Do Dogs Watch TV for Entertainment?

Written by Sharon Parry
Published: May 24, 2022
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Do dogs watch TV? The simple answer is that some dogs do watch TV some of the time. Have you ever snuggled up on the sofa with your pooch to watch TV only to find that something on the screen has wound them up? Does your dog have a favorite TV show that you leave on for them to watch while you get on with your chores? Or, perhaps your dog completely ignores the TV?

The interaction between dogs and media devices is a growing area of scientific research. As our homes are increasingly filled with both dogs and screens, this is a fascinating area of study. Dog-driven technology, including the DoggyVision device, is the latest area of interest. It looks at how dogs can interact with screens to make them do what they want.

Let’s sum up what research has already shown about whether dogs like to watch TV.  

What Do Dogs See on a TV Screen?

We know that dogs have different vision to us. It’s reasonable to assume that they don’t see the same things as we do when we look at a TV screen. Dog eyesight specialists have listed a few key differences.

Distance

20/20 vision is a term used to describe the ideal vision in humans. However, dogs have 20/60 vision which means they would need to be two feet away from the screen to see what you see at six feet away. Considering most of us sit with our dogs around six feet from our TV screens, what they see will be out-of-focus and not as sharp as the images we are seeing.

Many dogs will move closer to the TV if something interests them so that they can get a better view.

Colors

It was once thought that dogs see in only black and white but we now know that is not true. However, they do not see colors in the same way as we do. They have only two types of color-detecting cells in their eyes but we have three. So, they see dull blue, yellow and green tones best and their view is less saturated.

dog colors

Dogs can see fewer colors than we can – just blues, yellows, and greens.

©Bocskai Istvan/Shutterstock.com

Movement

Dogs’ eyes are very good at picking up movement. This is why they spot squirrels and give chase even though they are not very good at picking up details. It is likely that fast-moving images on a screen will have the same effect as movement in real life.

Flickering

Because dogs’ eyes are so good at picking up movement, older TVs may appear to flicker when they look at the screens. If the screen flickers faster than a rate of 55 Hertz, humans cannot detect it. Dogs, however, can see flickers up to 75 Hertz so their watching experience may be very different.

What Dogs Think When Watching TV

The fact that many dogs look at TV screens means that they are interesting enough to attract a dog’s attention. It is likely that the combination of sounds, movement and light is enough to keep a dog amused for a while. Some sounds will be more interesting than others. For example, my dog ignores the TV most of the time but if he sees a dog or hears a dog’s bark coming from the screen he starts running around trying to find the dog making the noise. It seems he is not alone. Some research published in the journal ‘Animal Cognition’ showed that a dog is able to pick out another dog’s face from a range of other animal faces – including humans – on a TV screen. This works for all breeds, even though dogs’ faces are very variable between breeds!

two dogs watching dogs on tv

Research indicates dogs can recognize the faces of other dogs on TV screens.

©Javier Brosch/Shutterstock.com

Experts are not sure whether dogs think that the TV is real. There are plenty of videos on YouTube of dogs reacting to squirrels on the screen (they leap up and try to get at them). There are even videos of dogs licking the screen when it shows a pizza! However, dogs rely very heavily on their sense of smell and TVs don’t have an odor so it is probably quite confusing for them!

Is TV a Good Dog Sitter?

No, watching TV is never a replacement for human interaction with a dog. There is no harm in allowing your dog to watch TV for 20 minutes whilst you are busy and it will help to stop them from getting bored. It can also help with separation anxiety as dogs tend to get less stressed when a TV or radio is on.

However, it does not provide the mental and physical stimulation that a dog needs every day. They still need lots of human interaction and outdoor games such as fetch. You should also provide plenty of interactive toys to keep their brain working.

Can Watching TV Be Useful for Dog Training?

First of all, let’s make it clear that there is no substitute for recognized dog training methods based on positive reinforcement. You can find out about these by researching them online, buying a dog training book or by consulting an experienced dog trainer. There are no shortcuts when it comes to dog training. It requires patience and perseverance from both owner and dog.

dog trainer with dog on roof of doghouse

If you need help training your dog, consult a dog trainer.

©Hernando Sorzano/Shutterstock.com

Having said that, TV can play a useful role in some situations. There is a US TV channel just for dogs called, unsurprisingly, Dog TV. You can select the types of programs that you want your dog to watch including ‘stimulation’ and ‘relaxation’. The second option could be a useful alternative to playing music to calm dogs during thunderstorms.

There is another option called ‘exposure’ where you can choose a situation that currently triggers your dog. The theory is that they get used to the trigger and stop reacting to it. Some examples include car rides and doorbells.

Which Dog Breeds Like TV?

All dogs are individuals and so there are no hard and fast rules about which breeds like TV the best. However, there are some breeds that are always going to be more attracted to fast-moving things. The dogs with high prey drives like Terriers and Spaniels are typical examples. The same breeds are most likely to chase cars. Also, the herding dog breeds like Border Collies, are very attracted by moving things. Some find it hard to tear their gaze away from the TV.

jack russell terrier

Dogs like terriers and spaniels may be more drawn to the fast-moving images of television than other breeds.

©Master1305/Shutterstock.com

What do Dogs Like to Watch on TV?

This is the fun part! Why not find out for yourself?

Position your dog at the same level as the TV screen and about two feet away from it – or closer if they prefer.

The best TV show to pick is one that has moving animals on it. Any animal will do. You could try dogs, cats, birds or squirrels. Many channels have loads of wildlife documentaries to choose from. Outdoor scenes have colors that dogs can see best – blue skies and green grass.

Keep an eye on your dog’s reactions? Signs that they are enjoying TV include:

  • Eyes following the moving images on the screen
  • Tail wagging
  • Sitting up and staring at the screen

Some TV shows can make dogs stressed and they will show this by:

  • Jumping up at the TV
  • Barking and growling in the direction of the screen
  • Looking to you for reassurance

Dogs leaping at TV screens or diving behind them is not a good idea! They could injure themselves or cause a lot of damage to your home. So, it may be best to avoid these shows in the future.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © sommart sombutwanitkul/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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