Have you ever been cuddled on the couch with your dog and noticed him fixate on something on the TV? Maybe it’s another dog, a bird, or some other animal, or just some action taking place in your favourite TV show or movie. It sure looks like your pup is watching TV, but is it your imagination? We know that dogs experience colour and light differently than humans do, so their eyes don’t see things the same way. So, do dogs watch TV? It’s one of those questions about weird dog behaviour that pet lovers are always curious about, so we asked pet experts to weigh in.
Do dogs watch TV?
The answer is basically a yes. Dr Cherice Roth, Chief Veterinary Officer with the pet health care company Fuzzy, confirms that your pup’s apparent TV-watching habits are indeed the real thing. “Some dogs do watch TV!” says Dr Roth, adding that dogs can actually become engrossed by what’s on the tube. “Much like with humans, [a dog’s interest will vary] based on their attention span and attention to motion.” Plus, depending on how high the volume is, they’ll also react to sounds on the TV – especially anything that sounds like their favourite squeaky dog toy – and may be fixated on that as much as the action on the screen.
Is it OK for dogs to watch TV?
Just because dogs can watch TV, does it mean they should? Dr Albert Ahn, a veterinary advisor with Myos Pet, offers a qualified yes. “Many owners leave the television on to provide their dogs with a distraction while they leave for work or run errands,” he says, adding that TV can be a helpful tool to help reduce feelings of mild separation anxiety.
However, Dr Ahn cautions that TV should not be used as a replacement for real owner-pet interaction. “Dogs are social animals,” he explains, “and they need interactions with their pet parents, as well as appropriate amounts of daily exercise.” So unlike your moody teen, who may be more interested in a smartphone than in your company, your dog always wants to hang out with you, whether that means going for a walk, playing a game of fetch, or just chilling on the couch at your side.
Dr Roth highlights another potential issue: Some commercials or programming may emit sounds that are distressing to dogs. Typically, bothersome noises for dogs include explosions, gunshots, sirens and crying, and TV sounds that are loud to us are even louder for dogs, thanks to their more sensitive ears – and sounds that are barely perceptible to us might really bother them. So if you’re leaving the TV on when you’re not at home, it’s a good idea to keep the volume low.