Dog owners often note their pets watching television, computer screens and tablets But what’s happening in the head of their pooch? Indeed, research has found that domestic dogs prefer certain images and videos by tracking their vision using similar methods used on humans.

This research shows that dogs prefer to watch other canines–but our studies have also found that sound attracts dogs to TV and other devices at first. Favorite noises include the barking and crying of cats, the issuing of dog-friendly orders and encouragement, and the squeaking of toys.


However, how dogs watch TV is very different from how people do it. Dogs often approach the screen to get a closer look instead of sitting still and walk repeatedly between their owner and the tv. They are interactive viewers who are essentially fidgety.

It’s also different from humans that dogs can see on the screen. Dogs have a dichromatic vision–they have two types of receptor cells of color and they see color in two light spectrums: blue and yellow. The use of visual color is very necessary to dogs which illustrates why canine television channel, DogTV prioritizes such colors in their programs The eyes of dogs are also more prone to motion, and vets believe that the increased flicker level from the shift from normal to high-definition tv has allowed dogs to properly perceive images on screen.

Do they enjoy it?

Throughout testing, several screens were also used to see if dogs would choose what to watch Early research has shown that dogs are unable to determine if presented by three screens, rather than watching a single screen regardless of what’s on it. This has still to be tested with two screens, and possibly more than three.

Although science has shown that dogs can interact in television and enjoy certain programs the complex question about whether they really like it still needs to be studied. As humans, we frequently watch distressing footage or videos that make us feel a variety of emotions, from distress to anger and horror. It’s not always because we feel good about it. We simply don’t know whether similar factors are motivating dogs to watch.

But what a dog does, depending on their personality, experience and preference differ from dog to dog. This is speculated to be influenced by what their owner watches, with dogs following the gaze of their owner and other signals of communication such as gestures and turns of the head.

Dogs, unlike humans often have very short encounters with the media often in fewer than three seconds, preferring to gaze at the television rather than concentrate on it like humans. Research has found that they will still spend most of their time doing nothing even with programs specifically designed for dogs Therefore, the ideal dog TV should contain lots of snippets instead of long storytelling scenarios.

But while dogs have their own television channel and have been shown to prefer watching other dogs through short encounters to specifically colored shows, many mysteries remain. However, technology has the capability to provide entertainment for domestic canines, enhancing the well-being of dogs left alone and in kennels. Just don’t expect doggie version of a Radio Times yet.

Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, PhD candidate, University of Central Lancashire

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