Monday, July 7, 2014

Do dogs see what's on a computer or television screen the same way that humans do? An expert clarifies

A few months ago I was chatting with a client about one of their dogs, and they noted that their furry friend seemed to be fascinated by what was on the computer screen.

"I wonder what Woody is thinking when he watches the screen?" he noted.

"Rusty doesn't seem nearly as interested."

We all know dogs seem to show great interest in TV shows, and react to what they see. Others most definitely respond when they see or hear another animal on the screen. Some dogs are completely nonplussed by the TV.

One of the really interesting things that piqued my interest in the conversation was the notion of the "refresh rate" of TV and computer screens, it got me wondering about how that aspect of viewing them differs between a human, a dog — or even other animals.

It seems that I found a few answers after finding an article on the topic.

Let's first back up with a little background on canine vision: we know that a dog's eyes contrast from humans with regard to the colors that they perceive. Dogs have two kinds of cones whereas we have three. Not only do colors differ between the species, but so does the level of detail that is perceived — something else that cones facilitate.

Given that difference, does that mean that the eyes of a human and the dog respond to different refresh rates favorably?

According to Ernst Otto Ropstad, associate professor at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, the answer is yes.

The images that we see on our TV are created by a set of images being captured rapidly to create the illusion of a moving picture (this typically occurs at 24 times per second).

Ropstad, who was interviewed for an article on notes that dogs fare better with the new technology that's available.

The televisions of old only produce around 50 frames per second; if you've seen one operate, the screen flickers a lot. These days the refresh rates of newer TVs are much higher, which translates into less flickering (which reduces eyestrain as well).

This isn't just a boon for us — dogs benefit as well from higher refresh rates. Canines need about 70 images per second to perceive what they visualize as continuous film, while we need only 16 - 29 images per second. (Birds need roughly 100 images per second.)

Those following the trend toward gearing television channels towards dogs may benefit from that knowledge, but with regard to whether or not what is on the screen truly holds a pet's interest, it seems that it really a matter of personal preference for our furry friends. Ropstad indicates that after observing a handful of dogs, there doesn't appear to be any pattern to a canine's attention while watching a television.

As for Woody, whatever holds his attention when looking at a television or computer screen is only known to him.

Does your pet like to watch television? How do they respond?

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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