You're at home sitting on your couch watching your favorite TV show when all of a sudden your dog perks up, does the classic head tilt, and barks at the TV. Is it the sound that's capturing his attention? Or is it the action on the screen?
It's probably a little of both.
How Dogs See The TV
The way your dog views what's on the TV (or computer) screen is slightly different than how you see it.
First, your dog is seeing different colors. Unlike humans, who are trichromatic (meaning we have three kinds of cones in the eye's retina, allowing us to see more color), dogs are dichromatic and see the world in yellow, brown, grey tones. Learn more about how dogs see here.
On the left (below), is a regular image. And on the right, is how a dog would see that same image (created using the Dog Vision image processing tool).
Color isn't the only difference in dogs' vision. In fact, dogs can process visual information faster than humans, according to 2013 study published in Animal Behaviour. Basically, when we see something move, like a tennis ball rolling across the floor, a dog would perceive this same tennis ball to move a little slower than we would. This means that dogs can detect quick changes in their visual field, like a squirrel quickly running through the backyard.
Also, your dog can definitely recognize if there's another dog in the program that you're watching. According to a 2013 study published in Animal Cognition, dogs are able to visually recognize other dogs. Even using images of different dog breeds didn't fool the dogs in the study, as they were still able to identify images of their own species despite the breed.
However, if your TV is constantly on, your dog is likely to become desensitized to it. Whether or not your dog enjoys watching the TV or seems interested in it probably has more to do with his personality and breed traits than what's on the TV. For example, Terriers, who were bred to hunt vermin, may respond to movements on the screen or squeaky noises. On the other hand, a Bloodhound, known for his scent-trailing abilities, may not be interested in what's on the TV because there's no odor.
Whatever is on the screen here certainly caught the attention of this Westie.
Dog-Friendly TV Channels And Commercials
Knowing that dogs react to what's on the TV, some companies have gone all out to create dog-friendly TV entertainment.
Dog food brand BAKERS® created a dog-friendly commercial in an attempt to sell the food directly to the consumer and not the dog owner. The 60-second commercial shows a group of dogs stealing a BAKERS® delivery truck, and also includes a high-pitched sound and barking dogs to catch dogs' attention. Watch the commercial from 2011 below.
In addition to commercials, dogs now have their own TV channel with programs specifically made for them. DOGTV, which launched in 2012, has created dog-friendly programs to keep your dog entertained when you have to leave him at home. See a sample of their programming below.
If you're not ready to sign up for a new TV provider or buy your dog his own flat-screen to keep him entertained, here are some other activities to have fun and keep your dog mentally stimulated.
And if you're really looking for something to watch with your dog (or to watch while your dog takes a nap on the couch), take our quiz on what movie you should watch with your dog here.
Want to see our favorite AKC-registered Golden Retriever Norman be completely be transfixed by the screen? Check out his video here!