3 min read


Can Dogs See Pictures on a Phone?



3 min read


Can Dogs See Pictures on a Phone?


Have you ever been away for a couple of days and just really missed your pooch? Maybe so much that you have even asked a family member to FaceTime your pup, just to give your pup a big "I love you?" Well, you are not alone! 

With advancing technology and the ease of staying in touch, lots of owners like to check in while they are away. But the question remains, although you can see your lovable pup through the screen, does your dog really know it's you?


Signs Your Dog Can See Pictures on a Screen

Plenty of pet owners want to engage with their dogs on screens when they are away, but are often disappointed when they are unable to gain or hold their dog's attention for a simple "I miss you!" Dogs may react to familiar faces and to attention-grabbing noises, but they also tend to have a fleeting attention span.

While your phone is ultimately probably too small of a screen for your pup to comprehend your face, studies show that some dogs can recognize images on television. Dogs portray excitement and interest in many ways. Does your pup have the zoomies as an image flashes on the screen? Is your dog alert and staring, entranced with what is being seen?

How your pup reacts to an image on TV may come down to personality or breed. Like people, dogs have different personalities. While one dog may be super excited to see your face or an image of a squirrel on the television, another may simply ignore it.

Body Language

It is possible that your dog may exhibit some signs of recognition. Here are some signs that something has caught your pup's eye:

  • Staring
  • Barking
  • Running
  • Ears Up

Other Signs

Your pup may also:

  • Check Out What Is Behind The Tv
  • Excitedly Run Around In Circles
  • Lose Focus Quickly

The History of Your Dog's Eyesight


While there isn't much history on this topic, dogs' eyesight was originally evolved for hunting. As descendants from wolves, this was essential to survival and enabled dogs to see the big picture before zeroing in on prey. Because of this, dogs have really good peripheral vision and are better at seeing movement from a distance rather than up close on a screen.

Screens are also a relatively new tool, and dogs still rely on instinct to interpret the world around them. For instance, a smell-less screen is a lot less interesting than the squirrel outside your kitchen window.

The Science Behind Dogs Seeing Images on Screens


Dogs perceive the world by smell - with about 220 million olfactory receptors in their nose. Compare that to the less significant 5 million in human noses! Therefore, a virtual presence may be hard for your dog to conceive because the smell of other objects is so overwhelming. And while your dog is likely able to recognize your image, a moving image makes things more complicated.

Science has proven that dogs are able to recognize their owners on a television screen, although they probably don't understand why. (Your face on a big screen is probably a bit bizarre since you were just seen leaving through the door!) You see, dogs have something called "dichromatic vision." This means that dogs see a range of two primary colors - yellow and blue (humans, on the other hand, have trichromatic vision, enabling us to see the full-color spectrum). 

Humans are able to look at a screen and perceive flickering images as continuous change - this is called flicker sensitivity. Dogs, on the other hand, perceive information at least 25% faster than us humans. This means that the flickering images we see are processed faster and could look strange to dogs.

Further, smaller screens like your iPhone, make it more difficult for your pup to understand because the screen is a lot smaller and the quality of the image is more compressed.

Training Your Dog to See on a Phone


Humans may be addicted to phones, but fortunately dogs are't there yet. If you want to try and connect with your pup over Skype or FaceTime when you are away, you can practice using good eye contact and face time when you are together. Repeat positive phrases in a positive tone so that your pup can recognize those sounds through the screen. Remember that positive reinforcement is key, so try using treats or toys so that your pup recognizes rewards with certain phrases and tones.

However, understand that dogs have short attention spans and connecting via Skype may not work out. But don't lose all hope! Research shows that dogs are more responsive to their human's voice than to a face on a tiny screen. Tone of voice and specific words are better for dog recognition. You can still call your pup and say "I love you" the good ol' fashioned way. 

If all else fails, spend plenty of time together when you are home to build a happy relationship with your pup, and your doggo will be excited to see you when you get home!

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By Olivia Gerth

Published: 03/02/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

Wag! Specialist
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