We love our TV shows. Netflix raked in almost 30 billion dollars last year alone! There’s nothing nicer than watching TV with your family after a long day. But when you settle in for the evening, you might sometimes see your beloved pet looking at the TV alongside you. You may be wondering – can dogs even watch TV?
We’re going to explain what dogs see when they look at a television screen, as well as what they know and don’t know about TVs, and the potential side effects of leaving the TV on for your pooch.
What do dogs see when looking at the TV?
The first issue a dog has with watching a TV screen is something called flicker sensitivity. Dogs’ eyes and brains work a lot faster than ours when looking at things, meaning they ‘see’ a lot faster than us. All videos on screens are really lots of photos flashing by quickly. Because their brains work so fast, phone screens are really hard for dogs to understand – it just looks like a lot of flashing colors. Modern TV screens refresh extremely fast so some dogs can detect images on the screen, especially if they’re still.
Dogs also have dichromatic vision, meaning they don’t see the same range of colors as us. Dogs have a hard time distinguishing between red and green shades, which might be why your dog sometimes struggles to find his favorite ball in the grass.
So when your dog is looking at the TV, they’re likely seeing a lot of flashing blue and grey images. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t see anything.
Do dogs know TV isn’t real?
So, we know dogs don’t see TVs the same way humans do, but many can definitely see distinct images. You've probably experienced this yourself; you're watching TV when a dog comes on screen. It doesn't bark or make any noise, but your dog jumps up, starts wagging its tail and barking at the screen.
We know that things on the TV aren’t really there, but dogs don’t have the same frame of reference as us. This means that they see a dog and are convinced that it’s really there and might want to play! Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell, however, and that’s where TV might not work well for them. The dog on the TV has no smell on them, and your dog should quickly pick up that they’re not really there.
Why do some dogs watch TV and others don’t?
Different breeds of dogs use different senses to perceive their surroundings. This means that some dogs will pay more or less attention to the TV depending on their breed.
Sighthounds, like greyhounds or whippets, rely mostly on their sight to hunt and chase prey, and so are especially receptive to images on the TV. A terrier will be drawn to high-pitched squeaking, as they were bred to find small animals like mice. A bloodhound likely won't be interested in TV, as they're smell-based trackers and don't get any smell from dogs or other animals on the TV.
Dogs can also become desensitized to anything if exposed to it for long enough. If you’re an avid TV watcher, your dog will become used to the sights and sounds of it over time.
Is it bad to leave the TV on for your dog?
Dogs are social creatures and get lonely when they're by themselves for too long. You might be tempted to leave the TV on to 'keep them company' when you're out at work or running errands. But you might also be worried about the potential side effects of leaving the TV on for your dog.
For the most part, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with letting your dog watch TV. Most dogs will ‘watch’ TV to spend time with their owners, cuddled up on the couch. However, if your dog seems to enjoy it, indulging in a bit of screentime isn’t harmful, and can keep them occupied when you’re away. There are even specialty TV stations that screen content dogs will find engaging, like other dogs playing or small animals.
That being said, TV should never be a replacement for spending time with your dog through play, walks and training, so make sure to keep an eye on how much TV time you’re allowing.
In conclusion, dogs see TV a little differently from us, but can still find pleasure in watching it. High-quality television sets allow your dog the best chance to enjoy it, but they'll still only be able to see certain colors, no matter how high the frame rate. There's also nothing wrong with letting your dog watch TV if they enjoy it, but make sure to still spend time with your pooch!