Can Dogs Watch TV? Dog Eyesight Compared To Human Eyesight

dog-watching-television-by-laertes.jpg Most dog owners will tell you that their dog watches television with them. 

In fact, according to the American Kennel Club,  87% of pet owners say that their pets watch TV.

To an extent, they are correct.  However, a dog eyesight is very different than human eyesight, so what your dog is actually "seeing" is quite different from what you’re seeing on the TV screen.

 


Dogs have an appreciably lower visual acuity then humans. If the typical human eye scores 20/20 on the Snellen eye chart, the typical canine eye would score 20/75. Anything below the 3rd line of the Snellen chart would be a blur to a dog. Therefore, typical domesticated dogs do not depend on fine visual acuity to survive.  Source

Here are some of the ways that dogs see things differently than humans, especially with regard to viewing images on a TV screen:

  • A dog’s eyesight allows them to see better at night than we do
  • The canine visual system is designed to operate well under low light conditions, while the human visual system performs best in bright light.  Source

  • Dogs also see flickering light better than humans do.  That means when watching television where we see one solid screen, dogs see each individual frame. 
     
  • Dogs cannot see the actual objects on the TV screen.  They simply see the movement and the shapes on the television instead. 
     
  • Dogs don’t have the same depth perception that humans have, which also explains how little they can actually see on a TV screen.
  • A dog’s increased peripheral vision compromises his binocular vision. Where the field of view of each eye overlaps, we have binocular vision, which gives us depth perception. The wider-set eyes of dogs have less overlap and less binocular vision. Dogs’ depth perception is best when they look straight ahead, but is blocked by their noses at certain angles.  Source

  • dog-watches-tv.jpgWhile dogs don’t just see in black and white (as many people think), they are not able to see as many colors as we can.  It’s though that they see the world similar to a red-green colorblind person.
  • Most people have vision that is trichromatic (3-color variations). People who are red / green color blind are dichromatic (2-color variations). Dogs’ retinas can distinguish 2 colors. These colors are blue-violet and yellow. Dogs can also differentiate between shades of gray. Dogs are unable to recognize green, yellow, orange, and red.  Source

  • Dogs can also differentiate the sounds coming from a TV versus those heard in the real world.  The sounds coming from the TV seem to be just as entertaining for them as it is for us to watch them responding to the sounds!


Does Your Dog Watch TV?

I still think when I’m watching drag racing my dog is watching right along with me.  Maybe it’s the sound that is drawling her to watch television.  It’s a sound that she knows from going to the races.  When she is watching the races on television, she moves her head as she watches the cars go down the track.

All dogs have different personalities, and therefore all dogs react differently to the things they see on TV.  For example, here’s a dog that definitely has a reaction to something she sees on the television screen: 

 

A survey conducted by the American Kennel Club and Iams found that almost 50% of all dogs surveyed showed some interest in the small screen. Source

Carrie

I have 2 Miniature Pinschers. My husband and I consider them our 4-legged kids.

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  • Info

    Quote – “Most people have vision that is trichromatic (3-color variations). People who are red / green color blind are dichromatic (2-color variations). Dogs’ retinas can distinguish 2 colors. These colors are blue-violet and yellow. Dogs can also differentiate between shades of gray. Dogs are unable to recognize green, yellow, orange, and red.”
    Have I missed something here or have you just contradicted yourself? Can they or cant they see Yellow???

  • SSN

    I have two Australian Terrires, a female is very much interested in watching TV but the male would not care at all to even look at TV. Minnie also recognizes people in the still pictures – does not have to be video for her to
    to watch TV.

  • Daboyles

    i am doing a science project and this really helped me out thanks!

  • Drtandem

    I have two pugs and they definitely watch television. One can tell the difference between animals, because she absolutely hates to see horses. I also can tell they are watching, because when what they are watching goes off the screen, they run to the side of the TV in the same direction as the object was moving and look to see where it went; such as behind the TV. One of the Pugs finds people more fascinating on the TV than the other pug, who would rather watch animals and motorcycles.

    I have had many dogs over my life, but I have never seen a breed other than pugs watch TV so intently.

  • shootermcgavin

    COMPLETELY WRONG!! How do explain that my dog goes crazy whenever the image of another dog comes on the television. In fact, it doesn’t even matter whether the sound is on or not. Please explain this phenomenon!

  • eddie p

    I have to completely disagree with this artice. I have a pug, and just as Drtandem explained with his pugs, mine reacts to animals he sees on the screen, regardless if the sound is off. If he sees a dog on the screen, he’ll bark at it and follow and attack it in a matter similar to the dog in the above video. If the dog on screen disappears, he’ll look for it behind the screen. Also, if animal planet or discovery channel is on, and a lion or any other type of predator is shown stalking its prey, my pug will growl at it as if it is stalking him, then he’ll spring his attack on the image. He’ll even bark at cartoon dogs like scooby doo, or dogs in video games like Call of Duty. I think the issue of whether dogs can watch television needs to be studied more thoroughly before any conclusions can be made. It may depend on the breed, since my chihuahua shows no reaction to the television at all.

  • Jjsilk2005

    I have a boxer pitbull mix that loves tv. She will sit and stare and watch. Especially if I pull up the wii, she will follow the hand cursor and also hates the mii characters. She also trys to go after animals to. I also have a chow/lab that doesn’t even act as if he sees anything on tv or maybe just doesn’t care.

    • Vicjersey

      Good to hear I am not the only guy with 2 dogs that act different to TV. My one Swiss mountain goes after only animals. Doesn’t care about people, cars or even birds but goes right after bigger animals. His sister just follows and barks but is looking everywhere but the TV

  • Vicjersey

    I know they say the dog is just reacting to movement, but my 1 dog ONLY goes after the screen when its an animal. Then tries to find it behind the TV

  • Hdt71562

    My Schnauzer is able to differentiate between shows and humans and animals. She loves Little House on the Prairie and she hates yellow labs. Other animals she growls and barks, but yellow labs she attacks the tv. She can hear when America’s Funniest Home Videos comes on and watches every second for the animals that come on. She loves watching football too and without prompting attacks the tv when the Ravens play.

    • Nospam

      GOOD DOG!!!! My Dog also can’t stand the Ravens. So it’s not only that most people can’t stand the Baltimore Ravens but also Animals. GO STEELERS!!!!

  • Nisha

    our dog stares at the T.V like a tv addict and it is very interesting to see how she follows the “moving pictures”!!!

  • Pennie

    My rat terrier DOES watch tv! When a dog is on tv, she jumps off the couch and runs to the tv and barks at the dog!

  • JOEYS

    This is an interesting topic. My dog, a papillion absolutely knows what he’s seeing on TV, while my other dog a pomerian does not even notice the TV. Joey (my papillion) recognizes all animals. At the exact moment an animal appears on the TV, he looks and when it’s a dog or cat, he runs to the TV to jump up and barks at them. He also reacts to cartoon animals and even still photos on TV of animals. I’ve also seen him react to a siloutte of an animal. Like humans, I feel Joey has better vision than some other dogs. Hershey (my pomerian) seems to not even be able to see anything on the TV. I can be playing with Joey, or even feeding him, and if an animal appears on the TV, his immediate attention is the TV. He reacts also to violence on TV. It upsets him when he sees anyone fighting with another person or shooting someone. He is one unique dog.. Just thought some of you might want to know that I believe you can not say dogs can’t see a TV program and only react to motion. Joey is definitely an exception.. Take care

  • http://www.facebook.com/breezy0526 Breezy Raney

    I don’t care what any study says my dog has never shown any interest in my tv. but the last week I have been watching old episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and everytime Salem is on the screen she stands up with her two front paws on my computer desk and whines at the tv. Salem is a talking cat, he doesn’t meow or do other sounds that sound like an animal, yet there she is staring at it and whining. Never in my life have i seen such a thing, or believed dogs can see tv. but she has proved to me that they can.

    • alexandra

      uhhh…did you fully read the article? sounds like your dog is just following salems movement, sorry. if you really think your dog can see, take her somewhere her eyes can be studied. not for you, but because you’d be doing something significant for science, js.