Dogs Watching TV

Do Dogs Enjoy Watching TV?

Picture it: you’re curled up on the couch on Friday night, scrolling through the channels, when a scene with a barking dog pops on the screen. Suddenly, your dog’s ears perk up and they’re more attentive to what’s happening on the tube; your dog is reacting to this on-screen animal just as they would in real life!

This isn’t your imagination. Believe it or not, domestic dogs can perceive images on television just like humans do. They can also recognize sounds from the television, like barking dogs, birds, and other animals. But are they really understanding what’s going on?

In short, kind of – what your dog sees and perceives are different from how humans engage with television shows. However, they still can reap the entertainment benefits of watching your favorite shows with you! 

What Impacts What Dogs Really See On TV? 

Eye Makeup

Dogs process what they’re viewing on television differently than humans do, but they definitely recognize what they are seeing and hearing. According to a 2013 study by Springer Science + Business Media, dogs can pick out faces of other dogs, domestic and wild animal faces, and those of humans through visual cues – including television and computer screens. However, what they see differs because of their eyes’ genetic makeup.

Humans have three types of color-detecting cells inside our retinas. Dogs only have two, which means they have dichromatic vision. Dichromatic vision results in dogs being unable to differentiate between as many colors as humans can. They also see less saturation, and have more difficulty seeing in lower-light conditions. So while dogs are not completely colorblind (like a common myth suggests!) they do see fewer colors overall, making it a bit harder to see what’s going on on the TV. 

Flicker Factor

Additionally, the “flicker factor” affects how dogs perceive TV shows. Humans don’t notice the flickering of a television screen because we can’t see “flickering” above a speed of 55 cycles per second. Because televisions display flicker speed at 60Hz on average, TV shows appear as a fluid motion to the human eye. 

Dogs, in turn, have much better motion perception, and can notice flickering and motion up to rates of 75Hz – about 50% faster than the human eye. This means, while humans see television shows as continuous and gradually changing motion, dogs perceive it as an ongoing set of rapidly flickering images, making the on-screen movement appear to be less real. This is why many dogs don’t direct much attention to what’s on the screen at all, unless a sound – like a barking dog – catches their attention. 

What Do Dogs Enjoy Watching?

Although images may not appear to truly be “real” to a dog’s eye, when paired with stimulating sounds, television shows designed for dogs can actually provide sufficient entertainment for your pup. 

Dog TV, for example, has programs that have been created with the help of dog behavior specialists, and are designed to provide entertainment for dogs. This specific programming includes color-adjusted shows to appeal to a dog’s dichromatic vision, as well as shorter clips (3 – 6 minutes in length) to keep their attention span. The plots are less story-focused, and instead expose your pup to scenes of everyday life that they enjoy most – like door bells ringing, car rides, and scenes of dogs running through fields chasing frisbees. 

However, you don’t need to increase your cable bill to find programming that your pup will enjoy. YouTube offers a plethora of dog-friendly videos and playlists that you can play on loop. Additionally, cable channels that have a lot of pet-friendly action, like Animal Planet and Discovery, can keep your dog just as entertained. 

Keep in mind that, if you’re going to leave the TV on for your dog, regular viewing is fine so long as they’re getting enough outdoor exercise and attention. Sitting in front of a screen is not a replacement for outdoor play and exercise, but can be fine on occasion, especially if your dog experiences separation anxiety

Turn the TV on before heading out the door for calming background noise and to potentially stimulate your pet’s mind, help them ward off boredom, and keep them happy and relaxed until you return home. 

Have an opinion or comment? Let us know below!

8 thoughts on “Do Dogs Enjoy Watching TV?”

  1. Judith A Longacre

    My Scottish Terrier is so funny. Although he does look at Dr. Pol and Animal Planet, he is like a human toddler when it comes to certain commercials. I would guess the pitch of the music makes him stop in his tracks and runs to the tv an sits and then begins to howl til the commercial is over. I try to laugh quietly because I do not want to interrupt his train of thought but he is just too funny with his howling.

  2. My Pug watches tv intently. He loves the movie Milo and Ottis The first 45 min he is glued to the TV. He was always with me and I am disabled he kept me company always. He was 16 when he passed. I miss him everyday. Even though I have 2 more Pugs. I have a female pug she is 11 years old. Then a few months back a friend asked if I would do the rescue. This poor woman had her son buy her a male Pug. She had to be gone all days so he was kenneled. She couldn’t handle Mason. Pugs are very smart and oh so stubborn. He is 6 months old. He has lots of bad habits. He was house broken in about a week. He is however aggressive at times. He is learning and is becoming a part of our hearts. Anyway we took him . I am home all day so he is never alone. Our Female pug Maya is here too. Well that’s enough. Off to the races. Stay safe and sound. Life is short. Learn to enjoy it. God Bless.

  3. My sister owns a chug, He loves to watch Animal Planet, When he sees African Animals he starts barking and runs outside to see if they are there, He runs beck inside and barks at them on TV. It is really funny to see!

  4. Our GSD. German Shepherd watches tv all the time. He and another GSD I used to walk for a buddy would watch tv with me. They seem to enjoy black and white films best. Jimmy Stewart movies really kept them glued. Directv has DogTv. This channel sometimes has squirrels and chipmunks or rabbits. My boy Benz charges the screen as he is always looking to bite a squirrel.
    Several uears ago, my boy Maximillion stood at attention for Americas National Anthem. He stayed there until the Nascar race started before having a seat.

    Dont let anyone tell you dogs dont watch TV. They do!

  5. From what I learned by listening to a dear friend years ago about “Dogs watching T.V.”…About only one third of dogs are able to actually watch TV. From what I observed after learning that, it seems to me that this ability is much more, if not exclusively, common to male dogs. I know that there is a visual perception as well as hearing because I have seen at least two male dogs actually follow and attempt to chase a thrown ball that is on television. This has been observed during football and baseball games, where there are no verbal clues given before a ball is thrown or kicked. In the case of my nephew’s Jack Russell Terrier, I have watched as the ball goes out of the boundary of the television screen that this dog actually runs to the side and then behind the T.V. to continue watching the ball. Of COURSE his perception is different from that of a human, since he seems to think he can eventually “catch” that ball!

    1. Our female scottie watches intently and tries to find the others on the other side of the tv wall. It isn’t exclusive to male pups.

  6. My dog Polly is a bug (half Boston terrier and half pug) and she watches tv with me all the time. She especially likes watching animal planet, secrets of the zoo, and most animal shows. She is m contant companion now that I am retired.

  7. I have had six Scottish terriers. The first four paid no attention to the tv at all, but the last two, (especially the one we have now) have been very stimulated by television, especially the advertisements that almost always have a dog or a cat in them. She goes completely crazy when she sees that great big “N” on Netflix. We think that the tvs have changed so much over the years that dogs can see the newer televisions much better and react to them.

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