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Colorblind Dogs by Elizabeth and Caitlin

Our pets Sassie and Chime are agility dogs and they've been in training since they were puppies. We noticed that some of the obstacles in the agility course are the same color. We always thought dogs were colorblind. No one could say Sassie and Charm aren't colorful, but our DragonflyTV question is: Can our dogs see colors or are they really colorblind?

What did we do?
We assumed that if dogs couldn't perceive color, they'd just see gray. So we scattered 15 gray tennis balls in the grass. We threw a new gray ball and told the dog to fetch it. We did this five times. That was our control test. Then we tested five other colors: blue, green, red, yellow, and pink. We threw each colored ball into the field of gray balls, and told the dogs to betch. Again, we did this test five times for each color. We wrote down how many times the dog retrieved the correct ball. We figured that if the dogs were colorblind, they'd have a hard time picking out the colored ball from the gray ones.

What did we find out?
Both dogs returned the gray ball three times, so even that test was a challenge. Of the pink, red, and green balls, Chime only brought the right colored ball back three times. Sassie did pretty well with red, blue, and pink, but missed more on yellow and green. And when she did return the correct ball, she seemed to find it more by smell than by sight. Overall the dogs had the hardest time seeing green, red and pink. Yellow results were mixed, and the dogs got blue correct most of the time. It seems our dogs can tell the difference between blue and gray, so they aren't totally colorblind. But we'd have to test more dogs of different breeds to find out for sure.

What can you do?
  • Test your pooch's sense of smell. Set three cups upside down on the floor with just one of them having a smear of peanut butter inside. Call your dog over and see which cup gets its attention first. Did your dog find the cup that smells like peanut butter on the first try?
  • Try the colorblind test with your cat. Carefully try to determine whether your cat sees colors or just grays.
  • Design a test to determine whether your dog "likes" different styles of music. Try to come up with a list of behaviors that you think indicate whether your dog is having a positive, negative or neutral response to the music.
  • Use this dog investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on light and color.

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
What has Brutus, a miniature dachshund, done more than 70 times?

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