What Do Dogs See When They Watch TV?

By Allegra Ringo

Does your dog watch TV with you? Many dog owners report that their dogs watch TV, or internet videos, right alongside them, sometimes even barking at dogs or other animals that appear onscreen. But what's really going on inside our dogs' minds when they watch TV?

What Do Dogs See When They Watch TV?
credit: Adobe Stock

Raw Story reports that "dogs have dichromatic vision – they have two types of color receptor cells and see color within two spectrums of light: blue and yellow. " That means color is an important factor in dogs' ability to view things onscreen. It's also why DogTV, the TV channel for dogs, prioritizes these colors in their programming!

Raw Story further reports that dogs' eyes are also more sensitive to movement and vets suspect that the improved flicker rate that has come from the shift from standard to high definition television has allowed dogs to better perceive media shown on TV." So the shift to high definition is not only an improvement for cinephiles, it's helpful to our canine friends as well.

A video posted by @spanadornamedollie on

But here's the real question: Do dogs enjoy watching TV?

So far, research has shown that dogs, when presented with three screens playing different programs, seem to prefer to watch one screen regardless of what is playing on it. In other words, they won't choose the "best" program, or even show much of a preference for the actual programming. This research is limited, though, as it's only been tested with three screens. Further testing is needed to determine how dogs react to similar tests with two screens or more than three screens.

That's about all we know about whether dogs really enjoy watching TV. Their attention spans are much shorter than ours, and they don't appear to be able to focus on any programming for a substantial period of time. The aforementioned research suggests that dogs demonstrate a "preference to glance rather than focus." This is true even when dogs are shown programming that it seems like they would like (for example, dogs or other animals onscreen).

TV preferences also vary somewhat based on the individual dog. Some owners report their dogs showing a strong interest in TV and even watching movies alongside them, while other dogs don't appear interested in screens at all.

What's next for dogs and media? A sitcom starring two dogs who are, hilariously, polar opposites? An award-winning film titled Citizen Canine? Only time will tell, but we're pretty sure Citizen Canine is inevitable.