Last updated: March 23, 2019

Can Dogs See What’s On Television?

Last updated: March 23, 2019

Many of us are guilty of spending too much time in front of our screens throughout the day. Of an evening it’s common for families to sit around the TV screen and be entertained for a few hours. Some families may have noticed that your dog joins in with this family event and may even appear to watch the programme too. But seen as dogs’ eyesight is not the same as ours we will explore  what your dog can see when staring at the screen as well as some reasons why they might appear to watch along with us. Seen as dogs don’t have any control over what they watch, we explore the extent to which they enjoy family TV time. 

What can dogs see?

The rumour is that dogs can only see in black and white… but actually, although their vision is somewhat limited, research shows that dogs can see in some colour. For our furry friends, their colour vision is most similar to a human with red-green colour blindness; meaning if you throw a red ball in the park- your dog may struggle to find it amongst the grass. Additionally, dogs are less sensitive to variations in grey shades and they are also less sensitive to changes in brightness. Dogs do have some visual strengths over humans though: dogs are 10 to 20 times more sensitive to motion at a distance than humans; their vision is well-suited to hunting at dusk and dawn and they also have a much better peripheral vision. So when it comes to the TV, the main difference in how your pooch views the screen compared to you will be the colour difference. Where you will likely see a range of colours clearly, your dog’s world will be full of blues and yellows but reds and greens will be far less distinguished. 

Why do dogs watch TV?

Can dogs watch tvb

You may have noticed your dog’s staring at the screen and perhaps even tilting their heads but with limited vision, why do they watch the TV? One of the main reasons your dog might look towards the screen while you’re watching the television is because of the noises; you may have noticed your dog look towards the screen if sounds such as other dogs barking and whining, people giving dog-friendly commands and praise, and the noise of toys squeaking. It makes sense that these sounds would attract your dog’s attention as they don’t fully understand the concept of television so to them if they hear an interesting noise- they naturally look to identify the source of the noise. As a result of this, you may have noticed that your dog doesn’t watch the TV in the same way that you and your fellow humans do. You may have noticed that instead of sitting still to look at the screen, your dog may stand up, approach the TV, and even walk between the screen and yourself as they try to make sense of the sounds. 

There are two main visual differences in dogs that mean they view the screen in a different way to their human family. Firstly, as mentioned above, the two main colours dogs can see are blue and yellow: so if your programme contains shades of blues and yellows this will be more visually interesting to your dog than other colours. Secondly, your dog’s eyes are more sensitive to movement than human eyes so high definition TV will allow your dog to better perceive the onscreen media than standard quality TV. 

Do dogs enjoy watching TV? 

Research carried out in which dogs were placed in front of 3 TV screens found that dogs didn’t have a preference for watching a specific type of programme but instead they just wanted to focus on one screen regardless of what was being shown on that screen. So although your dog may seem to engage more with certain programmes than others, it doesn’t necessarily mean they enjoy it. If you have more than one dog, you may have noticed that what engages one dog may not engage another dog. Some believe that dogs are influenced by their owner’s viewing: they claim that dogs follow their owner’s gaze and as a result appear to be watching TV alongside their family. Unlike humans, dogs engage best in short bursts. Research found that dogs engage best glancing at the screen rather than focusing on it like we would do. 

Should I let my dog watch tv?

From reading so far you’ll have gathered that watching the TV screen isn’t something your dog will benefit from particularly however some will wonder if you should prevent your dog from watching. In short, as long as your dog is getting enough exercise and attention then watching the TV screen will not do any harm and you don’t need to take steps to prevent this from happening. Like in our human relationships we can sometimes be guilty of sitting together to watch tv and thinking that we’ve spent quality time together; it really is important to ensure you’re giving your dog attention via playing and interacting with them as this will be a more effective source of entertainment for your dog than the TV will be. Exercise is important for every dog, but especially so if your dog is overweight or obese. Do ensure that your dog is getting enough fresh air and physical exercise for their breed and needs and not being distracted by sitting in front of the Tv screen. 

Conclusion

So the next time you settle down for an evening in front of the telly and your dog comes along to join you, there’s no need to stop them watching. What they can see will be limited and they may well be up at the screen when certain noises are produced. As long as your dog has plenty of exercise and interaction, then sitting with you in front of the TV will not cause them any harm. They’ll probably just enjoy sitting with you and following your gaze. 

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