The Dog’s Eye and Dog Agility

dog color perception and color blindnessAs I was perusing my Facebook page I came across an article that was talking about the horse’s eye and how jump colors could be a real culprit in horses refusing jumps.  While we see a sharply contrasting jump of bright red and white what the horse may actually be seeing is a dull green, much the same as the fore and rear ground colors with a small splash of white.  This makes it nearly impossible for the horse to distinguish the jump from the landscape and thus not be able to judge height and take off point.  This in turn leads to a jump refusal.

I then began to think of all the grand colors you see in dog agility and the debates on striping for jumps and weave poles in contrasting colors so the dog can likewise distinguish them from the background.  But, while some are great colors for our eyes, what colors are actually good for the dog?  So I started looking around at what research has been done on the dog’s color preception and it would seem it isn’t that different from the horse.

This then begs the question of whether it is our training or our dog’s inability to see the obstacles, contact zones, and jump bars that have lead to accidents, refusals and knocked bars.  Jay Neitz, a color vision scientist at the University of Washington, has found that a dogs’ perception of color is similar to that of red-green colorblind people. Dogs only have two types of cones with which to detect color which is the same as people with red-green colorblindness.

We have talked about it before when choosing toys for your dogs and how you may see an orange ball thrown into the green grass should be easy to spot when in actuality it may look like yellow on yellow to the dog whose color field may consist mostly of yellows, blues and violets.  Our reds, greens and oranges are not distinguishable to dogs and may appear somewhere on their yellow and blue spectrum.

How does this affect your dog on course?  It can have a dramatic impact on them especially when it comes to contrasting colors for chute entries, weave pole discrimination as well as contacts and jump bars.  In short, it impacts everything your dog sees on course and in training.  So, if you have equipment at home make sure they are true contrasting colors and keep in mind at competitions what your dog may be seeing and adjust your handling accordingly.