What Dimension Does a Dog See?

Dogs might be able to recognize what they see on TV, after all.
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Just like us, dogs see three-dimensional objects in our world. This includes people, other animals and inanimate objects with height, width and depth. Questions remain, however, about how well dogs can see television or other two-dimensional objects that lack depth. To understand why, we first need to look at how dogs see things differently than people.

Setting Their Sights

Retinas allow the eyes of both people and pets to take in light. To sort through the light, retinas have what are called rods and cones. Colors are seen through the cones. Rods allow for strong night vision and the ability to see motion. Not surprisingly, dogs have more rods in their retinas than humans. As a result, dogs see better at night and are better at sensing motion. On the other hand, dogs lack as many cones as we do, meaning they do not see colors in the same way and with the same amount of variation.

Dogs Watching Television

Many people wonder if dogs can really watch or understand the two-dimensional images found on television. With today's technology, dogs might be able to see the same things we do on TV. Part of this is due to the increased flicker rate for televisions. The flicker rate refers to the number of images projected on the screen per second. When set high enough, the flicker rate tricks the brain into seeing a film rather than just a blinking picture. Today’s televisions are capable of producing about 70 images per second, a rate that can allow dogs to perceive the images as a film. People, in contrast, are able to perceive a film on television at just 20 to 50 frames per second, according to Sciencenordic.com.

TV Just for Dogs

The notion of dogs not being able to watch television is becoming as outdated as the old, clunky televisions of years past. Some television stations have programming just for dogs. The content takes into account what dogs can see and hear as well as what interests them. Additionally, the programs are tailored to what dogs need. Programs featuring soothing images and sounds are used to calm anxious dogs. Other programs are have exciting images and sounds to keep dogs stimulated and alert.

Interpreting Images

Since dogs are keen at detecting movement, that might explain why they appear to watch television. A dog might jump off of the couch or bark when he sees another dog on TV, for example. One theory holds that dogs can see objects running around on TV, but they really do not understand them. It's simply the movement that is attracting their attention. Even so, the evidence suggests dogs can see both three-dimensional and two-dimensional objects. Other than that, only our dogs really know what they are thinking and seeing.