What Dogs See When They Watch TV

Have you ever seen your dog watching TV and wondered if they enjoy it?
By Daniela Lopez, September 2021
Can dogs watch TV? What do dogs see?

According to a report from Animal Medicines Australia, 35% of pet owners leave the TV or radio on while they are away during the day. But can dogs watch TV or listen to the radio?

Dogs process televisions and screens differently than we do, but it turns out they do recognize what they are seeing and hearing. Some dogs couldn’t be bothered to watch TV, but, in other cases, pet owners report that their dogs are enthralled by screens.

How Do Dogs See TV?

When it comes to the subject matter, you won’t be surprised to learn that dogs like watching dogs. Animals are naturally drawn to their own species. A 2013 study confirmed that dogs recognize what they see on screen and they prefer to watch other canines.

Dogs see the world differently than we do. In a dog’s eye, there are two types of cones versus three in humans, which gives them dichromatic vision. The result is that dogs do not differentiate between as many colors as (most) humans. In addition to that, dogs are much more sensitive to low light conditions.

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Beyond color, different breeds of dogs have varying visual acuity. The visual streak in the canine eye is the area with the sharpest vision. But each breed and individual dog has a different shape and number of receptors. The differences in this eye structure play a huge role in how dogs see the world.

Next up is the flicker factor. On average, humans don’t see the flickering of a television when the speed is above 55 Hertz (Hz). But for dogs who have better motion perception, they’ve been tested on rates up to 75Hz. With televisions being displayed at 60Hz, we see this as a fluid motion, but dogs would see the television as a set of rapidly flickering images.

Nowadays, our modern televisions (and phones) have high-resolution pictures and clear audio, which offer our pups a clear view into another world.  Modern HD/4K TVs are refreshed at a much higher rate, allowing dogs to view fluid motion.

But visuals aren’t the only thing. Sounds have a significant impact on a dog’s viewing of television. As most pet owners can guess, studies have found that dogs were more attentive to video that includes barking, whining, and sounds of praise.

DOGTV was launched in 2012 to tackle this concept. The 24/7 channel has more frames per second, shows colors that are more favorable to a dog’s vision, and is tailor-made for stay-at-home dogs.

According to DOGTV, the network is “scientifically developed to provide the right company for dogs when left alone. Through years of research, special content was created to meet specific attributes of a dog’s sense of vision and hearing and support their natural behavior patterns. The result: a confident, happy dog, who’s less likely to develop stress, separation anxiety or other related problems.”

Even with a specially made channel, dogs tend to watch tv for only short bursts of time, usually just glancing at the TV. We know dogs can see, hear, and interpret what is on the TV—but do dogs like watching TV? That’s another story and a question for which science still doesn’t have an answer.

Photo: iStock

Daniela Lopez is a digital media specialist and long-time contributor to The Bark.

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