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Can Dogs See TV? How Canines Process Digital Information

woman watching tv in bed with her dog
Have you ever found your pup totally engrossed in a TV show or movie? If so, this is a common experience you share with many other dog parents. Catching your furry friend watching television provokes many thoughts and questions, such as "can dogs see screens" and "what do they see when they look at a TV?" This article will answer these questions and more as we discover how dogs process digital information. So if, like us, you find analyzing your canine's behavior with human technology super interesting, read on.  

How Do Dogs Process Digital Information?

Canines can process images and sounds coming from a TV, computer, or phone screen. However, dogs see the world very differently from humans since their hearing and sight work differently. Therefore, they do not process digital information the same way as we do.  Firstly, dogs have dichromatic vision, which means they cannot distinguish between red and green, so they do not interpret as many colors as we do. Thus, the specific colors in the digital image determine how interesting they find it.  Dogs are also more sensitive to low light conditions and have better motion perception. Thus, on older digital devices, they are more likely to see digital images flickering rather than a fluid motion like us. However, media appears smoother on high-resolution and wide peripheral spans like most modern-day TVs, laptops, and phones.  Dogs' vision isn't as sharp as ours either, which explains why they choose to sit right in front of the TV. Because of this, it is a lot easier for a dog to see images coming from a large TV screen rather than a phone.  Dogs are better able to interpret digital images that are accompanied by sounds, too. Sound gives a dog's brain further context to what they are seeing. Lastly, every dog processes digital information in a slightly different way. Factors like health, age, and breed will determine what they see.

Can Dogs See TV?

Now you know that dogs can see screens, let's answer the burning question; do dogs watch TV? In short, yes, dogs can see and watch TV, but they are more likely to take an interest in a big TV than a small one. This is because they can best understand digital images on large screens.  Typically, the sounds coming from a TV screen are more likely to catch your dog's attention than the images. Moreover, as sounds help them comprehend what is happening on TV. A surround sound system will further increase their interest and understanding.  Interestingly, dogs best recognize their own species or other animals on a TV screen. This could explain why some dogs become consumed in a wildlife or animal documentary but have no interest in watching your favorite soap or reality show.  If you're wondering if dogs know that TV isn't real, it depends on the dog. Some pups will hear a dog barking on TV and bark back. However, this is more due to their instinct than because they think TV is real. It could be that triggering noises from a TV screen appear realistic initially. However, as the primary way dogs understand the world is through scent, they will quickly realize the dog on the TV is fake as they cannot smell it.

Do Dogs Like Watching TV?

While it appears that dogs can watch TV, not all pups find it enjoyable. Dogs have different personalities, and it seems that some adore watching TV, whereas others pay no attention to it. Intelligence could play a role, too, as some dogs are more easily fooled by digital images than others. Therefore, only you, as their owner, can tell whether or not they enjoy it by observing their body language. For example, if their tail is wagging, they likely do, but if they seem distressed or are growling, it's best to switch the channel. If your pup seems to love watching TV, there is certainly no harm in letting them do so. But what do dogs like to watch on TV? Again, this differs from dog to dog, but it's best to avoid things that could distress them, such as animal rescue programs with neglected or abused dogs.  Nowadays, you can find many "doggy TV programs" on YouTube specifically designed for dogs' unique sight and hearing. If you have a smart TV with YouTube connectivity, it's well worth introducing these videos to your four-legged friend. Alternatively, nature shows with animals they like to watch in real life, like squirrels, birds, or cats, could be enjoyable for your pup. Some owners of TV-loving dogs choose to leave the television on when they go out to reduce separation anxiety, prevent boredom, and keep them calm. But, again, the effectiveness of this depends on the dog.

Final Thoughts

Providing your dog does not find TV images or sounds distressing, there is no harm in letting them watch a movie with you or putting on a show when you go out. However, no matter how much your dog seems to enjoy TV, be sure that it does not replace outdoor play and exercise, as these are crucial for your dog's wellbeing.
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