You've heard about how screen time is bad for humans. In children, screen time has been linked to speech delays and a lack of social connection, and it can hurt adults' eyes and make them stay up later at night. But is screen time bad for dogs, too?
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Should you worry about cuddling up with your pup on the couch and watching Netflix together? How about holding him on your lap when you're on your computer, tablet, or phone? Could he watch you while you text?
Let's take a look at whether or not your dog can look at screens, and how you can protect him from the negative effects of screens in your everyday life.
Screen time and dog depression
According to ABC News and research from the United Kingdom, dogs are more likely to have depression if their owners spend a lot of time looking at their screens. This is because owners are ignoring their dogs, and dogs don't get to spend as much time with them. This can lead to behavioral issues, such as your dog peeing around the house, getting into the trash, or going into rooms where he is forbidden from entering.
Letting your dog watch TV
Some dogs like to watch television or at least have it on for comfort when their owners aren't home. If you put the TV on for your dog, there is no harm in letting him watch it, as long as he isn't spending excessive time on the couch watching television. If he's gaining too much weight or not getting enough exercise, then you will have to cut back on the screen time.
Screen time and dogs’ health
There isn't evidence that screen time is bad for your dogs' health, other than the fact that it can cause obesity if they're binging on TV, or depression if you're binging on device time.
Do dogs know what they’re seeing on screens?
Dogs like to watch TV because they are attracted to the sounds they're hearing. They may run up to the TV, bark at it, or otherwise interactive with it. They love to hear the sounds of other dogs as well as squeaky toys and people praising dogs. They also see high-definition TV better than standard definition, and perceive colors on the blue and yellow spectrums of light.
Usually, dogs will briefly glance at televisions rather than watch them for long periods of time. There is no research as to whether dogs enjoy TV specifically, but some dogs do seem to enjoy it. They can recognize other dogs on the TV and may respond to them.
Some dogs are more likely to watch TV than others. Terriers, who hunt vermin, may tilt their heads or bark at the screen when they hear a squeaky noise coming out of the TV. Since Bloodhounds hunt using scent, they are less likely to be interested in television.
Ensuring that your dog is happy and healthy
Even if you need to be on your screen a lot for work – or you just enjoying chilling out on the couch with the TV on or texting friends – you need to make sure you're still giving your pup adequate attention.
Cuddle with your dog frequently, even if you have to be on your screen, and give him 30 minutes to two hours of exercise per day. This could include walking, playing fetch, or taking your dog to the dog park, where he can run around with other pups. Instead of leaving him in front of the TV all day, give him his favorite toys to play with while you're gone and hire a dog walker.
If you notice that your pup looks sad, is gaining weight, or is more lethargic than usual, take him to the vet right away to get some help.
While screen time itself isn't bad for your dog, the effects of you using your screen too much or excessive time in front of TV could be negative. Your pup loves you and wants to spend time with you, so be with him physically and emotionally as much as possible.
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.