A lot of people are under the impression that dogs can only see in black and white. When it comes to actual vision, this isn’t quite true — dogs have limited color vision, similar to humans with red-green colorblindness. They’re particularly good at seeing shades of blue, although they don’t have the same range when it comes to seeing shades of gray.

When it comes to a dog’s metaphorical vision, though, they do live in a world that is entirely black and white.

You’ve probably known or met at least one person who seems to be hated by all dogs. They walk into the room and the otherwise friendly dog barks at them, or dogs snap at this person if he or she moves too close to them.

Now, while it’s true that some dogs are afraid of all strangers — and that we should always practice “no touch, no talk, no eye contact” whenever we meet a strange dog — there are just some people that always get a negative reaction. This is also independent of types that dogs tend to always be afraid of. I’ve seen dogs give this reaction to tall, loud men, but I’ve also seen dogs give it to short, quiet women.

On the flip side, I’ve seen dogs go absolutely nuts with adoration over people that other humans might shun. Whether these people are severely handicapped, disfigured, mentally challenged, or marginalized by human society for some other reason, the dogs don’t seem to notice or care. Quite often, a dog will ignore a stranger after a sniff, but when they react strongly there are only two modes: you’re either their mortal enemy or their best friend ever.

This is the dog’s black and white “vision,” but it’s black and white in the sense of opposites: either/or, positive/negative, approach/retreat. And it isn’t vision in the sense of color at all, but in the sense of energy. If you think about it, a dog isn’t looking at your surface. Call it what you will, but you could say that a dog looks into your soul.

One of my key principles is that all animals communicate with energy and body language, and this is exactly how a dog “sees” you. They don’t judge you based on your looks or your abilities, or how much money you have in the bank, or how flashy your clothes are. They look right past all of that, and all they can see is the real you.

When a certain person always gets the same bad reaction from dogs, it’s because they usually project anxious or negative energy. They may not like dogs, or they may just be a tense person in general, but whatever the cause it’s like a big flashing red (or not red) light saying, “Warning! Unstable energy. Avoid me!”

And the people who seem to attract animals like they’re Dr. Doolittle or St. Francis are giving off calm, confident energy. They probably love animals, especially dogs, or just feel very comfortable around them. And this, to a dog, is like putting a big neon “WELCOME” sign over your head.

You might have heard that I’ve got this new book coming out soon that’s all about how our dogs are our greatest teachers, and the lessons they have for us. Well, this lesson is a freebie: Dogs can teach us an awful lot about how we are presenting ourselves to the world. If dogs have problems with you, the solution is to look inside yourself and learn how to find that place of calm, confident energy. And if dogs seem irresistibly drawn to you, congratulations — you’re giving off all of the right signals.

So, while a dog’s color vision may be nowhere near as acute as a humans, when it comes to inner vision — and wisdom — they are miles and miles ahead of us.

Stay calm, and listen to the dogs.

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