How Are Seeing Eye Dogs Taught to Interpret Stoplights if Dogs Are Color-Blind?

Dogs are not color-blind like previously assumed, they can see colors, just not all colors.

guide dog leading blind person

Color comes in red, blue, and green spectrums.

Canines have a type of color-blindness called deuteranopia, meaning they lack the ability to discern the green spectrum. While dogs do recognize some red, it’s really the blue spectrum they’re best at detecting.

This selective color-blindness makes some sense in their world, as meat eaters, green things are just a distraction, a background to what’s important to them.

They’re looking for other dogs and things to eat, so they’d want to see reds and tans, black, gray, and white, and leave the greens to the herbivores.

Still, back to your question: if they don’t see greens, yellows, and some reds very well, then how are dogs taught to lead blind people through intersections?

That’s easy, it’s not the color changes that the dog watches for, it’s the position of the lights and the changes in the direction of the traffic that signal to the dog when it’s safe.

For a pedestrian crosswalk, a dog is taught to wait until the bottom light comes on, the one most of us see as green, and cross traffic is stopped before leading its owner across the street.

Sight for Poor Eyes.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

1 thought on “How Are Seeing Eye Dogs Taught to Interpret Stoplights if Dogs Are Color-Blind?”

  1. Dogs are not color blind. I took several colored bic lighters, in various shades: dark blue, light blue, dark green, light green, pink, red, yellow, orange, purple, black and white, taught my dog the colors (it was like she already knew them all–it only took about ten minutes) and then tested her several times over a few days, holding out two lighters at a time and she would nose the color I asked her to pick. She never got one wrong. She even differentiates between light and dark (pink/red). I don’t think humans, no matter how smart they think they are can possibly expect to percieve from another animals perspective, despite apparent knowledge of the physical workings of the animals sense organs.

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