Do Dogs See the TV the Same as Humans?

Max is more interested in spending time with you than catching your favorite show.
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Watching the tube is one of America's favorite past times. Dogs are man's best friend. But your best friend doesn't seem to care about your favorite pastime. It's often said that dog's can't see the TV at all, but that isn't entirely true. Some newer TVs may allow Max to see an image, but he'll never find your favorite sitcom as fascinating as you do.

Moving Pictures

If you've ever made a flip book by drawing stick figures on the corner of each note in a sticky note pad, then you understand the basics of how your TV works. While watching your favorite movie or TV show appears to be a seamless display of recorded movement, it's actually a display of several “frames” or still images run in quick succession to appear like they're moving. When you watch film on TV, these frames refresh at a rate of 60 Hz, or 60 cycles per second to match your TVs refresh rate. Some TVs can refresh at a higher rate, up 600 Hz. While these sounds fancy, it actually won't make the picture any better for you, but it might for Max.

Flicker Sensitivity

If the TV didn't play the frames quickly enough, we would be able to see the individual frames and catch on to the TV's trick. As long as it cycles faster than 55 Hz, you won't be able to detect the individual frames. Humans aren't as sensitive to small movements as dogs are. Max would need the TV to refresh at least 75 Hz for it to appear like a moving image to him, rather than a strobe of images. This is good if he's chasing small critters in your yard, but not so great if you want him to watch your favorite show with you.

Color Vision

Even if you have a TV Max can see, he's never going to see it the same way as you. This is because he simply can't see as many colors as you. While Max doesn't see in black and white, he would be considered color-blind if he were human. You and Max perceive color be cause of light sensitive cells called cones in your eyes. Each cone is tuned to different wavelengths. Since you have three different cones, you can a wide rainbow of colors. Since Max only has two, similar to color-blindness in humans, he can't see the same range of colors. He sees the rainbow in shades of yellow, brown, gray and blue and can't perceive colors like red or orange the same way as you.

TV For Dogs

Since the advent of higher refreshing frame rates on TVs, there are some TV programs designed for dogs. There's even an entire cable channel designed exclusively for the bored dog left at home. This may sound great if Max suffers from separation anxiety. However, Max is only going to be able to make out that bouncing ball on the screen if you've invested in a really high-dollar TV. If you haven't, you'll basically be putting Max in front of a strobe light, which he won't enjoy. If Max gets lonely when you're away, training or perhaps a buddy is the better way to go. While he may not enjoy watching his own program, he'll likely still enjoy snuggling in your lap while you watch your favorite show.