Sometimes, you just want to watch TV and chill with your dog because you're living your best life and, honestly, does anything sound better than that?
If your dog is anything like my dog in the TV-watching department, then he or she is the most interested in TV when the star of the show is another dog. But...why? Do dogs really know what's going on on TV? Do they prefer to see other animals over boring humans? Here's what science has to say about dogs' TV-watching preferences.
Can dogs understand what's going on on television?
Before we can get into what dogs prefer to watch on TV, we need to establish if they're able to even see TV to begin with. Thankfully, scientists have looked into this one.
So, the first thing to consider is how dogs' eyes work in relation to how TV works. While dogs can see TV screens, they're not necessarily seeing the same thing we are when we watch our favorite show. Dogs have a different rate of "flicker fusion frequency" than we do. Think of this as our internal frames per second needed to see a moving video and not just a series of still images. For humans, that number is somewhere between 16 and 20 images per second, but for dogs, it's closer to 70 images per second (80 in the case of beagles). Since old TV only showed about 50-60 images a second, the dogs of yesteryear weren't really seeing TV so much as a very big, bulky flipbook. Since modern TVs usually show more than 70 images per second, dogs have finally entered the TV binging world.
You've probably heard that dogs are color blind. That isn't true in a dogs-see-the-world-black-and-white sense, but they do have one less color receptor than humans do and probably see the world in shades of yellow and blue.
tl;dr: Dogs can see TVs, but they don't look exactly the same to them as they do to us. Also, if you have an old tube TV, your dog probably thinks you're a crazy person.
Some breeds like TV more than others.
Not all dogs are bred to love TV—but some are. According to Sci Show's report, traditional hunting breeds, like hounds, are scent-oriented and probably pretty indifferent to TV, since they can't smell what's going on onscreen. There are other breeds who are likely to get very into TV, like herding dogs who have a more honed sense of sight and instincts that tell them to keep eyes on moving targets...or, in this case, flashing images.
Ok, get to the point: Why do they like watching other dogs on TV?
First, let's begin with a basic fact: According to the brainiacs at Sci Show, dogs do prefer watching TV when there's a dog on the screen. So, if you, like me, have always felt in your gut that your pup loves watching other dogs on TV, your hunch was absolutely correct.
Now for the why: There are a few reasons that might explain why dogs IRL love dogs on TV. The first is sound-based. Unlike humans, dogs don't use sight at their primary sense for experiencing the world. For dogs, that scent is smell—something that does them next to no good when we're talking about TV (unless your dog has only met other dogs who smell like glass, plastic, and a thick layer of dust). Dogs have another sense that serves them well though—their sense of hearing.
As noise-sensitive animals, dogs are drawn to sounds from a TV that they would be drawn to in real life. This means, if your dog is the type who would want to run up to another dog in the park and say high, he's probably going to have the same gut reaction when he hears a dog bark on TV (this isn't limited to just barks—dogs also respond to other TV sounds, like squeaking noises that remind them of toys, other animal noises that either scare or intrigue them, and sometimes even words spoken by humans, if it's a phrase they know from their training).
As stated in National Geographic, "Domestic dogs can perceive images on television similarly to the way we do, and they are intelligent enough to recognize onscreen images of animals as they would in real life — even animals they've never seen before — and to recognize TV dog sounds, like barking."
But, even though sight isn't dogs' primary sense and even though they can't see TV images quite as well as we can, they're still totally intrigued by the appearance of another dog on TV, even if that dog stays quiet as a mouse.
A 2013 study published in Animal Cognition revealed that dogs are able to visually recognize other dogs. And dogs aren't just adept at spotting their own breed by sight. They recognize all dog breeds as fellow dogs, just by sight. Who's a smart boy/girl? Every dog on the planet, that's who.
What's the best thing to watch on TV with my dog?
Looking for something that your dog will actually enjoy watching on TV? There's a channel for that, appropriate called DOGTV, and it's designed specifically for dogs and caters to how they see the world (and how they see TVs).
According to its website, "DOGTV is a veterinarian-recommended TV channel to treat loneliness, anxiety and depression in dogs." Just because the channel is marketed as a kind of digital dog sitter doesn't mean you can't unwind from a long day of work with a little DOGTV next time you really want to cuddle on the couch though.