Why does my dog pay attention to birds, dogs and cats depicted on my television set?
Dogs don’t see the television screen the same way we do, and they see the television, like a phone, as a very strange object. Because of the anatomy of a dog’s eyes, the dog cannot tell what an object on the screen actually is, but the movement and shapes she sees are probably intriguing. In addition, the sounds emitted from the television are attention-grabbing and, because dogs can pinpoint the directional origin of sounds they hear, the television can be quite entertaining.
Although there are fewer cones (color vision cells) in a dog’s eye than in a human’s eye, they have many more rods (light and motion detectors) than we do, so they can actually see better at night. Dogs can also see flickering light better than humans, which means they might even be able to see individual frames in a television sequence where we would see a continuous scene.
So the attention (barking) is really just a form of communication, probably something that’s called “nuisance barking.” Dogs don’t just bark when they are aggressive, but also when they’re excited, happy or feeling threatened. The good news is that it can be controlled with training.
So how to do you reclaim your television time? When your dog barks:
• Stand in front of the TV while your dog is barking and stay calm and authoritative. If you give in to anger and frustration, it will make you seem less than a leader to your dog—and she may refuse to cooperate.
• Use verbal, visual or physical corrections to let your dog know that it is not okay to bark at the television, like “No,” stern looks or firm taps. Try a couple different techniques, but remain consistent by continuing the corrections each and every time your dog barks at the TV.
• Let your dog release some of that extra energy that could be causing the excessive barking. Take her on extra walks or engage in extra play.
• Find a professional dog trainer as a last resort. The trainer will be able to work with you and your dog and offer some techniques to get the situation under control.