Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Does Your Dog Watch Television?

By Suzanne Alicie

Have you ever looked at your dog and thought he was watching television? Better yet, have you had music playing and thought for sure that he was listening intently while his tail wagged in time to the beat? Well, you may not be far off base with that thought, but Rover is probably paying attention to the visual and auditory stimulation in a way that is different than the way a human watches TV and listens to music.

Dogs have eyesight that is different from that of humans, so when your dog appears to be watching television, he isn’t exactly seeing the action and the story unfold, but he is seeing the flickering light and hearing the sounds. You’ve probably seen your dog get excited when a dog barks on the television, or whine when there is a high pitched sound. 

Many responsible pet owners who have to leave their dog home alone will leave a television on to provide the dog with “entertainment.” Whether the dog is entertained or not, the television provides the lights and sounds that he is used to when his owners are at home. This may keep the dog from becoming anxious or acting out when he is left alone for a few hours. 

Music doesn’t provide any visual stimulation for your dog, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel the beat or get invigorated by the tempo. Dogs also hear differently than humans and can’t decipher the individual notes and instruments in music. Depending on the pitch, music can also agitate your dog. 

As a dog owner, I have watched my dog while she watches television. While I write she will curl up and watch the TV that I keep on for background noise. Many times she will fall asleep lulled into relaxation by the normal noise and light activity. However, if one of the community warning tests comes on with a high pitched alert sound, she will whine and run under the bed. Some dogs are more sensitive than others and respond more predictably to the sounds of television and music.

Around my house music is not something that our dog enjoys; she doesn’t seem to pay any attention to it other than if there is a high pitched level or a lot of bass. Either of those types of music will send her running. There are some dogs, though, that seem to really enjoy music and react to the beat. Some people actually devote a great deal of time to working with their dogs and music; the sport of Musical Canine Freestyle is quite popular in the United States, Canada, Japan and many other countries.

Each and every dog is unique, and will have his own reaction to visual or auditory stimulation. Play some music or watch television with your dog and see how he reacts. You may be surprised at the sounds and action that get his attention. If you have a dog who gets anxious when you have to leave, consider leaving a television on to provide him with some comforting, everyday sounds and movement that may help him stay calm.

If your dog seems to enjoy watching television, you might want to get him one of the many Pet Sitter DVDs that are available. The Pet Sitter videos are designed to stimulate and entertain pets while the humans are away from home. They have both Cat Sitter DVDs and Dog Sitter DVDs, each with different sights and scenes that play in a continuous loop for all-day entertainment.

Part of being a responsible pet owner is understanding that some things will stimulate, calm, excite or otherwise elicit a response from your pet. This can lead to fun activities if your dog reacts positively to music, or provide a solution to anxiety if the television or music calms and soothes your dog.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie


  1. One of my cats loves watching TV. She'll sit on the arm of the couch or chair and is entertained more than I am with some programs. When she's really interested, she'll sit right in front of the TV on the floor.

  2. I know this is an old post, but I just have to say that my 5 month old Golden definitely watches. He loves The Littlest Hobo and will pay attention closely to the whole show, ignoring the commercials. He will even come running if he hears the theme song. If there is danger, and the Hobo is in peril, he sits up and relaxes only after it seems all is okay. Very strange.
    He has reacted to the Westminster dog show, too, but TLH is his fav.

  3. My dog Loki is black lab / redbone hound mix. She can see what is on the screen, growling at only cats or dogs even on mute. Furthermore she can even recognize abstract cartoons of cats and dogs on mute. Pretty smart... plus I've read that long-nosed hunting dogs have an eye structure more similar to humans' eyes.


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