Can dogs watch and understand television?

dogs watching TV

It’s really THE QUESTION, isn’t it?

Many of us are guilty of spending too much time in front of our television screens throughout the day. And if we’re going to do it anyway, we might as well have fun with the doggo!

Some of you may have noticed that your dog joins in during the family TV runs and may even appear to watch the programme. But seen as dogs’ eyesight is not the same as ours, it begs the question. 

So, can dogs watch and understand television? More importantly, is it a sign of intelligence?

Various studies have proven that dogs can see and perceive television. Dog behaviourists have confirmed that dogs even love watching television or any image similar to humans. They’re visual learners in that regard.

Although, it’s worth noting that their perception of television is inherently different from ours due to the difference in eyesight.

What do dogs see on TV?

The urban legend says that dogs can only see in black and white, but it has actually been proven otherwise. In reality, dogs can see and perceive some colours, albeit slightly differently from humans.

While we can watch TV from about 6-7ft away, dogs will have to sit within the 2ft range, or the images will be distorted and blurry. As for the colours, our furry friends have a colour vision similar to a human with red-green colour blindness.


Additionally, dogs are less sensitive to variations in grey shades, and they are also less sensitive to changes in brightness. To say their vision is limited compared to humans would be an understatement. But we have proof that they have some visual strengths over humans too.

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.

In short, 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 since reds and greens will be far less distinguished. 

Read More: Yellow Dog Poo After Chicken and Rice

Why do some dogs love TV and others don’t?

Dogs love TV because of three primary reasons. First, their human owners love TV, and dogs are just that adorable! Second, dogs are visual learners and love staring at images or videos. Third, it’s the noise. Dogs are vigilant and look toward the TV to explore the noise source.

As a result, you may have noticed that your dog doesn’t watch the TV like 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.

So, what about the ones that don’t prefer TV? Are they not able to understand the “moving images”?

Whether your doggo enjoys TV is a matter of preference, not intelligence. Dog behaviourists have also noticed that a dog’s TV preference heavily depends on age, breeding and living environment. All of which are more or less the same for humans as well.

Do dogs enjoy watching TV?

Research carried out in which dogs were placed in front of 3 TV screens found that dogs didn’t prefer watching a specific programme. Instead, they just wanted to focus on one screen regardless of what was shown.

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. The research found that dogs engage by glancing at the screen rather than focusing on it like we would do. 

Read More: How to force-feed a dog who won’t eat?

Is it okay to let your dog watch TV?

By now, it’s evident that dogs don’t have the best vision. Compared to the human standard of 20/20, dogs have 20/75 vision. So, should you let your dog watch TV? Would it not degrade their vision further?

If your dog is getting enough exercise and attention, watching the TV screen will not do any harm.

Just 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, especially if your dog is overweight or obese. 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 television screen.

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 from watching. What they can see will be limited, and they may well be up at the screen when certain noises are produced.

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