Dogs are amazingly tuned in to humans, but some things, they just don't get.
If you're a pet parent, you've probably considered FaceTiming with your dog at some point. (Don't pretend you haven't, no one believes you.) But if you were to do a FaceTime or other video call with your dog, would they actually see you?
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Can dogs see phone screens?
Unfortunately, the answer seems to be "probably not." Although we're still not completely sure about the extent of everything dogs can and cannot understand, they don't appear to understand when their parents try to communicate with them through a screen — at least, not a small screen. Read on for more details about experts' best guesses as to what dogs can and cannot see in terms of screens.
Can dogs recognize their parents on phone screens?
Dr. Attila Andics, a research fellow at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, has led his team in running multiple studies on how dogs process information on small screens. Their research has found that while dogs do realize they're looking at a human's face on said screen, they don't recognize that the human is their owner. Andics says that realistic size appears to be important to dogs' visual perception of who their owner is — a tiny pet parent on a phone screen simply doesn't register to dogs as being their person.
They found that while dogs realize they are looking at a human's face on screen, the stimulus isn't enough for them to recognize it's their owner on the other side. "Realistic size matters," he said. "If the size is not realistic, you become something small in a little box."
Can dogs recognize their parents on TV screens?
Interestingly, some dogs can recognize their parents when faced with an image of them on a television screen, according to Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist at Tufts University.
However, they don't understand where, exactly, their parents are. Often, a dog will check behind the TV, perhaps wondering if "the rest" of their person is there.
Additionally, this ability doesn't appear to be present in all dogs. Some dogs are better than others at identifying images on TV screens. In addition, the resolution of the screen matters — more modern, high definition TV sets are more likely to yield parent recognition than older ones with lower definition.
Can dogs recognize their parents in videos and photos?
Your dog is probably able to see still photos on your phone, but videos are a different story. That's because something called flicker sensitivity comes into play. Flicker sensitivity is the rate at which an animal's eye can record images and perceive motion. Dogs have a higher flicker sensitivity than humans, which means that videos probably just look like a bunch of nonsensical shapes and lights to them. They probably think we are very stupid for thinking these things are entertaining. (And they're kind of right, at least with about 99 percent of videos on the internet.)
The bottom line
Can dogs see images on your phone screen? The answer is a resounding "maybe" to still photos, and a pretty definitive "no" to videos. This is because dogs see and perceive things differently than humans, and lack the ability to understand things like a small phone version of their parent being "the same thing" as the person themselves.
However, dogs are still super smart, so give your dog a treat anyway, even if they don't think that YouTube video is hilarious as you do.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.