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Do Dogs Watch Television? Yes and No

Updated on September 13, 2012

Sabrina with Remote

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When polled, 87% of pet owners say their dogs do watch television. But your pet’s eyesight is very different than humans—so what exactly is Fido looking at?

If you get into a conversation with friends about the old TV shows like “Columbo” or “The Munsters”, the odds are your pet won’t join in the conversation. Television sets in the old days had very low resolution, and your dog’s retina couldn’t distinguish the images on the screen. But with today’s TV technologies and high resolution screens, dogs may be spending as much time in front of the “Boob Tube” as their human counterparts.

Dogs Have Different Retinas

In a well lit room, human eyes perceive color with specialized cells called cones (color receptors). As the light dims, rods (light and motion detectors), take over to help you identify motion in the dark. But your sight is limited in the dark, as anyone who has stubbed a toe on a night raid to the fridge can attest to. The darker the room, the less color your eyes can see.

Your pet’s eyes are anatomically different than yours. Dogs have more rods than cones and are masters of detecting motion. They have a limited color spectrum, and cannot tell the difference between green, orange, and yellow. They can, however, distinguish many differences in shades of gray that humans can’t identify. This is an evolutionary adaptation to nocturnal behavior that allows your dog to hunt and protect their puppies at night. This is why they can spot the movement of an intruder in a pitch black backyard.

You and Your Dog’s Eyes

Television images are displayed as frames per second. Each new image is refreshed quickly and your eyes perceive it as a smooth and continuous scene. In the past, TV sets had low refresh rates; 50 frames per second and lower. This low refresh rate produced a "flickering" effect across the screen. Over the years,TV got much more advanced. The data on the screen is refreshed quickly, creating a high resolution picture with no flickering effects—at least not to your perception.

Dogs have more rods than cones in their eyes and this makes it very difficult to watch TV. Cones are slower to update images than rods. Since dogs detect motion at higher refresh rates than humans, they don’t see a moving picture, but may see a TV screen that looks like a flickering light flashing over the screen. Some scientists suggest dogs see separate frames of images as the data is collected on the screen, much like a slide show.

New Hope for Dog Television

New television technologies, like LCD and HDTV, may refresh data fast enough to give your dog the full TV experience. At 240 frames per second, it may create fluid images that your dog can watch and enjoy.

The Debate Continues

Many pet owners testify that their dogs watch TV, especially when the subject is another dog. Others state their dogs ignore the television completely. Recently, The Dog Channel was launched for pouches that are left home all day by their working owners.

Still, even if a dog can’t identify what the object on the screen actually is, the moving objects can be interesting enough to keep his attention. The sound can also be alluring, but dogs are able to distinguish between real sounds and generated sounds—most of the time. Another factor to consider is that dogs use smell as their primary source of information, and smell-e-vision isn’t popular just yet.

Does your dog watch TV? What kind of programs does he or she like?




What Does Your Dog See on Television?

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Does Your Dog Watch TV?

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    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      My cat Mau-Nau (terrorist) watches the TV some until (like me) bored by the feeble content she prefers to sleep (as alluded to by a previous commenter.) If I had a dog now I would be hesitant to let him watch TV for fear that he would constantly press the Paws button.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      How funny Laura, I was just commenting on your lasaguna hub! I am so glad you liked this hub, some cats can see more color than others and may see some kind of image on the screen, who knows how much?! I also trained my cat to use the toilet, I swear one day I'd see her sitting there with a newspaper!!

    • LauraVerderber profile image

      Power Ball Pythons 4 years ago from Mobile, AL

      Great hub! I learned something today. I don't have a dog but I have to say my cat watches the television and sometimes Youtube videos, swear on my mother's grave. She has learned that the animals she sees are not real so most of the time she ignores the images. She will perk up with her ears and watch intently if she sees a yummy prey item like a mouse or a predator, like a monitor lizard. It's pretty funny. One time I had to do homework so I got up from my laptop to read a book. I came back two hours later to see my cat sitting in my spot watching cat videos. Specifically I was training her how to use the toilet at the time and that's what she was watching when I came over! I took the laptop away to turn it off to save energy and she meowed and swatted at me. I swear she was saying, "Hey, I was watching that!"

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hey Tips, that seems to be the consensus, dogs are just not into the visual, they like the auditory part of TV!

    • tipstoretireearly profile image

      tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

      I'd love to watch our dog react to The Dog Channel, but unfortunately we don't get it. Our dog basically ignores the TV, except for a few situations where she'll respond to the sound of a barking dog on TV.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Arf, I am so glad you find it useful. It appears that some dogs may see better than others, but none can really see the color or make out an image well enough to identify it. They may see movement in some situations. Thanks for your support!

    • A r F profile image

      Allison 4 years ago

      Very interesting! I always wondered why my dogs would refuse to look at the TV screen. The scene in the Disney movie "101 Dalmations" where all the puppies are watching TV is misleading. It lead me to believe that normal dogs watch television.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      You may be right, for some reason some dogs can make out what is on the screen enough to be amused by it. It's rare, but you dog is the less than 1 percent. Good job!

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      We have an LCD and I'm convinced my dog is watching television. Sometimes he isn't interested and just likes to be on the couch near the family but when it is about dogs he seems to look intently at the screen. I guess I'll never really know but very interesting hub that got me to think. voted up!

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Epigramman, you flatter me sir! Thank you for giving up TV to read my hubs, I really appreciate your supportive comments and yes, I love your poetry, you are truly gifted. See you soon.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      ...well I've been called a 'dog' on occasion (but I can't tell you what kind of dog -lol) but to be quite frank with you my friend I personally don't have time for TV anyway for I am to busy here going over all of your valued hub topics from a fine lady who truly knows how to communicate the written word and 'captivate' me in the process.

      Sending you warm wishes from our Canadian Thanksgiving on this holiday Monday at 11:40am lake erie time ontario canada and I am trying to promote your hubs to other nice people here at the Hub and thank you so much for your cherished support of my writing - that really means a lot to me - and of course something on this day to be thankful for.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Very interesting Nanderson, your dog can make out another dog. Maybe some dogs can see better than others? Thanks for your comments!

    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      My dog sometimes watches TV if there is a dog on it, otherwise he ignores it.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Interesting Mary, your dog never watched TV because he is smart and doesn't see the reason for it! thanks for your comments and I'm reading your (many hubs) interesting hubs as well!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      As a dog lover, I was really interested in this Hub. My miniature Schnauzer has never seemed to be interested in TV.

      I voted this Hub UP, etc.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Rajan, I had wondered the same question and had researched it, just for fun!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting topic ehealer. Never thought dogs could be watching TV and how? Learnt some interesting dog facts.

      Thanks for sharing. Voted up and interesting.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hey Jelly, thanks for stopping by. I loved doing this piece, it was a lot of fun. You have four dogs! You are so lucky. They are wonderful creatures, and I wonder what they're thinking when they see us stare at the TV so long.

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 5 years ago from USA

      What a great topic! We have four dogs. I'll be paying more attention to whether they're looking at the TV or not now.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hell Ktrapp, my dog was sleeping in front of the TV one night and a commercial came on with the sound of a cat screeching. My dog got up and ran outside to find the cat. I had never seen her "fooled" at any other time. She never looked at the TV though, not once. Interesting...

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my hub, I have been reading yours as well, I made your turkey chilli yesterday, YUM, it's gone already. Thanks

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      What a great topic, and so informative too! Just last night, my dog was watching television and she watched a little bit of a movie on an iPad too. I wonder what the refresh rate is on that. She does seem to focus in on animals though. Not that this has anything to do with a dog's vision, but the worst is when she starts barking incessantly because of a doorbell on the television.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      LoL! Yes, I wonder how will they rate the Dog Channel? It's like when commercials claim to "improve the taste of dog food," how do we know the taste is better? Lol.

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Ha-Ha! I knew about TV resolution, being in the business, but I never knew that dogs had more rods than cones! I wonder what the Neilsen ratings are for The Dog Channel? Who gets to vote..Fido? Great hub and rated as such. Cheers!

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks snowdrops, I really enjoyed researching it. I love dogs and enjoy writing about them. Thanks for reading my hub.

    • snowdrops profile image

      snowdrops 5 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

      Oh ehealer, your hub is very interesting! Enjoyed reading it!

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Cat R, I got the idea for the article when my dog starting barking at the TV. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 5 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      Very interesting article with some great information.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello catusbythesea, thanks for reading my hub and I am so glad you found it interesting. I love cats to.

    • cactusbythesea profile image

      cactusbythesea 5 years ago from Seattle

      Very interesting, I had no idea! I've never had dogs, but my cats always seemed more interested in sleeping than watching television. :) Thanks for sharing this hub!