Expert shares what your dog thinks watching TV – and if they recognise canines

Our dogs love to follow us around throughout the day, so they often end up lounging on the sofa in front of the television.

You may have noticed your pet tilt their head and bark at 101 Dalmatians, or watched their tail wag when a dancing dog appears on Britain’s Got Talent.

To help us understand why they do this, canine behaviourist Carolyn Menteith, from tails.com, shares everything you need to know about your dog and the TV – including if they recognise other pups.

Carolyn told The Mirror: “Dogs are very much like people – in that they are all different. Some will watch TV while others are totally disinterested.

“Unlike us, however, they aren’t interested in plots and storylines, just movements and sounds.

“Dogs see very differently from us. First of all, they register images faster than we do so unless you have the latest, top-of-the-range, high definition TV, anything on the screen is going to appear flickery to them and a bit like a very old black and white movie.

“Also they have a dichromatic vision which means they see a range of only two primary colours (blue and yellow) whereas we have a trichromatic vision so we see the full range of colours.

“What dogs can do far better than we can however see movement – and so for those breeds and types of dogs who have been bred to chase or react quickly to things that move, TV with all its erratic movement can be very exciting.

“For a dog who has been bred to use their nose to follow smells such as a scent hound however TV is going to be really dull because it doesn’t smell interesting.

“For other dogs, it’s the sounds that are interesting and not the sights – and so they can often react to dogs barking on the TV or other interesting noises such as doorbells, cats, or loud unexpected noises.”

Do dogs recognise other animals on screen?
“There is research to show that dogs recognise photographs of dogs so it is reasonable to assume they can do that when they look at the TV too,” Carolyn says.

“They most likely do know they are not real because dogs see on smell-o-vision as well as just with their eyes, and TV dogs don’t have a scent.

“They could of course think that they are real but they never come out of that tiny box.

“Some dogs will go round the back of the TV to check – after all, you can never be too sure!”

How long should you let your dog watch TV?
“Unlike us, dogs are very unlikely to sit for long periods of time and stare at the TV – because it isn’t that enthralling,” Carolyn says.

“They are more likely to react to certain movements or sounds and then look away again when there is nothing to hold their interest.

“There are of course programmes that have been made purely to appeal to dogs with higher frames per second, using the colours they can see well, and with lots of movement and sound (or lots of shots of calm dogs just hanging out with gentle music if relaxation is the goal).

“If however a dog is getting fixated or regularly becoming overly aroused by the sights and sounds of the TV, it’s best you avoid them watching it altogether.”