How dogs watch TV

This article says that what dogs see when they watch TV is different from humans.

This research indicates that dogs have a preference towards watching other canines – but our studies have also discovered that sound often initially attracts dogs towards television and other devices. Favoured sounds include dogs barking and whining, people giving dog-friendly commands and praise, and the noise of toys squeaking.

How dogs watch TV is very different to the way humans do, however. Instead of sitting still, dogs will often approach the screen to get a closer look, and walk repeatedly between their owner and the television. They are essentially fidgety, interactive viewers.

While science has shown that dogs can engage with television and that they prefer certain programmes, it has yet to delve into the complex question of whether they actually enjoy it. We as humans will often watch distressing footage or videos that make us feel a range of emotions, from distress to anger and horror. It’s not always because it makes us feel good. We just don’t know whether similar factors motivate dogs to watch.

What a dog does engage with, however, differs from dog to dog, depending on their personality, experience and preference.

But what really surprised me about the article is that there is an actual TV channel aimed at dogs called DOGTV. Really. I have no idea what the programming is like but it is apparently aimed at entertaining dogs when they may be home alone or you are too occupied to pay attention to them.

The video at the link shows dogs responding to what they see and the gorgeous brown and white dogs shown are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels that look just like our own Baxter the Wonder Dog. But Baxter does not seem interested in watching TV at all. When I am watching something, he will come into the room because he likes to be around people but will then promptly curl up in a corner of the floor or on the couch and go to sleep. He has shown little or no interest in what is appearing on the screen.


  1. says

    there is an actual TV channel aimed at dogs called DOGTV

    Sure, why not?
    I knew some people who used to put a laptop with a fish screensaver to entertain their cat.

    Perhaps Baxter has decided that you’re more interesting than TV. Which, since you appear to watch cricket, could very well be the case!

  2. robert79 says

    I always thought it was a case of dogs imitating their owners.

    When I was a kid we had a dog, a puppy not toilet-trained yet. She was forbidden into the TV room because we feared she would mess up the carpet. At some point she realised we watched TV, and it became a game for her to circumvent all the barriers we tried to put up between the kitchen and the TV room, dive under the couch, and watch TV… even when the television was off…

    In terms of biology, do dogs even have the same RGB cones in their eyes that we do? The build of a TV (or our computer monitors) is tailored for the frequencies that our eyes can detect. Would a television look “realistic” to them?

  3. Mano Singham says


    The article addresses your question:

    What dogs can see on the screen is also different to humans. Dogs have dichromatic vision – they have two types of colour receptor cells and see colour within two spectrums of light: blue and yellow. The use of colour within media is very important for dogs and explains why canine TV channel, DogTV prioritises these colours in its programming. 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.

  4. blf says

    There is a Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge article on DOGTV, which claims:

    For more than three decades major pet organizations such as the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States and the American Humane Association have recommended leaving the television on for stay at home pets.

    HOWEVER, I’m rather suspicious of that article, as it reads-like a promo / puff / ad for DOGTV and, very noticeably, has just one reference(to a newspaper story). The edit history shows that in the past it was marked as an “advert” (currently, it has no markings, but it obviously needs some).

    I have not checked the above-quoted claim.

  5. James Stuby says

    I remember an incident that proved a dog sort of understood what was happening on a TV screen. My grandmother’s dog was in the room with me as a kid when I was watching a cartoon, called Hong Kong Phooey (about a dog that performed martial arts). Phooey was driving a car up a street and swerving wildly, but towards the “camera” or the TV screen. The dog saw this and freaked out and ran out of the room, thinking he was going to get hit by the car I suppose. It was hilarious.

  6. thebookofdave says

    I discovered that dogs watch TV and even respond to the content, while watching a friend’s golden retriever. The TV was tuned in to Cartoon Network. I forget which show was playing at the time, but the scene depicted a studio filming of the show Lassie. When the director yelled “Action!”, Lassie immediately leaped off set to maul the camera operator. This set my friend’s dog into an agitated frenzy of barking at the screen.

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