Have you ever noticed your dog taking an interest in something on the TV screen, only to have a friend tell you later that dogs can’t actually watch TV? This is a common misconception, but dogs actually can watch TV. The real mystery is regarding what dogs are capable of seeing when they watch TV. Since TVs are designed for human eyes, you and your dog will see things very differently when you watch the TV screen. So, what do dogs perceive when they look at a TV screen?
What Do Dogs See When They Watch TV?
Humans have three types of photoreceptors in their eyes that are responsible for processing color, which allows us to see a wide range of colors. Dogs, on the other hand, only have two types of color-processing cells in their eyes. They can primarily see colors in blue and yellow shades.
Because of this, visuals on the TV that are heavy in colors that dogs can’t see well, like red, brown, and white, will appear dull, and it may be difficult for the dog to distinguish between objects. Visuals that are rich in blues and yellows will be more interesting for a dog to look at.
Although their ability to see color is less than that of humans, dogs have more of the cells responsible for seeing movement and focusing in low-light environments than humans do. Because of this, your dog is able to detect movement on the TV screen, but they see it differently than you do.
With a screen refresh rate of 55 hertz or higher, humans aren’t able to detect flickering movement between the frames, which is why most modern TVs have a smooth appearance when you watch them. Dogs can detect movement up to 75 hertz, though, so if you have a TV with a 60-hertz refresh rate, then the images on the screen will likely be jumpy and flickering to your dog.
Higher refresh rates can be appreciated by everyone and produce a smoother appearance of images. For you, this just makes for a more pleasant TV-watching experience. For your dog, this allows them to better visualize what’s happening on the screen. Newer TVs and computer screens have a high enough refresh rate that your dog shouldn’t have any difficulty visualizing movement on the screen.
Dogs are able to identify familiar images on a TV screen, like other dogs and humans. They’re also able to determine the difference between an image of a real dog and a cartoon drawing of a dog. Because of color, movement, and light variations in shows and movies, your dog may only be able to recognize objects under certain circumstances.
Obviously, it’s impossible for us to know what our dogs think when they see what’s on the TV screen, but some dogs show obvious signs of recognition toward images while watching TV.
When it comes to watching TV, dogs aren’t able to use their strongest sense—smell. Because of this, they rely on vision and hearing to determine what’s happening. Even if your dog isn’t able to clearly see what’s happening on the TV screen, they may show an interest in some of the sounds being played. Sounds of dogs and other animals, doorbells, and squeaky toys seem to be some of the most interesting sounds for dogs to hear from the TV.
If your dog doesn’t take much interest in watching TV but does seem interested in certain sounds, there are videos online that can help you determine which sounds are of the greatest interest to your dog so you can find TV content to keep them entertained.
Since older TVs have a slower refresh rate, dogs may take less of an interest in viewing things on them. With newer TVs, though, you may notice your dog taking more of an interest in watching things on the screen. Like with people, a dog’s interest in the TV will vary based on how used they are to the TV, as well as their preferences. Some dogs may go their entire lives without even glancing at the TV screen, while other dogs may enjoy sitting down and watching a movie with you.
Featured Image Credit: Eugenio Marongiu, Shutterstock