Do Dogs Watch TV?


It seems as though there’s a lot of debate as to whether dogs watch TV. Some people insist that they’re not really watching, just expressing mild interest in the flickering images from time to time. My buddy Al insists that they do watch. In fact, he says that Hannah, his Saint Bernard, has a routine she goes through during the evening news.

It seems that Hannah has fixated on the guy who does the local weather, and when he comes on she cries, paws at the screen, and tries to get around behind the television. Then she runs over to Al, pushes at him with her snout, and goes back to the television. Al thinks she’s saying “He’s stuck in this box, and we have to get him out!”

I’ve also heard people say that their dogs lose it when other animals are on screen. So, where does the truth lie?

What Dogs See and Hear

Studies show that dogs actually can perceive television images in much the same way that we do, and they know when animals are on screen. They can also tell the difference between a dog barking or whining for real on television or radio, and a “canned” dog sound.

There are some differences, though. For instance, a dog’s eyes process images far more quickly than a human’s does. So on an older television, which delivers fewer frames per second than newer models, the images would appear to be slow and jerky. Also, dogs do not see as many colors as we do. It’s not true that they see only in black and white, but they do have dichromatic vision, which means that they see only a range of two colors – blue and yellow. Because humans have trichromatic vision, we are able to see the full spectrum of colors.

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Dog TV

Perhaps you have heard of DogTV. It is a high-definition channel specifically for dogs. If your dog needs to relax, he could watch images of dogs taking it easy. For stimulation, he can tune into dogs engaging in play. And there are even modes that can help you with training, showing dogs reacting to common situations and obeying commands.

So, if you asked the creators of DogTV to answer the question “Do dogs watch TV,” the answer would obviously be “Yes”.

TV or Not TV, That is the Question

Of course, not all dogs are interested in television. This probably only makes sense, since it doesn’t necessarily appeal to all humans, either. You probably know people who only want to tune in a couple of times a week, or even people who don’t watch television at all and don’t miss it. It has to do with different personality types.

Dogs are no different from humans in that they have different personalities. They also like a variety of stimulation, and if they appear to be disinterested in television, it may simply be that they have become desensitized to it. It’s on all the time and they feel that there’s nothing new to see. They think, “Okay, there are more dogs in that box. But they’re kind of boring, and they never seem to want to come out and play.”

In addition to personality, a dog’s breed may have an effect on its interest in television. For instance, hounds, which react mainly to smell, will probably find little to interest them in moving elements. Herding breeds, though, or dogs with a very strong prey drive, may display more interest in the images they see on screen.

Frequently, dog owners will leave the television on for their dogs while they are away. Certainly there is no harm in this, and dogs may find the background noise soothing. A dog that is constantly exposed to television, though, is not likely to be all that interested in watching. Perhaps they’ll spare an occasional glance, and then look away. That’s not really surprising, since most people find that if they use the television for “company” they are really only “half watching” anyway.

The Evidence

When you add it all up, certainly the evidence seems to suggest that most dogs will display at least a passing interest in television. Some will watch more frequently than others, and some, like Al’s Hannah, will even want to be active participants.

The fact is, though, because of the way a dog’s eyes work, a dog will not get the same enjoyment from watching on an older set – the experience is much like that of a human watching an early 20th century movie or newsreel.

If you and your dog both enjoy watching television, you might want to consider ditching your old model in favor of an HDTV. Since they deliver more frames per second than older models, your dog won’t experience any of the jerkiness in the images. I’m not suggesting you go out and spend thousands of dollars unless you’re a serious TV buff, and thanks to modern technology and manufacturing methods, you can pick up a decent one fairly inexpensively. Right now, the Sony KDL32R300C 32-Inch 720p LED TV, which originally listed for $169.99, is available at Amazon for $124.99, and you get free shipping. The price is reduced because this is the 2015 model. It’s not a smart TV, but the price is definitely right, and you and your dog will both appreciate the picture quality.

The Final Word

The verdict is in – dogs do watch television, and some dogs really seem to enjoy it. Certainly snuggling up on the couch next to your best friend and watching a flick or two can make for some quality bonding time if nothing else.

So, what will you watch? If you’re thinking of movies featuring dogs, I loved everything in the Beethoven series and the Benji series too. And the animated feature “Bolt” made me cry, but in a good way – such a heroic little dog. If you think your dog is actually going to understand what’s happening on screen, though, I’d take a pass on “Old Yeller”.

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