Have you ever seen your dog watching TV? You may have observed them suddenly get very involved when you’re trying to watch something on the telly. They might start barking, wagging their tail or in some cases, they might run and jump at the screen! Whilst some canines really couldn’t care less what’s on the box, there is no doubt that some dogs do seem to have a great enthusiasm for the subject.
A 2013 study published in the Springer Science Journal found that dogs can identify moving images on a screen and instantly recognise other canines. The dogs in the study looked at images of humans, dogs and other animals. The dogs were able to pick out the faces of other canines, irrespective of breed type. The results confirm that dogs not only see what is on the screen but they also recognise the difference between dogs and non-dogs.
Dogs on the box
The ability to recognise what’s on TV means your pooch will show the most interest when animals are on the screen. To test this theory out there are a couple of great TV shows you can try watching with your dog! The Secret Life of Puppies follows the adventurous lives of little pups through the important first weeks of their lives. There’s also The Supervet, a great family pet show, featuring Professor Noel Fitzpatrick performing life-saving surgery on injured animals.
A canine view of the world
So what do they actually see on screen? Dogs have dichromatic vision¹. In simple terms, this is a form of colour blindness that affects all dogs. The world is tinted yellow and blue through the eyes of a dog as they are unable to process red or green colours. To your dog, a green or red ball is just a shade yellow.
The Human Eye sees every colour in the spectrum
A dog’s view with just blues and yellows
The other interesting thing about a dog’s vision is that they process moving images about 25% faster than humans, so when they watch television they see a series of flickering images². This is especially the case with older TVs that had low frame rates. Technological advancements mean that newer TVs have much higher frame rates so your dog would see less flickering and smoother playback. This could explain why we are seeing more and more dogs watching TV as we upgrade our screens.
Our furry friends have never been famous for their eyesight. They actually have pretty terrible eyesight when you compare this to our view of the world. Distant images appear quite blurry, so you can see how watching the TV could be difficult. You can try this for yourself using WolframAlpha’s dog vision simulator.
So what do dogs see when they watch TV? A blurry yellow and blue dichromatic view of the world, in a series of flickering images. Despite all this, they still manage to process and interpret the images, fully recognising other canines and animals using only their vision. It’s one of the reasons why dogs only really pay attention to the TV in short bursts after they spot something in particular that interests them.
After reading this, you’re probably wondering why dogs don’t already have their own bespoke TV channel… Well, they do, and it’s called DogTV! It’s been specially designed just for dogs, based on all the science. The company even claim that the channel can comfort your dog and reduce anxiety when left home alone. So, what are your dog’s favourite TV shows? Leave us a comment below.