If you ask a group of dog owners if their dogs watch television, chances are most will say yes.
Even if their dogs don’t sit and watch everything, most owners will indicate that their dogs will respond at least to certain things on the TV screen.
What Are They Looking At?
Some dogs certainly appear to be watching television right alongside their owners. But are the dogs really watching, or are they just mimicking their owner’s behavior? After all, dogs like to be with their owners. Your furry companion sees you sitting there staring in a certain direction, so he sits down and stares in the same direction.
But can dogs truly recognize the images on a TV screen? Most researchers today would say dog are at least aware of motion on television, and many believe dogs can see television as clearly as they see real life.
Technology Makes a Difference
This is not the same answer you would have gotten 50 years ago, when the general consensus was dogs cannot understand images on television. But the different answer is not due to a greater understanding of dogs’ comprehension. The difference is because of advances in technology.
The images you see on television are actually individual images that are refreshed multiple times per second. If the image is refreshed at a rate of 50 times per second (50 hertz or 50 Hz), the human eye and mind perceives it as a smoothly moving object.
However, dogs’ eyes are much more sensitive to movement than humans’ eyes are, and they see flickering in the image until about 75 Hz. But some newer televisions have refresh rates of 100 Hz or more. Images at the higher rates can be perceived by dogs as moving.
There is also a school of thought that it may be the sounds as well as (or instead of) the sights that dogs respond to. Birds singing, dogs barking, cats meowing, and even babies crying can all make dogs’ ears perk. Some dogs may tilt their heads, walk over to the television, or even look behind it to find the source of the noise.
Television Purely for Canine Entertainment
Many dog owners will leave their TV on during the day while they’re away at work, hoping it will keep the dog from becoming as bored during the day. It is a popular enough belief that a dog television network has even been established to show programming aimed specifically at dogs.
Even the effectiveness of the dog channel is somewhat up for debate. There does seem to be universal agreement, though, that you dog will not recognize cartoon dogs.
Whether or not your specific dog likes to watch TV depends on your dog. Some believe breeds of dogs that rely more on movement to find prey may be more inclined to watch television than dogs that rely primarily on scent, but that has yet to be studied.
But for you as a dog owner, it’s a moot point. When you sit down to watch your favorite show, and your furry buddy plops down next to you, it’s of little consequence if he’s enjoying the game as much as you are, or if he just likes your company. Just show him affection in his favorite way and enjoy hanging out with your friend.