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Home > Dogs > Do Dogs Like to Watch TV? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Do Dogs Like to Watch TV? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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After a long day at work, many people like to sit down to watch TV and relax. But then their dog comes over and stands right in front of the TV and blocks the good parts. This situation leaves some dog parents wondering if their dogs are actually watching TV or if it’s coincidental that they’ve walked in front of the television. Can dogs even see TV? Do they like it? Dogs don’t feel the same enjoyment we do from TV but they do seem to enjoy the experience of cuddling with their owners when watching TV. Here’s what we know!

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Can Dogs See TV?

Dogs can see the TV and what’s playing on it. They may not see all the colors, but they can see shapes and movements. Unfortunately, dogs don’t have good vision. Apart from Sighthounds, most dogs rely on olfactory senses to interact with the world around them.

However, dogs can see the motion and information on the TV, and they can comprehend a lot of the basic shapes and movements, even if they don’t understand the finer points of what you’re watching.

dogs watching TV
Image Credit: Javier Brosch, Shutterstock

What Do Dogs See on TV?

Dogs’ eyes are vastly different from humans’ eyes. A dog’s vision is roughly 20/75, meaning what we can see clearly at 75 feet away, dogs can’t see clearly until 20 feet away. This may explain why your dog gets right up against the TV when they’re watching it. Like a human who needs glasses would sit closer to the TV to keep the images sharp, so does your dog.

Dogs also have different color cones in their eyes than humans. For example, humans have three color cones that allow them to perceive red, blue, and yellow shades and all color variations. On the other hand, dogs have only two color cones—blue and yellow—which allow them to see only shades of blue, yellow, and green.

This means that dogs see items that are shades of red in dull browns and grays. A dog might see a green tennis ball and be very interested in it because the color stands out. But conversely, a red tennis ball wouldn’t attract as much of your dog’s attention since they can’t see red, and it would appear washed out and dull.

Dogs also have more rod cells in their eyes than humans. These cells increase the light sensitivity in the eye and aid with low-light vision. So, dogs’ eyes are more sensitive to light than humans’, and they’re more sensitive to motion, so the TV catches their eye so quickly. It’s likely also attractive to them because of their increased motion perception.

A human’s eyes won’t notice any flickering of the image on the screen that is faster than 55 hertz, but dogs will still see flickers up to 75 hertz because of their increased motion perception. At a screen refresh rate of 60 hertz, the picture looks buttery smooth to us, but dogs will be able to see the screen flicker as the image frames change.

This issue doesn’t happen as frequently on newer televisions and computer monitors. So, you don’t have to worry too much about your dog being bored with a slideshow of images that they see in slower motion than we do. Our dogs benefit as much from the changing and evolving technologies as we do!

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Do Dogs Know That TV Isn’t Real Life?

We can’t know what’s going through our dogs’ minds as they watch TV with us. They can’t open their mouths and speak to us about their experiences and feelings. But we can hypothesize that dogs have at least some inklings that what they’re seeing isn’t exactly real life.

Dogs use more sense than just their sight to determine what’s real and what isn’t. Their senses of hearing and smell are heavily factored in, and while dogs can see the television just fine, they can’t smell the images.

Dogs have been shown to be able to discern images of cartoon dogs from photos of dogs and respond to the barking of dogs on television. But the truth is that even if your dog has a momentary flash of recognition, they probably realize pretty quickly that there’s no dog when they realize they can’t smell it.

That being said, both humans and dogs can experience emotional distress when presented with upsetting stimuli. Therefore, you might want to avoid any shows that feature distressed or hurt animals, as your dog will recognize these sounds and may become distressed while watching with you.

How Come Not All Dogs Seem Interested in Television?

Interest in television is unique to each dog, just like with people. Different breeds and the individuals within those breeds have varying visual acuity. Just like a human wouldn’t be very interested in something they couldn’t parse and understand, dogs won’t be interested in activities that center around things that don’t stimulate them mentally.

Dogs in the Sighthound category, such as Greyhounds, Basenjis, and Irish Wolfhounds, may be more interested in television than others. Sighthounds rely on their sight when they hunt to lure, chase, and immobilize a moving target, which is what lure coursing is all about!

Sighthounds may get more enjoyment from the visual components of television than dogs with low vision like Cocker Spaniels. This is because they’ll better determine what kind of images they see on the tv while simultaneously seeing those images more clearly. So, your dog will be able to see the dog on the TV and understand that he’s seeing another dog.

Just like with people, TV preferences are a dog-to-dog situation. So, there’s no way to ensure that your dog enjoys settling down for some TV besides positive reinforcement at a young age.

man watching TV with his dog
Image Credit: Eugenio Marongiu, Shutterstock

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Unfortunately, dogs can’t derive the same enjoyment we do from TV. But it’s not like your dog is getting nothing out of the experience. To your dog, this is critical bonding time with their favorite person: you! So, enjoy the cuddles in front of the TV together!


Featured Image Credit: Lazy_Bear, Shutterstock

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