SlimDoggy Mythbuster: Can Dogs See Television?

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bustamythDoes your dog watch TV? Neither Jack or Maggie pay any attention to the TV. As a matter of fact, none of my dogs have even acknowledged it’s existence. And yet, you see Youtube videos and Facebook posts all the time of dogs raptly watching another dog on TV or barking at a cat commercial. I wondered what was up with Jack & Maggie, so I investigated a little.
As you may or may not realize, what you see on your TV is actually a series of frames that move quickly from one picture to the next so that it looks like continuous movement. This is what is called flicker fusion frequency. Think about old-time movies, remember how jerky the pictures were? That ‘flicker frequency’, or the number of frames presented on the screen per second was much lower than in today’s movies or TV – hence the jerkiness you would see.
The flicker fusion frequency required for humans to perceive continuous movement is about 16-20 images a second, but a dog’s rate is much higher, around 70 images per second. What does that mean? It means that to Jack & Maggie that car chase is really just a series of pictures going in slow motion. Probably not very exciting or enticing to some dogs.
can dogs see tv
Older TVs flicker frequency was about 24 images per second, newer models are about twice that, but still much lower than your dog’s ability to perceive it as a moving picture.
Dog’s color perception is also more limited than humans and that may impact their interest level in TV also.
DogTV has made special adjustments to their programming to accommodate for these differences in dogs and may explain why dogs with a propensity to watch TV enjoy DogTV so much.

How about your dog – do they watch TV?

Read other SlimDoggy Mythbuster stories.


Additional Readings:
Do dogs see what’s happening on TV?
Why Do Dogs Watch—and React to—TV?
Do Dogs Understand What They Are Seeing On Television?

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  1. Easy is a fan of the tv, but sometimes I have some doubts if he really can “see” the things there… he attacks the tv just for a japanese guy with a samurai sword and he ignores 87 dogs what run trough the dog whisperer show :o)
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  2. For the most part, our dogs respond more to the sounds on the tv. For years (and I mean years) Storm barked at every doorbell on tv. Duh…it is tv Storm. Our Golden did watch a full show once. It was something featuring a dog, but that was the only time I can remember one of them watching.
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  3. TV’s old hat for Eko, so he doesn’t pay it much mind. Penny on the other hand is quite an active watcher and will still occasionally try to follow characters off screen where she thinks they’re hiding behind the TV.

  4. None of us watch tv, but occasionally, we might hear something and look in that direction. Mom has had several cats that have pawed at things moving on the screen, but that is it. We prefer our live reality shows outside the front window with birds, squirrels, and wabbits.
    Emma recently posted…Training Tips For Multiple Pets #MultiPetManiaMy Profile

  5. Callie usually ignores the TV unless she hears a dog bark. Then she will sit with her nose practically touching the screen to watch. The same will happen if she catches a glimpse of any animal. Shadow and Ducky totally ignore it.

  6. PS. When I used to watch Dog Whisperer, Callie would practically have fits trying to help Cesar calm down a hyper dog. It was more entertaining to watch Callie than Cesar! But, since her second ACL surgery, she’s not as willing to jump as she once was.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Wearing Ducky OutMy Profile

  7. Great, fun post! I have one of each. Wilson does not respond to either seeing or hearing the TV. He has no interest whatsoever.

    Jimmy is a TV fanatic, from the very day I brought him home at 11 weeks old. I carried him thru the house to get to the backyard. John had the TV on, and Jimmy was instantly riveted! He doesn’t care about the news or shows with only people, but show him an animal and he flies across the room to watch and bark. He even likes cartoon animals! We bought a copy of Bolt just so he could watch it. He would raptly watch while the dog or the hamster were on screen, and lose interest if they were gone. He stayed thru the whole movie and was beyond exhausted when it was over.
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  8. Here’s a link to my blog where you can see Jimmy in action:
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  9. No, the Boys do not watch TV. I don’t watch it regularly either, we much rather play or nap!
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  10. I did a post on this a while back. Yep, my huskies watch T.V. Especially Lexus. She will sit and watch a whole show with me!!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
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  11. I looked up info about dogs watching tv before as well, cuz Rita watches. But only when it’s animals. She’s especially fond of birds, coyotes and dogs. She’ll even watch if it’s a person pretending to be a dog, or a cartoon dog. I used to think it was just the animal sounds she was interested in, but even if the dog is quiet, her ears perk up and she starts paying attention when dogs are on screen. (That video of Jimmy is a riot My sis’s corgi is similar – but for him it’s SPORTS! He goes crazy when there’s anything like football, baseball, hockey, etc. on TV. Nut.)
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  12. My first Lab would stop what she was doing to watch some commercials. Not all commercials, just certain ones. She occasionally watched a show for a couple minutes, never for long. One time, she went ape crazy at a polar bear onscreen. She postured and roared and barked and told that thing to stay away! My second Lab does not watch TV. But she will bark at the doorbell on TV. My third Lab will tune in once in a while for a span of a few to several seconds. I did not know about the gap in frames in regular TV and the enhanced frames per second on Dog TV. Thanks for the education.

  13. Our pups definitely respond to the sound, its my cats thought that will watch tv. 🙂
    Belle has chased many a cartoon character, its soo funny!
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  14. I would never have believed it, but yes, my male Labrador watches t.v.! Especially every time there is an animal (horse, dog, etc.) on the tube, he begins to watch – it seems he is bored with people (unless they are in distress and then he will growl and bark). My girls were never interested in t.v. Interestingly, I identified this behavior in him when as a pup, he saw a poster of a dog and a cat in the Animal Shelter – he began fervently barking at it and jumped on a chair to get eye to eye with it. He accompanies me on car trips (he is a service dog) and he is the first of 3 to be completely enthralled by the view as we are driving – he rarely just lies down and sleeps as he is intensely curious. Since we live in a farm town, he is entranced by cows and horses as we drive by, and on his runs he loves to chase all creatures. Prior to this particular dog, I would have never believed that dogs can watch t.v. (as a pup, he was confused when he watched the aggressive nature of the dogs on Ceasar Milan/Dog Whisperer tapes!). Great post! TY.

  15. How interesting, I had no idea that the TV images are perceived much slower by our pups! Neither Missy nor Buzz pay particular attention to the TV ~ but they love cuddling up to Mommy when she watches HGTV episodes :-))
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  16. Bentley does not care about the television, but Pierre will watch it very intently. He will bark at animals and follow movement. He is our first dog that has shown any interest. *He is a big fan of the Bachelor so apparently he also loves bad television! BOL! BOL!
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  17. Yes, ever since we got the flat screen our guys watch it every now and then.
    Jana Rade recently posted…Adoption Monday: Mary Elizabeth, Black Labrador Retriever Mix, Southington, CTMy Profile

  18. interesting, mine too I think respond to sound, they hear something and cock their heads.
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  19. Mila tends to watch sports occasionally (especially football). It’s really cute to watch her watching the TV. The only other times is if she hears a dog bark, she’ll look up at it and sniff. Mila is very nosey and enjoys being involved in EVERYTHING. So, the TV is no exception. Great post!
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  20. My dog likes to watch us watch TV. Or maybe…it’s because my husband frequently snacks while watching TV!?
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  21. Luke watches TV, but other than him our only other dog that ever did was our Lab mix Maggie. I thought it might be a Lab thing, but I guess not if Maggie and Jack don’t!
    Luke often barks at things like dogs or wild animals but sometimes it’s just people too. He barked at the First Lady one time…hmmm, is he a political dog? 🙂
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