Dog owners have probably already caught their pooches watching television – but do these animals have favourite shows? A study from the United States looks into this question, and happily, its authors found that dogs do have a pronounced taste for certain types of images and videos.
They concluded that pet dogs enjoy images that show their fellow creatures and other animals, but don’t seem to care whether it’s an animal documentary or an animated cartoon like “The Lion King” or “The 101 Dalmatians”.
The findings by researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine were obtained after asking over 1,000 dog owners to answer a questionnaire about their four-legged friends’ television habits. They asked them to pay close attention to their pets’ reactions to the TV set, to note whether they showed any reactions that would suggest they were interested in what they were watching.
The scientists found that several factors influence a dog’s interest in television: for example, sporting and herding breeds seem to be more interested in any type of content, compared with other breeds. A canine’s age also plays a big part in its ability to enjoy the small screen, as does its level of visual acuity.
On the whole, dogs often have very short interactions with TV. Shows that appeal to them are those with action, while videos that drag on are unlikely to capture their attention, especially if they don’t feature animals.
Still, it is difficult to make generalisations based on these findings, published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, as what appeals to one dog may not necessarily appeal to another. It all depends on the animal’s personality and habits, as well as those of its owner: canines are very sensitive to their humans’ reactions, and will naturally tend to follow their gaze and copy their attitude.
Beyond the implications this study may have for pet lovers, it adds to our understanding of dogs’ visual abilities. The scientific community knows that canines perceive colours in a dichromatic fashion – that is, they mainly perceive shades of yellow and blue and combinations of those shades.
However, we still don’t know exactly how their sense of sight evolves over time, not to mention what precisely they see when they look at a screen.
“We know that poor vision negatively impacts quality of life in older people, but the effect of ageing and vision changes in dogs is largely unknown because we can’t accurately assess it,” study co-author Freya Mowat noted.
Researchers will need to carry out more work of this kind to better understand what dogs see – and more importantly, how they see it. “Like people, dogs are living longer and we want to make sure we support a healthier life for them as well,” Mowat concluded.