Why Do Some Dogs Watch TV? Do They Actually Understand?

After a long day of work, few things are better than putting on the sweatpants, grabbing a cold beverage, sinking into the couch, and watching your favorite shows. Maybe your ideal time to watch is when the kids go to bed and the house is quiet. Either way, the only thing that can make this any better is when you are accompanied by your most loyal of companions…your dog.

Dog watching tv with his owner. Appears to be into whatever they're watching

But as you glance over at your pooch, you have to wonder…do they know what is going on? Does he care what happens in the series finale of Breaking Bad? Most of the time, your dog will show no facial expression or have any reaction at all to what is going on visually.

So, this raises a few questions… 

  • Can your dog see the TV?
  • Does your dog have shows that he enjoys?
  • Do dogs get emotionally involved in soap operas and football games?

In the following sections, we will discuss what is going on when you and your dog tune in to some of your favorite tv shows.

How Your Dog Watches TV

Dogs process information differently than we do. While your dog may be curled up beside you facing the tv, he might not actually be watching anything at all. If you ever take a minute and watch, your dog isn’t staring mindlessly into the new season of The Simpsons like most humans. In fact, most of the time your dog spends watching tv with you, he is just staring into nothing. Dogs typically only look at the TV in short glances.

Another thing you may notice your dog doing while the TV is on is pacing back and forth between you and the television set. Like children, your pup has a short attention span. Unless he is snoozing or getting up there in age, your dog will most likely get up multiple times throughout a show, find a new spot, then lay back down again.

Your dog also loses his focus a lot easier. A sudden noise in the kitchen may not seem like anything worth reacting to for you, but your dog is almost certainly going to get out there as quickly as possible to investigate.

What Your Dog is Seeing

Dogs vision is different than the vision of a human. So, it only makes sense that when your dog is watching TV, he does not see the same thing that you do.

In the retina, there are two types of cells. Rod cells and cone cells. Rod cells assist with reflecting light into the retina and can help with seeing in low light conditions. Cone cells, on the other hand, help with improving the brightness and color. Dogs have a more significant amount of rod cells, while human eyes contain a more substantial amount of cone cells. This means that while our dog watches tv, he is not getting the full-color experience like humans are getting. While humans will always be able to break down the film better than dogs, high definition televisions have made the viewing experience a lot more enjoyable for them.

Dogs eyes also process information faster than humans do. So, if someone took one of those picture books, where you flip through the pages so quickly it looks like a film, your dog would slow it down, making out clear images with every flip. Dogs also have a much faster “flicker rate” than humans do. Which means they can process more rapid flashes of light than we can. While a tv show may look completely normal to us, it may just be flickers of light to your dog.

Dogs don’t see the same colors as humans do either. Because of our cone cells, we can process more color and brightness than a dog can. The dog’s rod cells are useful for many things, but TV watching is not one of them.

Does Your Dog Have a Preference?

While your dog may not have a preference between watching the Eagles or the Patriots, there are specific scenarios that will grab your dog’s attention.

Like we mentioned before, dogs have a short attention span. One thing your dog does enjoy is hearing other dogs on the TV. It is usual for your dog to listen to a dog barking and immediately hop up and leave a howl.

Watching dogs and other animals raise the excitement levels and can make your dog feel like another pup is in the house. Your dog will react the same as he does in real life to any noise they hear on TV. So if someone on your shows knocks on a prop door, your dog may race out of the room to investigate anyone coming into your house.

Do Dogs Enjoy TV?

For the most part, dogs do enjoy TV. They enjoy the sounds the TV makes, they enjoy the colors, and they enjoy spending time with you!

Some dog owners use the TV to combat separations anxiety with dogs. Simply turning on the TV can keep your dog calm and relaxed. This will help with saving your house from torn up furniture or other messes that can occur.

As we mentioned above, dogs especially like other animals in their favorite shows. Luckily, we live in a world where there is a channel for anybody. DOGTV is a pretty unique channel specifically designed for your dog’s entertainment.

DOGTV was created for treating loneliness, anxiety, and depression in dogs when you are not there to comfort them. It can also help your dog if he is downright bored.

While dogs do watch TV with us, they don’t exactly see what we do. If you want to put on a show the both of you can enjoy together, try putting on animal planet, DOGTV, or any other show that has a constant rotation of animals. The TV can also help combat depression, stress, and loneliness while you are away from home. With all these benefits, don’t deprive your dog of their relaxation time for goodness sake, turn the TV on for him.

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