Do Dogs Watch TV?

By Diane Blankenburg

Horses racing over land in War Horse.  Lively birds strutting  across a glacier in March of the Penguins. Spotted pups playing with each other in 101 Dalmatians. Cats running to their food dish in a Purina commercial. What do these have in common? Yes, they all involve animals but they also are favorite viewings for my yellow lab Boomer on my 50-inch flat screen television.

There has been debate over the years on whether dogs can actually watch TV. We humans need about 20 images a second to perceive what we see as continuous film. Dogs have much sharper eyes than us and need 70 images per second. With modern TVs generating more frames per second, dogs can now perceive the pictures as film, just like we do.

According to Ernst Otto Ropstad, an associate professor at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, “They probably see the new TVs just as well as they see the world in general.” In the United States, hopeful producers have recently created special television channels just for dogs. A channel explicitly aimed at canine viewers launched in Israel earlier this year, following a successful launch here in the States.

For my Boomer, it doesn’t matter whether the screen animals are real or animated. It doesn’t matter if the storyline is dramatized or a documentary. It doesn’t matter what kind of animals, although horses are his favorite. He doesn’t just watch, moving his head with each action—he yelps and whines and jumps at the TV as if engaging in real-life activity. The degree of intensity depends on the type and level of the screen action—sometimes so relentless that I can no longer watch the movie.

In my home, this behavior is very dog specific to Boomer, as my other two labs are true couch potatoes and sleep through it all. Ropstad believes there are individual differences in dogs, even though science doesn’t have an answer yet to why this is so. One theory is that dogs’ hunting instincts take over and if they are more instinctive in the real world, then they will be more stimulated by the activities on the screen.

Cats have similar vision abilities to dogs. A friend shared that one of her cats, Cassidy, loved the opening to Star Trek that showed the Enterprise moving through space and her sister had a cat who loved to watch a particular weather man on a local TV station.

Even though my home is not a scientific research lab (no pun intended), there is no question in my mind that Boomer watches TV and understands what he is watching.

Events that Help Animals

Nevada Humane Society’s Blue Jeans Ball on November 16, 5:30 pm, at Atlantis Casino Resort to benefit homeless pets. Mayors Cashell and Martini honored. Festivities include formal dinner, dancing, silent and live auctions, raffles! Live entertainment by Nashville’s country superstars, Whiskey Dawn. More info and tickets available at www.bluejeansball.org.

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