Do dogs like to watch TV?
Would Your Dog Enjoy Dog TV?
Some dog parents swear by Dog TV, saying it keeps their dogs calmer and less destructive. However, it’s not for every dog.
Published: January 29, 2021 Updated: February 12, 2021
The last time a barking dog came onscreen during family movie night, did your dog perk up? Most of us have seen our dogs respond to something on TV. Maybe they stare intently at the screen for a bit or even jump up and bark. But these days, rather than waiting for the random moment to interest their pup, owners can actively seek out programming designed specifically for dogs. Some swear by it, saying it keeps their dogs calmer and less destructive. However, it’s not for every dog.
The high end of doggy viewing is “Dog TV,” a subscription service offering a library of options—from relaxing to stimulating—available 24/7. A selling point is the adjusted color and sound to suit the dogs perfectly, making it, in theory, more engaging for them. (The color looks a bit “off” to humans, as a result.) Owners can opt to show their dogs anything from a peaceful beach scene where one dog ambles along next to the surf to an active scene where many dogs are running around having a ball together.
Other dog-oriented options on the market include dog DVDs or YouTube, filled with content for dogs. However, many folks note that their dogs enjoy “regular” TV just as much. With higher voices and plenty of motion, kids’ shows seem to be a particular favorite with many dogs. Soccer games, horse races and even fishing shows also have their canine fans!
While it’s great that some dogs can enjoy screen time, there is a reason for caution. Each dog will react differently, and it’s essential to be thoughtful before leaving a dog alone with that TV on. While some owners find that the relaxation scenes on doggy TV calm their anxious dogs, others say much of the content is wildly overstimulating and often frustrating. Remember, if your dog practices barking wildly at dogs onscreen, you might expect more of that behavior in real life.
One of the best uses for dog TV can be to get your dog used to otherwise foreign sights and sounds—at a nice, non-threatening volume and distance. For example, if you’ve got a puppy but can’t get out and about to socialize him or her properly at the moment, you can carefully expose the pup to new things (the big city! a firetruck! a chicken!) in the comfort of your own home. Add treats to cement the positive feeling.
If you want to check out doggy TV, here’s the best approach: Sit with your dog as you watch together. Start with the relaxing scenes that show a dog from far away, and perhaps a bird, while lovely spa-like music plays. Does it seem to engage your pup without adding stress and intensity? Then that may be a great thing to add to your life together.
Featured Image: damedeeso/Getty Images
Do Dogs and Cats Enjoy TV?
With the recent changes to television and the switch to digital TV, pets are now able to ‘see’ TV much better. But do they actually enjoy it?
Does TV Flicker to Our Pets?
Dogs and cats have very different vision compared to us. The older style television was simply a series of images flashing up on the screen, which to our slow human eyes looked continuous. Dogs and cats have a faster flicker rate. Their brains pick up more images from their retina per second, so TV would have appeared as a series of flashing images. That has now changed with digital television.
How Do Pets See?
Dogs and cats don’t see vibrant colors but see movement more accurately than we do. Cats, in particular, are adapted to low light situations, so they can hunt in near darkness. Dogs are essentially similar to humans that are red-green color-blind. Cats are less optimized for the red end of the color spectrum but can differentiate between red and green. So the bright colors of our favorite TV shows are probably lost on them.
Cats and dogs are also far-sighted, so close-up images appear somewhat fuzzy and in fact even with distant things they are easier to see if moving. So a dog can identify his owner if moving at 900 meters, but only 500 meters if stationary. Cats rely heavily on their sensitive whiskers for close-up viewing.
Our pets have more sensitive hearing compared to ours, so they can hear higher frequencies and sounds that are much softer than we can detect. Bearing this in mind, sometimes they may show signs of distress and we wonder why. It could be that their sensitive ears are picking up something we can’t detect.
The main difference when pets do watch TV is that they don’t bring the same perspective as humans to the viewing. They have different depth perception and they cannot tell that the very small dog in the distance on the TV screen is in fact still a dog. They rely more on their hearing, smell and vision, and in the case of cats their whiskers to give them information about their world. They are simply not as visual as humans and their interests and experiences are vastly different from ours.
There is a whole station in the US dedicated to dogs and plans on the backburner for cat TV also. Dog TV has a series of short shows geared towards a shorter attention span with images geared towards what dogs can see and their interests. They have 3 categories of viewing: relaxation, stimulation and exposure, all with different types of ‘shows’. The exposure channel is specifically designed to give dogs an experience of different stimuli, which if it works could be useful for puppy socialization.
So the jury is out on whether dogs and cats really enjoy TV. Certainly, they don’t see TV in the same way that humans do and perhaps might find certain things grating to their sensitive ears. However, there are many pet owners who report their dogs and cats do have favorite shows and perhaps even respond to animals on the TV. Many pets also learn that when the TV is on, everyone is relaxed and will learn to come and join the family on the couch for some pats.
TV Shows Designed for Dogs
Stay-at-home dogs around the world are being entertained by television programming designed especially to appeal to canines. The idea for TV programming for pets came to co-founder Ron Levi back in 2007.
Ron learned that for years people have been leaving on TVs for their pets (57 percent in the US!) and that it’s recommended by organizations like the Humane Society and ASPCA. «So the idea was,» Ron shares, «what if we created a channel in which all programs were designed specifically for dogs and the way they perceive the world?»
Fast-forward 10 years and DOGTV is now available in more than 250-million households across the globe. The channel offers three kinds of programming especially for stay-at-home dogs: Relaxation, which is content that is designed to relax your dog, reduce stress levels, and keep your dog calm with soothing music, sounds, and visuals; Stimulation, which is content that includes active camera movements, animations, moving objects, and lots of dogs to encourage your dog’s playfulness when home alone; and Exposure, which is science-based programming involving special sounds and visuals to desensitize dogs to stimuli and situations that dogs are often afraid of, such as fireworks, thunder storms or doorbells. We asked Ron some questions about programming for dogs.
How do you create a show to appeal to dogs? What are the differences from regular for-people TV?
Although we know that many pets watch regular TV, like National Geographic or other channels, these channels weren’t designed for pets—they were designed for people. Dogs won’t enjoy hearing people talking, or loud commercial breaks, or seeing scary crocodiles, or news reports.
DOGTV’s content is 100 percent designed for dogs, with no scary elements, no commercials, no visuals that they won’t enjoy seeing. It’s 100 percent tailor-made for dogs. For example:
- Dogs see the world in different colours than we do. They only have two colour receptors, so they don’t see red or green. They see mainly blue, yellow, black, white, and shades of grey. DOGTV colours the content and does colour separation, putting emphasis on certain colours to help the dog see the visual image better.
- The content is shot in a way that will help the dog relate to the visual content cinematographers are filming from a dog’s point of view (they are on their knees); they shoot many times from a dog’s point of view, including installing a GoPro cam on the dog; they are taking in account backgrounds and locations, so the dog will see the image better; the objects are larger, due to the dog’s poor visual acuity; and so forth. The magic is mainly happening in the editing room, with the right colouring and editing, sound design, and music that was designed for dogs.
What visual, emotional, and auditory content do dogs find appealing?
Dogs love seeing other dogs and other animals on screen. We learned that from an Oxford University study and from our seven-plus years experience with this channel. We film lots of dogs running around, playing, fetching, swimming, sniffing, and having a good time. As dogs are very sensitive to motion, we love showing dogs rapidly moving objects and animations on the channel, as well as kids playing and adults running with their dogs. DOGTV’s soundtrack includes a rich sound design’so the home alone dog can identify and taste the outside world although he’s at home—as well as positive affirmations (kids saying «good dog,» «don’t be afraid,» and more), as well as sound frequencies (healing tones to relax dogs) and relaxing music—psychoacoustic music to help dogs feel more calm and relaxed. In our study, 72 percent of dogs felt very sleepy and relaxed by this soothing music.
How did you determine what content dogs like? Did you have a test group of dogs to gauge their response?
After we studied dogs for three years (2009-2012), we created the first content and tested it on dogs. We wanted to see what they react to the most, what they enjoy the most. It wasn’t enough for us to learn from others’ work. With top pet experts on board, like Professor Nicholas Dodman, we wanted to do our own research and learn from our own observations.
Thus, Professor Dodman and his team at Tufts University have conducted large-scale research in which 38 dogs were monitored in apartments in L.A. and New York for six hours, home alone and filmed by five security cameras, with DOGTV on as well as other channels like CNN, Animal Planet, and no TV. We learned a lot from this research and observation. Dogs react most to content that was designed for them: dogs do relax with the right music, sounds, and visuals; dogs don’t enjoy cats, loud noises, barking sounds, and so on. We’re still learning a lot from viewing thousands of videos of dogs watching DOGTV on YouTube and Instagram—it’s great to learn what dogs react to the most!
Do all dogs enjoy DOGTV?
From our study we now know that dogs show much more interest in DOGTV than in regular TV. Having said that, not all dogs are the same, and not all dogs react the same to visual content on TV. We saw some dogs who weren’t too happy with seeing other dogs in «their house» on TV, and thus we do not recommend DOGTV to dogs who will bark all day or get irritated by the channel. The majority of dogs we saw, however, were happy and more relaxed by the channel.
What is the «Noise Phobia» program?
Many dogs suffer from various anxieties from different kinds of stimuli. Dogs can get terrified by an ambulance passing by, or construction works, or a vacuum cleaner. Our Noise Phobia programs are a great opportunity for a dog to get exposed to these sounds but in a positive and safe way, with soft music, positive affirmations («Don’t worry, dog, it’s just a vacuum cleaner.»), and relaxing sounds. We believe that a dog who is exposed to these sounds in a positive way will learn to be less stressed and more confident over time (as shown in a study on sound and dogs from Bristol University). Also, DOGTV’s sound and music can mask the outside noises for the dog, which is another advantage of leaving on TV or radio.
How long do most dogs stay interested for? How long is the average program?
Dogs have a very short attention span, which is why DOGTV’s programs are two to five minutes long. [A series of videos within a category, say Relaxation, play for an hour before switching to a new category type.] We’re trying to create the best tool to enrich their environment when home alone, so a dog can positively benefit from DOGTV even if he’s passively watching or listening to the sound. We’re also hearing feedback from people who subscribed for themselves or for their cats. One even subscribed for her parrot to watch!
Anything you’d like to add?
We’re working hard to offer DOGTV to every home-alone dog around the globe. Even if we’re not yet available with your cable provider, you can always check us out online at dogtv.com or on your favourite connected device with our digital DOGTV channel.
DOGTV is currently available on DIRECTV, DISH, Comcast Xfinity, Cox and RCN. The channel is also available to streat on Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon FireTV, Roku, and as an iOS and Android app.