Can Poodles Watch TV? What Do They See?


If you are a dog owner, you probably notice all sorts of quirky things that your dog has done. It really can be amazing how closely dogs can resemble humans in their behavior. One of these behaviors involves dogs, such as poodles, watching TV.

What do poodles see when they watch TV? Dogs such as poodles actually can watch TV, but not in the same way that humans do. They see the colors differently, and their visual systems allow them to be more sensitive to observed movement.

If you see that your dog is watching TV with you, it’s easy to get quite the kick out of this.  We will show you what dogs see and what gets and keeps their attention.   

What Do Poodles See When They Watch TV?

When a dog watches TV, he doesn’t see the same thing that you see. Dogs have what is referred to as dichromatic vision, as opposed to the trichromatic vision that humans have.

Human beings see colors that are some combination of the three primary colors of light, which would be red, green, and blue. In contrast, Poodles only see a spectrum composed of combinations of yellow and blue light.

You might have heard of people referring to dogs as “colorblind” before. While many people would assume that this means they see in black and white, this is not the case. Instead of considering them colorblind, call it color-limited.  Poodles do see colors, except that for them everything is in shades of blue, green, gray, and yellow.

How a Poodles Vision is Advanced

However, there are some ways in which canine vision is more advanced than human vision. The brains of dogs process visual imagery much more quickly than human brains do. This means that when they are watching TV, they can keep up with higher frame rates than humans would be able to. Essentially, a dog’s eyes are more sensitive to different types of movement than the eyes of humans.

“Your dog would probably prefer HDTV to older versions TV because of the higher number of frames per second.

Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist

According to Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist, slightly older TV programs that appear to move with a nice flow to you will flicker like a 1920’s black and white movie in the eyes of your dog.

In fact, there are channels specifically made for dogs, such as DogTV, that specifically cater to the unique way that dogs see the images of the world. Programs that are created for dogs will broadcast using a dichromatic spectrum and high frame speeds. 

If you subscribe to DogTV, you’ll be able to choose from different programming modes. These include stimulation, relaxation, and exposure.  Each of these will likely have a different effect on your dog, allowing you to match the mode and what will be helpful at that time. However, for the majority of dogs, the television will eventually fade into the background anyway. They just don’t pay attention to it the same way you would.

A Little Bit More Detail on a poodles’ Visual Processes While Watching TV

There are a few ways other than the simple differences in color perception and sensitivity to movement, in which your dog sees the TV differently than you do.

Field of View

You may think of your poodle as your sweet baby, but the truth is that dogs are by nature predators descended from long lines of wolves. The field of view is the part of the animal’s surroundings that he’s able to see at the time.

Because dogs are predators, they have narrow fields of view, at a maximum of about 240 degrees. Animals that are considered prey in the wild have almost a 360-degree field of view, so that they can protect themselves.

What does this mean for how your dog watches TV? Well, because your dog has such a narrow field of view, he might be immediately drawn to the moving images on your screen. However, once he sees that nothing is going on that applies to him, your dog will soon lose interest.

Detecting Motion

As a human being, you have eyes that are much more sensitive to the movement of bright lights than your dog’s eyes. This sensitivity is because you have more cones in your eyes. The retina of your dog contains far fewer cones, meaning that a dog is much more sensitive to images that involve lower light.

The structure of your dog’s eyes means that he is more able than you are to notice a moving target. In fact, he’s more likely to notice a moving target that is far away than one that is very close to him. This is what causes a dog to pay attention to television.

Even if they don’t know exactly what’s happening on the screen, they can see that movement and action is taking place, which will arouse their curiosity and cause them to continue paying attention.

Depth Perception

Human beings can reason and compare experiences, which is why we are able to distinguish a three-dimensional view from a two-dimensional one. However, dogs simply experience depth sensation. Both of your dog’s eyes are working together in a state that referred to as fixation. In fixation, two different images, one produced by each eye, will come together to create what he sees overall.

When your dog watches television, he uses his depth sensation ability to realize that the objects that he sees on the screen aren’t actually in the same room with him. However, he’s still likely curious about what he sees and will fixate on the images on the screen for some time.

Do Poodles Enjoy Watching TV?

It’s hard to tell whether poodles enjoy watching TV. Even though studies have shown that dogs can engage mentally with certain things that they see on TV, scientists haven’t yet been able to conclude whether or not the dogs enjoy what they are watching.

When a person watches TV, he or she isn’t necessarily enjoying it. People will watch footage that evokes a wide range of emotions, not all positive ones. They will watch disturbing news stories, for example. At this time, it’s hard to tell what specific factors motivate dogs to keep their eyes on the TV; they may just be watching because they can’t look away, like a person who sees a car accident take place.

How Do Poodles Watch TV?

When you watch TV, you likely have your eyes glued to it for a while. You focus on what’s going on since you’re watching some sort of story take place, real or fictional. However, your dog doesn’t do the same thing when he’s watching TV.

Typically, when a poodle watches TV, he won’t focus on it for more than three seconds at a time. (source). Even when the TV show has been specifically designed for dogs, they won’t spend long gazing at the screen. For this reason, a TV show that is specifically made for dogs typically contains many short clips rather than long stories.

Additionally, poodles aren’t necessarily going to respond to a static image on TV. This is why he may not stare at a photograph of another dog. However, his brain does have circuits that will fire when he sees a galloping motion of another animal, particularly a dog, on TV.

According to Aaron McDonald, an applied canine cognitive behaviorist, your dog’s reaction to the television might have to do with the normal socialization process that he employs with other animals in real life.

Typically, when dogs come into contact with one another, they explore each other for about 90 seconds. When a dog watches TV, he may be attempting to do precisely this with the TV. If he is barking at the TV, he might be trying to see if the TV is going to respond to him in any way.

What Kinds of Things Attract a Poodles Attention to the TV?

If you’re wondering what kinds of things are more likely to make your poodle watch TV, the truth is that it depends on the dog and their personality and set of experiences. Also, there is some speculation that your dog is likely to follow your gaze. He’s also going to pay attention to your body language.  So what your dog pays attention to is might be influenced by what you tend to pay attention to.

However, overall, poodles have a definite preference for watching other dogs on TV. They can recognize the image of another dog on the television, and that is more likely to keep them tuned in than any other type of image.

Some studies show that it is sound, rather than images, that initially draw your dog towards the television. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist at Tufts University and the primary scientist being the DogTV channel, confirms that dogs are capable of perceiving both sounds and images that come from the TV.

They are more likely to be attracted to the sounds made by other dogs, such as barking and whining, than other sounds. However, they also seem to enjoy the sounds of people giving praise and other commands that sound pleasant to dogs, as well as the noises of squeaking toys that they would typically like to play within their own homes.

A 2013 study showed that the dogs were capable of visually recognizing images of other dogs, as well as humans and other animals on the TV. They can also recognize familiar sounds, such as barking.

How Do Poodles React to the TV?

As already mentioned, the way that a Poodle will react to what’s going on on TV will depend mainly on his individual personality. Some will curiously tilt their heads, while others will start barking and trying to pounce at the screen. If you watch a lot of TV, your dog may have been desensitized to the images and movement on the screen.

Generally speaking, Poodles don’t react to the TV the way that humans do. Humans will often sit still to watch their program of choice. In contrast, a Poodle will frequently go close to the screen to try to get a better look at the action. They might also walk repeatedly between you and the TV screen. You might not understand what they are doing, but they are just fidgeting and trying to interact with what’s going on on TV in the way that they can.

It’s also possible that the breed of the dog can play a role in how interested he is in what’s going on on TV. A hound is more driven by scent and will be less likely to care about moving pictures that don’t have any scent associated with them.

However, a herding dog might be more likely to be interested in what’s happening on TV, since they have been bred over generations to pay attention too subtle movements. Poodles are descended from herding dogs, so it makes sense that they would be one of the breeds that is more likely to be interested and intrigued by what’s going on on TV.

How Can I Use My Poodle’s TV Watching for His Own Good?

Believe it or not, there are ways in which staring at the TV screen can be useful for your dog. DogTV offers different modes, as we have already mentioned. If you choose the exposure mode, it can desensitize your dog to certain noises, so that he’ll no longer be scared.

For example, if your Poodle is scared of storms or the vacuum cleaner, watching and listening to the right TV program can help him get used to these noises and stop associating them with any kind of threat to his safety.

The relaxation part of the channel is there to calm your dog down. Some dogs have separation anxiety, and this can lead to destructive behaviors throughout your house. If you put the relaxation footage on the TV, your dog will be seeing videos that are likely to calm and soothe him.

The stimulation part of the channel will expose your dog to engaging sounds and moving images that come from other animals, including other dogs. These are good for preventing your dog from getting bored and will give him mental and physical stimulation that is good for him.

One thing you could do is put a camera in your home and leave the television on when you go somewhere. You can watch the video afterward to observe your dog’s behavior around the TV. You can also observe his behavior in response to certain sounds.

Whether he starts to look scared or starts barking incessantly, you will be able to observe his responses and act accordingly. Whether it’s behavior modification or simply some sort of desensitization that’s in order, you’ll be able to use this method to improve your dog’s quality of life.

What We Still Have to Learn About Poodles and TV

The truth is that there is still a lot more that we have to learn about how poodles watch TV, why they watch it, and exactly how they experience watching these moving images on a screen. What we know already is quite fascinating, but it doesn’t present the entire picture. It’s possible that parts of this topic will always be a mystery, since we may not ever be able to see inside a dog’s mind in any scenario.

Every animal processes information in a different way. While humans can be quite intrigued by these processes in different animals, it may never be possible to be able to fully comphrehend what a dog is thinking. There is only so much that we can tell from the body language of a poodle or other dog. While we can make reasonable deductions, it doesn’t paint the whole picture for us.

Many people, when they learn more about dogs, will realize that dogs are much smarter than humans tend to give them credit for. Poodles are a particularly smart breed of dog, which is why it is easy to wonder if some complex cognitive processes are going on when a poodle is watching TV.

When people are gathering information about how dogs watch TV, all they can really go on is what they are able to observe, in addition to the limited information that they know about dogs. They are able to observe the fact that dogs don’t stare at the screen the way that humans do, and they can make deductions about what dogs see based on what we know about their visual processes.

There is still a lot more research that needs to be done, but it’s clear that dogs can have quite a reaction to whatever they see on the TV. If you want proof of this, look at this example of a poodle watching a dog show.

Final Thoughts

No matter what, next time you see your poodle watching TV, it’s probably going to look different to you. Now that you have a better understanding of what your dog is actually experiencing, you can appreciate this phenomenon on a whole new level.

Brent Hartman

I'm Brent Hartman. I've been a dog lover my entire life and have owned many animals over the years. When my black lab Angus passed away, I was looking for another friend to share my life with. As a result of my research, I've come to love poodles and wanted to share some of what I've learned with you. Whether you're looking to adopt a poodle, or already own one, I created Poodle report to be the ultimate guide to help you find the answers you need.

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