, there’s no real way to tell what a dog dreams.

We can only make educated guesses. Scientists think it’s likely that when a dog appears to be running in their sleep, they dream of running. Similarly, when they sleep whine, their dreams are probably sad or lonely.

Dreaming Beyond Color

As exciting as full-color dreams can be, our dogs could be having a sleep experience beyond our wildest imaginations. Though it’s just a theory, it’s worth trying to discover more about doggy dreams to find out whether they dream-smell. Humans don’t usually catch a whiff of anything in their dreams, but we also lack the Jacobsons’ organ.

Your dog may not have pictures in their head that look anything like ours. Since a dog’s nose paints a picture in their brain, your pet could be sleep dreaming with scents instead of colors.

Final Thoughts

Although we’ve been living alongside dogs for thousands of years, we still don’t know everything about them. What we know is limited to our best current science. Right now, that means your canine companion most likely sees shades of blue and yellow, with a little indigo, but no reds.

Due to the limited equipment in a dogs’ eyes, they almost certainly can’t see the same color spectrum that a human can. However, this is replaced with their incredible noses. The Jacobson’s Organ can paint pictures in their head that a human will never see.

Maybe dogs dream in scent-pictures that are so vivid we can hardly imagine their depth. However, it’s incredibly unlikely that your pup dreams in black and white alone.

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