Can Dogs Recognize Animals on TV?

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Introduction

We've all seen those hilarious videos of dogs that seem to be reacting to what's on their owner's TV screen. Whether it be trying to catch a ball during a tennis match, barking at squirrels during a nature show, or crying and wanting to chase a cat on TV, those dogs seem to be able to recognize, at least somewhat, what's going on on the big screen. 

But is that true? Can dogs really recognize animals on our televisions? What are they actually seeing, and what do they actually understand? Science has actually proven that some dogs, depending on their disposition, breed, and other genetic factors, can actually perceive images on television somewhat similar to the way that we do! This is especially true if there's a sound played as well that your doggo associates with an animal they're familiar with. 

So, the answer is yes, your pupper actually can recognize other animals on TV, and may actually react to them! And there's even TV channels out there made directly for your pup!

Signs Your Pup Recognizes the Fur-Balls on TV

Whether or not your dog can recognize other animals on TV depends on a variety of factors, including their breed, their life experiences, their disposition, and more. However, there are various signs that your dog can show that indicate that your pupper recognizes there's another animal on that big, weird thing their human seems to look at all the time. How your dog reacts even depends on their breed and personality too!

Some studies show that "different dogs, like people, have different personalities" and as a result, their reaction to certain things on the television is different. Some may run around, trying to follow an animal on-screen to where they think it should be off-screen. Others may bark excitedly, or paw at the television they're able to. 

Still others may be able to tell that there's an animal on screen, but will ignore it, or act as if it's not there, due to desensitization. Scientists have discovered that depending on your pooch, each reaction to different animals may be different. 

Regardless of breed, what you can look for to determine whether or not your pup recognizes what's on TV are things that signal that they are alert, such as ears facing forward, and maybe even twitching with each sound; wide eyes looking to the television or to the space where the animal should be; a closed mouth; and standing or leaning slightly forward with a straight tail.

Additionally, you also may have a 'fraidy cat on your hands! Maybe when they were a puppy, something happened with a TV, or they just don't like something that they don't understand. Make sure to watch your dog's body language in this scenario as well! Fearful dogs will often tuck their tail between their legs, roll over, have their ears back, and more. We don't want to scare our pups, so if yours seems freaked out, make sure to change that channel!

Body Language

Some body language that shows your dog is watching TV includes:
  • Stiff tail
  • Pupils dilated
  • Ears up
  • Tail up
  • Pacing
  • Whining
  • Head tilting
  • Barking
  • Alert

Other Signs

Other signs that your dog is watching a show with you are:
  • Responding to a Sound They Recognize
  • Leaning Forward
  • Chasing Animals On-Screen

The Science Behind Dogs and Televisions

According to research, scientists have learned that our pups actually see and register images more quickly than our eyes do. This means that our dogs actually see the frames of the picture on our screen more quickly than us. If the frames come slowly, to our dog's vision, the television would seem to be flickering or blurry. Like humans, dogs that see these types of images are less likely to pay attention. 

As TV has gotten more advanced, however, dogs have been better able to watch TV. The frames come quicker, so there is less blur and flickering, allowing your dog to pay better attention to the "boob tube". The higher the definition and the faster the image flashes across your TV, the more fused an image will be for your pup. 

Additionally, we also have to remember that dogs' capability of seeing color is different than ours. Studies have shown that "dogs have dichromatic vision - they have two types of colour receptor cells and see colour within two spectrums of light: blue and yellow." As a result, they may not be able to see programs outside their color spectrum as well as those programs with colors they understand and can see. 

Training Your Dog to Watch TV with You

If you want your dog to spend some quality time with you on the couch, there are definitely ways you can accomplish this. That being said, if you have a very fearful pup, it may be best to skip out on this exercise, as it is not worth traumatizing them!

The main thing you need to do to get your dog to watch TV with you is to make it a positive experience. Each time you sit down to watch a show, call your pooch over and encourage them to hop up on the couch with you - if they're allowed up there! Throw them a treat if they oblige.

Next, give them the stay command and start dishing out some pets and loving. Repeat the process over several days or weeks. Your pup is sure to get the hint that watching TV equals a good time! (You can even train them to respond to the command "Let's watch TV" if you say it each time you begin the process.)

How to React to Your Dog Watching TV:

  • If you want your dog to enjoy watching tv the same way you do, associate that time when you're sitting on the couch and watching tv with belly scratches and hangout time with their favorite human!
  • There actually are certain stations out there that cater specifically to dogs. These programs remain within your dog's visible color spectrum, show short, quick images that your dog will recognize to keep their attention, and prevent flickering.
  • Your dog may also become more interested in "watching" TV with you if you watch a show with something on it that your pup may recognize. Shows where dogs are barking, a ball is squeaking, or cats are meowing may hold your dog's attention better than others.
  • Some dogs may just not like TV, while others may even be afraid of it. If your dog shows disinterest in the TV, try the steps above, and see if it helps to get your dog into your favorite program. If your dog seems fearful, displaying characteristics like submissive behavior, lowered body, tail down and ears back, flip the channel! Spend time with your pup in a different way that doesn't scare them.
Bentley
9 Years
Labrador Retriever
Definitely Watches TV
Signs

He is unreactive to most TV shows until an animal, especially another dog, comes on. When that happens, he barks, wags his tail and paces excitedly. The only exception is “The Grinch” with Jim Carey. He will sit riveted to the TV and growl at any Carey closeups.

4 months, 1 week ago