A poll on the American Kennel Club’s website indicates that the majority of dog owners are convinced that their dogs watch TV. Click here to view the poll.
But when dogs watch TV, what are they actually seeing and what is their perception of the images that they see?
First, here is a little about how TV works. Very simply stated, TV viewers are actually watching a quickly changing series of flickering images. These images, or frames, are displayed at a specific rate called the refresh rate. Most TVs have a refresh rate of 60 HZ, which means that 60 frames per second are displayed on the TV screen. However, some newer TVs have refresh rates of 72 HZ and 120 HZ, which are 72 frames per second and 120 frames per second, respectively.
In order to be able to perceive these images as a steady, continuous moving picture for humans, the refresh rate needs to be at least 55 HZ, or 55 frames per second. However, since the dog’s eyes see at a faster rate, the refresh rate for dogs needs to be at least 75 HZ, or 75 frames per second. Therefore, when dogs watch TV with a 60 HZ or 72 HZ refresh rate, they see only a series of individual flickering images. When dogs watch TV with the higher refresh rate of 120 HZ, it is thought that they see a smooth, unbroken moving picture.
When humans watch TV, it is understood that the moving picture on the TV screen is actually a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional scene. When dogs watch TV, they may not have the ability to interpret this concept. This is evidenced by the fact that some dog owners report that their dogs look behind the TV when objects on the screen move out of view. In some cases, dogs even attack the TV. However, some dogs sit in front of the TV screen happily watching the moving picture with great interest, leading their owners to believe that dogs watch TV just as humans do, as a two dimensional depiction.
It is believed that when dogs watch TV they are not able to decipher actual items on the TV screen and that they are simply watching unknown moving objects. Many dog owners dispute this, stating that their dogs seem to recognize dogs, animals and other familiar items on the TV screen.
Unlike humans, the dog’s eyesight is not his most important sense. Dogs rely much more on their senses of hearing and smell. When dogs watch TV, it is the sounds coming from the TV that initially alerts them. Dogs are able to instantly locate exactly where these sounds are coming from. Dogs also hear sounds that humans cannot hear. Some dog owners believe that it is these sounds that continue to hold the dog’s attention on the TV screen and that in fact dogs are listening to TV more than they are watching it, especially during shows that feature animals. Some dogs will also smell the TV. Realizing that the scent of the TV does not match what they believe they are seeing and hearing, some dogs may become disinterested in the TV screen.
Whether dogs watch TV, listen to TV or just sniff the TV, many dogs owners believe that the TV provides a source of entertainment for their dogs while they are away.