Can your dog see what’s on TV?

Most people’s answer would be ‘No, dogs can’t see 2D’ or ‘They can’t see what’s on the screen because it’s flat’ or possibly ‘No, dogs can’t see colour’

Having two dogs who react very differently to watching TV: Kai who reacts to animals on the TV (he even reacts when the TV is on mute so I know it’s not the noises!) and Keira who has no time for TV at all. I decided to do some research to get some answers…

The answer I found wasn’t what I was expecting! Funnily enough it’s not a question of whether they can see what’s on the TV but why they choose to ignore it…basically their eyesight is too good! To explain this we’re going to have to get a bit scientific; it is all to do with something called flicker fusion threshold (more commonly termed ‘flicker rate’)

Flicker rate is the speed at which a light pulses. For example with a TV the flicker rate is the speed the image on the screen is replaced by the next Another example is a fluorescent light. Although it seems to be glowing continuously it is actually flashing at a rate of 120 times per second (120Hz) but that is too fast for our eyes to see so we just see it as permanently on.

For us humans to be able to see the light flicker it would have to be slowed to around 55 times per second (55Hz). Dogs however are much better at detecting movement than we are so their eyes detect the flicker much easier and it only needs to be slowed down to around 75Hz. (That’s nearly 50% faster than us!)

Now here is the important part: average TV screens flicker at about 60Hz. As this is faster 636298than the average human’s detectability it means that to us the images blend smoothly together and appear as one continuous movement.

However, as 60Hz is still below the dog’s detectability the television image no longer appears continuous, rather: image, black, image, black, image… making the movement on screen much less realistic and therefore not really worthy of attention.

It would be the equivalent of us trying to watch our favourite movie on a flipchart…very tedious after a while!

Now I had found out why Keira paid no attention to the TV, but that still left the question: why did Kai watch TV?

The next answer was HDTV. With the development of technology HDTVs have been created that have a flicker rate of 120Hz+, the increased flicker rate that is now above the dog’s detectability means that the images on the screen appear as one fluid movement.

636297Therefore the screen is much more realistic and the animals on it much more lifelike.

This is probably what has resulted in many more dogs paying attention to the TV. In the United States there is already a TV channel ‘Dog TV’ which is specifically designed for canine viewers and online there are a series of programmes and movies you can purchase for dogs. I haven’t tried any on my two yet but think I should!

The next problem/question I then had was if Kai could see the images on the TV that meant Keira could too…but she was ignoring it. It started to feel like I was going round in circles! After thinking on it a while I came to the conclusion that Keira has learnt to ignore it.

She is 9 years old so when she was younger we didn’t have a HDTV (hey, the TV probably wasn’t even flat screen!) so she never paid any attention to it, so why would she start now?

Whereas Kai being the young’un he is has grown up with HDTV and the ability to see the images so he has learnt to watch it.

Although he does seem to think the TV is some sort of window and when he sees something interesting he will run outside to check that’s its not behind the TV in the garden…especially bears…bears are not allowed in his garden!

Do your dogs at home watch TV? Any particular programme their favourite? Although Keira refuses to watch TV both her and I made our TV debut at the beginning of March. If you haven’t seen it you can watch it here..



(With help from Keira & Kai)

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