Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Digital TV: Better Viewing for Dogs?

By Lexiann Grant

Do dogs watch television? If so, can they really see images on the screen? And, do they enjoy it? If they don’t now, HDTV, or the June 13th, 2009, switch to digital signal might turn more dogs into regular viewers. Move over Nielsen!

Although a dog's eye is somewhat similar to a human's, canine vision is quite different. Dogs see in dim light and detect motion better than people. According to Dr. Mike Richards, DVM, and host of, dogs also see flickering light better, which may cause them to view "television as a series of moving frames rather than as a continuous scene."

Dogs do see something when they look at television, but what they perceive is – and probably shall always remain -- a mystery. "There is little doubt that dogs see the images. The real question is how they process the information and what it means to them," said Dr. Ned Buyukmihci, VMD, a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Owners say their dogs watch other dogs, wolves or animals like horses, large cats, birds and deer on television, often running behind the TV set to see if the animals are back there. Some people note that their dogs like shows with "lots of motion," such as westerns and sports. Other people say their dogs dislike commercials or talk shows, responding to these broadcasts by growling, and even head-butting or biting the screen.

How shows are broadcast also makes a difference to canine viewers. HDTV, which has higher-resolution pictures and clearer images linked with smoother motion, should be more easily seen by dogs. "HDTV could enhance dogs' viewing pleasure," said Paul Noble, co-author of 277 Secrets Your Dog Wants You To Know."

Dr. Susan McLaughlin, DVM, a veterinary ophthalmologist at Purdue University, said her own dog "responds noticeably" to other animals on television. “I don’t think dogs look at TV all that differently than looking out a window at the world,” she explained, “It's my observation that dogs act like they can see TV, but not everything interests them -- they are rather discerning viewers."

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

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