Can My Dog Learn From Watching TV?

Vintage tv against a wall

Dogs rely heavily on humans for companionship, and because of this, they closely observe and often emulate the behaviors and actions of their humans. Emotions between owner and dog can often be very similar and our connection can be strong because of the bond built between both parties.

If dogs can imitate and learn from their owners, can they do the same with television shows?

Dogs do have the ability to watch and learn from viewing a television show. Just like humans, dogs find great entertainment and enjoyment from watching things on TV. If your dog watches television often, they will begin to display emotions and behaviors they have seen on the screen.

Just as human watch certain programs or movies for entertainment, dogs can also learn to enjoy watching TV and feel specific feelings while watching certain shows and movies.

Pretty cool right? Keep reading. It gets even better.

Disclaimer: The Can My Dog articles contain information based on the individual research and opinions of the author of the site – who just so happens to be a dog. How you utilize the information given is completely up to you. Proceed at your own risk.

What Your Dog Can Learn From Watching TV

Dogs do have the ability to watch and learn by watching TV. However, studies have shown that we still require a reward in “real life” for our obedience to be at its highest level.

The Department of Ethnology at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary, conducted a study to show whether dogs responded and learned from watching videos on a television.

Here’s a Summary of the Experiment and Its Results:

  • Experiment: A group of dogs were brought in with their owners.
    • The first step was for the owners to name off easy commands that the dogs already knew to demonstrate that they understood commands and obeyed.
    • Second, the owners left the room, and a video was projected on the wall with a visual image of the same commands along with a verbal introduction of the command.
    • Lastly, the visual image was taken away, and only an audible projection of the dog’s owner asking the command was displayed for each dog.
  • Results: The results showed that the dogs performed best when their owner was present and their obedience went downhill throughout the second and third steps.
    • Note: The second step did have some success, which shows that dogs can watch a video and obey the command, but they prefer to be directly in front of the person giving the command. (Source: Psychology Today )

Though dogs can interpret images and understand what they see based on what they already know, it is still not a certainty that they will learn and display new skills simply through watching a video.

Dogs are very hands-on and need physical reward and affection from their humans when learning new skills.

This study showed that dogs could respond and even learn from the TV; however, they have less interest in interacting with a screen than with a human being who can offer physical activity, affection, and rewards.

Listen humans, we strongly rely on rewards to promote obedience and we love to learn from you.

Does My Dog Think That Things On the TV Are Real?

Images that show up on TV reset 60 times each second, which looks like one continuous image to the human eye. Dogs process the television screen a little differently; therefore, the images do not appear to be as “real” as they might seem to the human eye.

A dog’s eye can detect flickering lights at a rate of almost 70 times per second. As a result, it is not likely that dogs understand everything they see on TV to be “real life” happenings. Even though dogs can recognize objects, other animals, and people on the television screen, the images are jumpier and flashier to their eyes than they are to yours.

This heighted level of optometric capabilities is just one of the many super powers your dog has. Here’s a list of 7 of them.

Here are some factors that determine whether a dog will watch TV

  • Vision ability
  • Color-seeing ability
  • Relationship to human
  • Interaction between our human and the TV
  • Overall mood and personality of the dog (attention span)

Every dog is different. Just like humans have different hobbies and learning methods, dogs also have unique preferences and differences that make them function and behave differently.

Thus, research can often be subjective, but that is why studies are conducted using many different subjects to create a more even playing field for the results. (Source: The Nest)

Are Dogs Color Blind?

A popular myth about dogs is that they are all completely color blind. This is not true; in fact, we can see several colors. The only difference is that we see less vibrant colors than the human eye sees.

Humans have three different cone-shaped angles in their eyes, which allow them to see a wide variety of colors. Dogs only have two of these cones, which lessens their ability to see different and vibrant colors.

Colors that us pups can see:

  • Blue
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Green

Dogs can see blue the best, and reds, greens, and yellows often blend in their sight. Therefore, you may notice your dog gravitating toward blue toys and objects more often.

Dogs are more likely to learn from television when audible commands are involved because of the lack of color and understanding that they have, as well as the lack of reward. (Source: AKC)

Should I Leave the TV On When I Leave My Dog At Home?

To dogs, our humans are the absolute best source of play, entertainment, love, and affection. However, when you must leave your pup at home, you can leave the TV on for them.

They will not sit on the couch and thoughtfully catch up on all of their favorite TV shows. However, the noise and distraction coming from the images on the screen may serve as a minute form of entertainment.

Dogs can grow uneasy with silence in an empty house. The TV can serve as ambient noise, if not a little bit of entertainment for your dog.

The last thing you want is a bored dog – home alone…

How do you know if your dog is bored?

Reasons for leaving the TV on for your dog when you leave:

  • Distraction: When you must hurry out of the house each morning for work, your dog often senses the anxiety you feel, and they, too, will mirror those feelings. Turning the TV on can help prevent your dog from becoming anxious as you get ready for work.
  • Entertainment: Dogs find entertainment in watching TV at times, so it is completely understandable to want to leave the TV on for your dog.
  • Ambient Noise: Leaving a tv on in your house can hide intrusive outside noises, like the UPS truck or another dog barking outside, and is a great reason to leave the TV on for your dog.

As much as most humans would like to, it isn’t possible to stay at home with us 100% of the time. Thus, humans often feel guilty for leaving the house because they cannot articulate to their dog why they must leave and when they will return home.

Leaving the television on for your dog when you leave home is a wonderful solution for a situation that cannot be helped in the first place. (Source: Quartz)

Final Thoughts

Yeah, sure, dogs can view and understand what they are watching on TV to a certain extent. However, their eyesight differs from human eyesight, and the images on the screen do not appear as real to them as they do to you.

Dogs do have the capability to learn from watching TV. However, it is not the best form of education when trying to train a dog. Coupling the TV and yourself to train your canine is an excellent way to use both resources simultaneously to benefit your dog’s education.

You are the ultimate source of your dog’s training, love, reward system, and affection! Be careful not to use the TV in place of the typical exercise and playtime with us because we thrive on those things most of all.

And as always, my delightful humans, continue to Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies often!

Love you guys,


P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.

This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.

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