Why use a Red Kong?

As a requirement for this part of the scent workshop we said that you require a couple of Red Kongs. One of these will be left intact but the other we will be cutting up into little pieces for use later on in the course when we start teaching your dogs to use their noses to search for specific odours.

The choice of a Red Kong is not simply because we like the colour but is because of two considerations.

  • Initially you are going to be teaching your dog to recognise the scent of the Kong and associate this with food so that searching and finding the Kong becomes a pleasurable experience. For this to work the Kong must have a specific smell that remains constant that the dogs learn to recognise. The manufacturer who makes the Kongs have not modified the ingredients or percentage composition of these ingredients for their red Kongs since they first started manufacturing them. So any red Kong will have the same odour, this isn’t the same for other colours of Kong.
  • Dogs do not have the same scope of colour vision as Humans. They are effectively colour blind to red coloured objects. To a dog red and green objects look to have the same colour. By using a Red Kong this gives us the advantage that when we are asking our dogs to search for the kong we should be able to see it clearly because we can see red objects but our dogs are going to have to rely far more on using their noses to sniff out where the bits of Kong have been placed.

If you are interested in a bit more detail the following section describes the basic underlying differences that give dogs their limited colour detection abilities.

Some Background on how eyes work

The eyes of both Humans and Dogs contain specific types of photoreceptive cells in their retinas that are referred to as Cone cells and Rod cells (not surprisingly they are called rods and cones because of their actual physical shape). Cone cells are sensitive in brighter environments and are also capable of colour vision. Rod Cells more reactive in low light and also to movement but do not contribute to colour vision. In addition to sensing colour, cone cells are also more responsible for spatial acuity (that’s sharpness or the ability to detect small details to you and me).

Dogs have more Rod than Cone cells within their retina than Humans and they also only have Cone cells that detect blue and yellow light. Human have cone cells that detect red, yellow and blue light (the techy term for this is that dogs eyes are Dichromate and Humans are Trichromate). The result is that a dogs vision is more adapted to a darker environment and for detecting movement than a Humans but that their vision is not as adapted as ours in bright environments and they have a limited range of colour vision, which is similar to a colour blind person.

As Dogs also have less Cone cells in relation to Rod cells in their retina their ability to distinguish detail is far lower than a human which results in what we would consider as soft focus or blurry vision. The image below provides a mock up of what it is believed a dogs vision may be like compared to a humans.