Can Dogs See TV?

When a dog barks on TV, our dog reacts by barking back. Sometimes he even sits in front of the TV and watches for a time, especially if an animal is displayed on the screen. But how much do dogs really see on TV and are they watching TV at all? A lot depends upon the dog's personality and their glasses prescription!


Okay, so maybe the glasses reference isn't really true but the truth is dogs can perceive images on TV in much the same way we do. They can recognize on screen images of animals (all kinds of animals, not only other dogs or cats) and as I've before mentioned, sounds, such as barking.

Sight Differences

There are a few differences between our sight and the sight of our canine friends. One difference is that a dog eyes can register images faster than ours, at about 70 images per second (we register images at 16 to 20 images per second.) Older television sets displaying fewer frames than our HD TV's of today would look like an old time flickering silent film from the 1920's to a dog. Incidentally, other household pets such as birds see TV quite different at around 100 images per second. This can be a jumbled mess for a bird, as well as a cause for some bad stress, especially if you have an old TV in the area around your bird.

Dichromatic Vision

Another notable difference is dogs have dichromatic vision, meaning their vision has a primary color range of only two colors (yellow and blue) whereas we humans are trichromatic and see a full range of colors in 'RGB,' meaning Red, Green and Blue.

Some TV is For The Dogs

HDTV cable channels have been launched to accommodate the dogs dichromatic vision. One such channel is called DogTV which displays a much higher frame rate per second on screen in order to interest dogs. DogTV also has special programming for relaxation and stimulation by showing images of dogs at rest in a field or surfing at the beach. Other situations have dogs reacting to at home situations like ringing doorbells and obeying commands in order to acclimate them to the same situations in their lives at home.

Attention Span

How much a dog will watch TV depends upon the dog. As we all know an attention span of a dog isn't really long. They tend to only half-watch TV and watch only until they become bored or distracted by something more interesting to them at that moment.

Breed Plays a Part

Your dog's breed may also play a part in the manner your dog reacts to TV because every dog has their very own personality. Some dogs live to be around people while other dogs live to be only with their owners. Others are aggressive while some are pushy or shy. So if your dog carries on excitedly around your TV, barks like crazy or simply ignores it may be because of their type of breed. Hounds, for instance are driven by smell and usually aren't interested with visuals like the terrier, which is a herding breed stimulated by anything that moves, including moving objects on the TV screen!

In summing up we can say dogs do see television but today's HDTV's allow them to see much more than the old TV's of yesteryear (meaning the 1980's & 90's.) Also, not all dogs see equally well. As a matter of fact, the visual acuity of dogs do not match that of a human. Dogs have a tough time focusing on shapes of objects as well as us and it is believed that a dogs vision is 20/75. This means we can see clearly at 75 feet and a dog can see clearly at 20 feet. So where TV images appear sharp to us, they appear blurry to dogs. This still doesn't stop my cockapoo from barking at those blurry TV images... or the blurry mail carrier... the blurry neighbor... the blurry everyone and everything!

By Tom Matteo