Do Dogs Watch TV and What Do They See?

A dog’s breed, age, personality and past experiences play a role in whether dogs want to watch TV. Ron Levi, founder of DOGTV, explains the science behind it.

couple of dogs watching tv
While dogs can’t grasp storylines, dogs can recognize other dogs on TV by their body language. ©damedeeso / getty Images

Many dogs stare at the TV, but what exactly are they seeing? Some dogs bark or even jump at the screen, while others aren’t nearly as reactive. It leaves you wondering: Should I leave the TV on for my dog? Ron Levi, founder of DOGTV, answers your questions about dogs watching TV.

What do dogs see when they watch TV?

Dogs have dichromatic vision, meaning they see shades of blue, yellow and gray only. While they can see images on the TV screen, they cannot comprehend them like humans do. They may be able to recognize familiar people, animals or objects, but they are not able to understand the meaning or context of the images in the same way we can, explains Ron.

Can dogs recognize other dogs on TV?

Yes, says Ron. Dogs can recognize other dogs on TV by their appearance and body language.

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

Some dogs are more attracted to the sounds and movement on TV than others. These dogs are either curious, social or reactive. Ron explains that a dog’s breed, age, personality and past experiences play a role in whether he are interested in watching TV. For example, a herding dog may react to quick movement on the screen, while an older dog with less energy will ignore it.

Should I leave the TV on for my dog to watch?

Dogs may find the presence of the TV comforting when their owners are not at home, shares Ron. He explains that the sounds and movement are comforting to some dogs, but not all. Observe your dog’s body language: If he reacts to the TV – barks or jumps at it – he’s most likely calmer without the TV when you are away. If you leave your TV on for your dog, turn the volume down!

What do dogs like to watch on TV?

Choose programming that is appropriate for your dog and will not cause him to become distressed or agitated. Ron says good choices feature:

  • animals
  • familiar people
  • familiar objects
  • a lot of movement, such as moving balls or action (for some dogs only)

The programs on DOGTV were created for dogs and feature short clips and educational programs with animals, familiar sights and sounds, Ron adds.

While he can’t understand the plot, your dog might still enjoy some TV time, as long as he stays calm. If you’re unsure, check with a professional dog trainer or canine behaviorist.

Interested in checking out the DOGTV website? Use code DOGSTER1 at checkout for a free one-month trial.

4 thoughts on “Do Dogs Watch TV and What Do They See?”

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  2. Barbara Nelson

    I have a terrier who lunges at the TV when any dog appears in commercials or in a show. The screams at it and tries to attack it. Obviously, its aggressive behavior that we are trying to stop but nothing we've tried works. Its very annoying and loud so it also startles us when he suddenly flies at the Television. We have put up an ex pen around the stand that it sits on because we don't want him to destroy the stand or the TV. I have crated him which works but the TV is on most of the day and I don't want to keep him in his crate all day and evening even though its in the room with us. There are so many commercials with animals in them and even animation now distresses him. I've tried keeping a collar and leash on him and keep him tethered to one of us but it has not helped. I have two different kinds of silent clickers to help distract him away from the TV but that doesn't work for him or many terriers. We think the TV looks like a big window but he knows there is nothing behind it because we let him check it out. We do think he is reacting from fear. He watches movement and people but is not bothered by anything other than animals, mostly dogs.

  3. My Dogs love the AKC best of breeds show !
    They love the little toy breeds like
    Maltese , Yorkie , Italian greyhound

    And get defensive when seeing
    Deer hounds and Mastiff’s
    Yes really ! (Golden’s BTW

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