Can Dogs Watch TV or Not?

October 14, 2022 / Behavior / By: Melanie Evans

Two dogs watching streaming tv program TV shows in bed cozy together

Did you ever get the feeling that your pup is enjoying that new Netflix show as much as you are? Or do they seem to get super interested all of a sudden when you are watching nature shows on the Discovery Channel?

Are you imagining it, or can dogs watch TV and understand what's going on? Should dogs watch TV? Is watching TV bad for dogs? 

These, and many other canine related television watching questions, are what we are going to take a closer look at here.

Can Dogs See TV?

As in, can a dog sit on the couch next to and see the TV, of course they can. But what are they seeing and hearing when they are snuggled up on the sofa with you in front of the big screen?

The chances that they understand the plot of the show are, we think, very small. But most dogs will understand that there are movements going on, and noises, and many pups do indeed seem to be very interested in TV.

And some seem to enjoy it, although that may often be more to do with getting to spend quality time with their human than any particular interest in the latest drama you are personally so engrossed in.

But, that having been said, some pups seem to get really excited about TV watching.

How Do Dogs See the TV?

The way that dogs see things is quite different to the way that humans see things. So the chances are that the way they see TV, and what they think about it, is very different too.

Unlike their sense of smell, and their hearing, a dog's eyesight is rarely as acute as a human who is considered to have good eyesight. As you are probably aware, we consider a human with 20/20 vision to have that. But what does that really mean, and how does your pup compare?

Normal visual acuity (clarity or crispness of vision) evaluated from a distance of 20 feet is known as 20/20 vision. If your vision is 20/20, you can see properly at 20 feet what you should ordinarily see at that distance. If you have 20/80 vision, you need to be 20 feet away to see what people with 20/20 eyesight can see from 80 feet away.

It's believed that most dogs have vision in the range of 20/70 to 20/100. That is probably why many pups only seem to get very interested in what's going on on TV if they are close to it.

Dogs don't see all the colors we do either. While humans have three types of color processing cells in our eyes (most humans anyway) dogs only have two, which, like some humans who are considered 'color-blind' means they can only see certain colors. These are believed to include yellows, blues and greens, as well as monochrome shades across the range of blacks and whites.

Pet parents also often wonder what their pup thinks about TV. Do they think that the squirrels on TV are real?

Probably not, as dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell and as TV has no smell they are unlikely to perceive the TV squirrels as real objects. Do they know what they are?

Some experts think they can see what things they are familiar with are on TV (like cats, squirrels and people) and that therefore 'live' animals and people rather than cartoon versions will be more appealing to them. But do they understand why all of those things are in that 'box'? We'll never know!

Why Do Some Dogs Watch TV And Others Don’t?

As far as we know, for the most part, whether or not a dog is interested in watching TV is a personal preference on their part. As we mentioned earlier, often if a dog seems to be joining the family to watch TV they are doing so more to be close to you than check out the latest episode of your favorite show.

Dogs, like humans, do have differing eyesight, so some dogs with very good vision may be attracted to quick, interesting movements on the screen - some pet parents say their dogs love to watch football or baseball, which might make sense with all those balls being tossed around - and some may be more attracted by interesting noises.

A cat meowing on TV is likely to attract their attention as much as one meowing in real life, at least at first, until they realize there isn't a real cat around.

Will TV Help With Dog Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a problem that many pet parents have to try to help their dogs with (as well as other pets). As many know, this can manifest itself as 'sad' behavior, such as whining or barking all day while you're at work and failing to eat, or 'bad' behavior like chewing and destroying things around them.

However it manifests itself, separation anxiety can be as upsetting for pet parents as it is for their dogs.

Some dogs do seem to be calmed a little if a TV is left on for them when their family leaves. It may be the fact that there are human voices around rather than silence, or that watching movements on the TV distracts their attention for a while. On the other hand, some dogs won't be distracted from their upset at being alone by TV one bit.

If you are trying to find ways to help your pup with separation anxiety, there is no harm in leaving the TV on when you leave to see if it helps (other than the harm to your electric bill) but do not expect that it will be the silver bullet answer to the problem you are looking for.

Leaving puzzle toys around the house can also be a great way to teach your dog that fun stuff happens when he is left home alone!

What Do Dogs Like To Watch On TV?

The fact is that no one knows what dogs like to watch on TV, as in, what shows might be on the canine version of the Nielsen 100. The chances are that many pups will enjoy programs with other animals in them, and those with quick action, like the baseball and football games we mentioned earlier.

This fact has not stopped the idea of 'dog TV' from becoming very trendy, though. There are indeed now television programs, and entire cable channels, that claim to be especially attractive to canine members of the family.

Take DOG TV for example. This is a company offering 'canine programming' that they say has been especially designed to appeal to dogs. You won't find it offered by your local TV provider though, it's a standalone subscription service that can be streamed to a TV or mobile device in much the same way as Netflix or Disney +.

The claim is that the programs offered on DOG TV can help address certain canine behaviors as well as entertain them. The channel carries 'dog programming' the company claims to help pups relax, to stimulate their intellect or to help with separation anxiety. The site quotes some scientific studies that may indicate that videos are helpful for dogs in some situations, and the DOG TV programs are said to be based in part on those findings.

Does it work?

It's rather hard to tell, as some dogs seem to like to watch TV in general, and some seem to have no interest at all. As the DOG TV service costs $59.99 per year (or $9.99 per month) you might want to plan your pup's initial DOG TV viewing around the 3-day free trial on offer, so you can have them 'try before you buy'.

Whether or not you try DOG TV, you are not being a bad pet parent if you don't encourage your pup to sit in front of the TV to watch anything. They will be just as happy and stimulated by a game of catch and some quality time with you.

3 TV Shows For Dogs To Watch

If you do want to try some 'dog TV' programming without the cost of a streaming service, here are some free channels you could consider offering them to watch:

Paul Dinning Wildlife

Paul Dinning posts nature videos with relaxing soundtracks that many of his YouTube subscribers say both their dogs and cats enjoy. And even if yours do not, they are so beautiful and calming - as well as educational - that we think you'll get a lot out of watching them too! Filmed in the beautiful Cornwall Region of the UK they offer a view of wildlife and scenery that is a delight.

Check out his YouTube channel here. Here's a sample - an 8-hour long video for dogs to watch.

Relax Your Dog - Calming Music and TV

This YouTube channel offers a 15 hour, continuously looping video that features calming music - there is a lot more scientific evidence that music calms dogs over the visual images on TV or TV dialogue - and nature scenes, and dogs - that some of the YouTube subscribers to the channel say they leave on to help their anxious pups when they are away.

But that's not all the channel offers. There are also videos of sporting dogs, running dogs and even cats that your pup might enjoy (and they are all free.) Here's one of the many entertaining and interactive videos for dogs to watch available on his channel.

Birder King

Want to see if your cat and dog might put their differences aside and watch TV together? Then this YouTube channel is worth a try.

Birder King, a Canadian offering, features all kinds of visually stunning close up videos of birds, squirrels, chipmunks and more going about their everyday lives - complete with a wonderful bird noise soundtrack - that they both might enjoy a lot!

Does your dog watch TV? What’s your favorite dog show for dogs to watch? Let us know in the comments.

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Melanie Evans

Melanie Evans is a professional freelance writer based in Scranton, PA, who, enjoys sharing her lifelong knowledge about dogs. When not working, Melanie enjoys playing a wide variety of sports, traveling and hanging out with her energetic boxer dog Bruce.

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