There are a whole range of funny videos on the internet of dogs apparently watching TV and paying attention to what is going on on the screen-such as if they are watching a tennis ball, following a face, or responding to the sight of another dog barking!
Some people too like to leave the TV (or radio) on for their dogs when they are out, to provide some reassuring background noise in order to soothe dogs that may become fretful when they are first left alone, or to provide a substitute for company.
However, while many dog owners will tell you that their dogs will actively watch TV and/or will not settle down without it, something else that naturally occurs to many people with TV-loving dogs is whether or not they really know what is going on on the screen, and if dogs engage with the shows they are watching.
For instance, can they recognise the sight or sound of their favourite actor, and do they get nervous, tense or scared when watching a horror film or a thriller? In this article, we will attempt to answer these questions, and determine what is actually going on when a dog is watching TV or apparently reacting to the screen. Read on to learn more.
If you have ever brought a puppy home from a breeder that didn’t watch TV or adopted an adult dog who was not used to the concept, you will probably have observed some funny reactions from your dog the first couple of times you turned the TV on.
At first, many dogs are surprised by the sound of voices and other things coming from an unknown source, and of course, movement on the screen may catch their eyes, particularly if it is repetitive (such as if you are playing a computer game) or very clear, such as if it is the only thing moving on the screen.
However, dogs generally get used to the TV very quickly and while we can never be sure what it is they are making of the sounds and movements coming from the box, they certainly seem to take it in their strides.
Dogs do not have the same range of colour vision as we do, seeing in a range of blue and yellow hues, and so other colours on the screen will tend to blend and become indistinct. If your dog seems to be watching something particularly closely, is there a lot of blue and yellow on screen? This may explain it!
Additionally, dogs are better at spotting movement than still objects, and so gaming and watching sports may well seem to be your dog’s favourite pastimes when it comes to watching the box.
In terms of the sounds that come from the TV, this is often what will confuse your dog the most when they are new to the concept, and you might spot them stalking around to the back of your device to see where the people are hiding! However, as mentioned, they tend to get to grips with this and accept it as normal very quickly.
When the sound from the TV is largely comprised of music and voices, your dog will probably write this off as background noise, unless something in particular gets their attention! However, if something on the TV stands out for them (this will commonly be another dog barking) they might well perk up a little and show an interest, or bark back!
Additionally, it is entirely possible that your dog might have a favourite actor if they like the sound of someone’s voice-either because they find it soothing, funny, or because it reminds them of something or someone. If this is the case, your dog may well react to the tone and nuance of the actor’s voice, and respond accordingly when they act out different activities. However, this is largely based on the audio input, and not watching the screen itself.
There are some noises that dogs find strange, unnerving or funny-often, the sounds of specific music notes or instruments, sound effects and so on. This may be because dogs don’t hear such sounds very often, and/or because they fall partially within the sound register that only dogs can hear.
Horror movies and thrillers use a wide variety of different plot devices to get the audience invested in what is going on on the screen, and keep viewers engaged and at the edge of their seats!
The music or sound effects are a hugely integral part of this, and tense situations, fearful events and horror will generally be accompanied by suitable music that may be dramatic, off-kilter, or otherwise slightly unsettling to listen to.
Spikes in the music, bangs, shocks and so on are all designed to get the audience on the edge of their seats-and some dogs will feel the same way! Again, bear in mind the types of sounds that may be higher up the register and so, sound different to your dog.
Also, dogs that tend to dislike loud noises, bangs and so on in real life-such as those that are scared of fireworks-are also more likely to react to similar stimulus on the screen.
If you are watching a horror film or something else suspenseful with your dog in the room, your dog may ignore it altogether, or go one of two ways… They might take the opportunity to snuffle up all of the popcorn that is jumping out of your bowl, or they may tuck their tail between their legs and hide under the blanket alongside of you!
Your dog will of course pick up your mood, responses and mental state when you are in close quarters, as well as smelling the changes in body chemistry that accompanies this-and so the chances are, your dog is just catching your mood!