What Happens When Dogs Watch TV?
Mon, November 29, 2021

What Happens When Dogs Watch TV?



Have you noticed your dog watching TV, computer screens, and tablets? What’s interesting about this is your dog sees the screen differently from its owner, as they have dichromatic vision, said Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas of The Conversation, a news and analysis website.  As dogs have dichromatic vision, they have two types of color receptor cells and can see things in blue and yellow. Your dog’s eyes are also sensitive to movement and veterinarians conjectured that the improved flicker rate has helped dogs watch shows on TV—all thanks to the transition from standard to high definition television.



A Large US Survey On Human-Animal Attachment (2019)

Regina M. Bures, Megan Kiely Mueller, and Nancy R. Gee of biomedical and life sciences journal PMC analyzed samples that included respondents (1,536 primary caregivers and 931 children) who had one or more pets and answered to all pet attachment questions. When the children were asked how often they spend time each day playing or exercising with their pet, 27.9% answered almost always, 37.4% said often, 29.3% said sometimes, and 5.4% answered never. When asked how often they consider their pet to be a member of their family, 80.7% answered almost always and 11.8% said often.

A smaller percentage of children said they sometimes (5.7%) or never (1.8%) considered their pet as a member of their family. 25.5% and 25.1% of children said they almost always or often have their pet near them when they study, read, or watch TV, respectively. 31% said sometimes while 18.4% said never.

Meanwhile, 27.7% of caregivers said they almost always spend time each day playing with or exercising their pet. 28.5% and 32.3% said they often or sometimes play with or exercise their pet, respectively. Only 11.5% answered never. When asked if the primary caregivers considered their pet as a member of their family, 69.9% said almost always, 15% said often, 9.6% said sometimes, and 5.5% answered never.

The authors emphasized the need to explore the validity of brief measures in detail and conduct analyses with regard to the differences in attachment across human and pet characteristics, as well as additional populations such as younger children. The researchers acknowledged that measuring children’s self-reported measures can be challenging.




Netflix and Chill: Pet Edition (2018)

Netflix, a streaming platform, conducted a survey via online survey platform SurveyMonkey from January 9-25, 2018, involving over 50,000 responses. The report revealed that 84% of respondents stream Netflix with their cats or dogs beside them, cited Jon Gitlin.

Pets could be the best binge-watch partners because they are the best cuddlers (37%) and they don’t hog the remote (21%). 18% of respondents said pets never share spoilers and 16% stated that their companions are always down for one more episode. However, binge-watching with their pet can also involve compromise as 37% had to move where they were sitting to help their pet feel more comfortable, according to Netflix.  22% had bribed their pet with treats to watch longer and 12% turned off a show because their pet did not seem to like it.   



How Do Dogs Watch TV?

Your canine buddies can recognize images of animals on screen as they would do in real life, including those they have not seen before, according to the National Geographic, a television channel. They can also recognize barking sounds on TV. According to a 2013 study published in the journal Animal Cognition and research news portal Science Daily, dogs can identify images of other canines among photos of humans and other animals using their sense of sight alone.

DogTV, an HDTV channel for dogs, appeals to our canine friends as they have a higher number of frames per second and the channel’s colors accommodate their dichromatic vision, explained Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist at Tufts University, in Massachusetts. The channel also shows images of dogs relaxing in a grassy field to help dogs relax. There are also images of dogs surfing in southern California for stimulation or a dog reacting to a ringing doorbell and obeying commands. The latter two help dogs become accustomed to said situations at home.  

How your dog reacts to TV may depend on its personality or breed. For example, hearing a dog bark on TV may make your furry companion excited. However, some dogs bark and go behind the TV screen to look for them. Hounds are not interested in visuals because they are driven by smell, but terriers and other herding breeds may become stimulated when seeing moving objects on TV.




Do Dogs Like Watching TV?

Dogs cannot decide when presented with three screens, as noted by early studies. Hence, they would rather watch one screen regardless of the content. This assertion still needs to be tested with two or more screens. Science has revealed that dogs can engage with television and like certain programs, but the question is: Do dogs enjoy watching TV? This complex question has yet to be answered. As owners, we often watch distressing programs or footage that allow us to feel a maelstrom of emotions from distress to shock to anger. We don’t always watch distressing shows because it makes us feel good. Right now, we don’t know if such factors can prompt dogs to watch TV.

As mentioned earlier, how they react to TV differs from canine to canine, as well as their personality, preference, and experience. Hirskyj-Douglas hypothesized that a dog’s taste in TV programs is influenced by their owner’s own preferences, as they are known to follow their human’s gaze and communication signals like gestures and head turns. Dogs will also often have short interactions with television—usually under three seconds. In fact, canines prefer to glance at the TV rather than focus on it for a period of time like their owners.

Given that, television programs for dogs should be designed to contain snippets, not long narratives. "They orient to things they're interested in, look at it for a couple of minutes and go 'hmm, interesting,' and then look away,” Dodman noted. It is fascinating to learn how dogs interact with TV, but mysteries surrounding canine behavior have yet to be unraveled. Technology can help provide dogs with a source of entertainment to help improve their welfare, especially those who are left alone or housed in kennels.  

It’s fun to watch one’s dog barking or engaging with a TV program, which might make them the best binge-watch partners. However, owners should note that dogs have short interactions with TV and should not expect them to focus for an extended period of time.