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Tags vision , television , ethology , dogs

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Old 11th June 2007, 06:33 AM   #1
aggle-rithm
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Dogs can watch TV!!!

My dog Shiner Bark (see my avatar) is often intrigued by what's on television. Interestingly, he seems especially focused when animals appear on the screen, and shows a marked preference for mammals over reptiles or birds. I wasn't sure if he actually knew what he was looking at, or was just attracted by the movement. The preference for mammals might be explained by some evolutionary pattern-recognition gene that helps canines in the hunt, so this wasn't necessarily evidence that he could recognize the images.

If you think about it, looking at a two-dimensional screen and extrapolating three-dimensional events from it isn't necessarily as easy as we think it is. It's easy for US, but does it require more brain power than a dog can handle? I have never had a dog, other than Shiner, that showed any interest whatsoever in the television, except on a few occasions when they heard sound bytes of dogs barking.

Yesterday I made a startling discovery. I was watching the canine frisbee championships on television with Shiner laying on the couch next to me. Suddenly, he took notice of what was on television. He sat up and began in whine, a behavior he exhibits when he sees other dogs having fun and he's not included. Clearly, he didn't just see movement, or recognize some sort of primordial pattern. He recognized a specific activity that he loved to take part in. I suspect that the images were firing mirror neurons in his brain, and he was mentally putting himself into the action on the screen.

I found this fascinating (and very funny), so I decided to show my wife when she returned from shopping. I put Shiner in front of the TV and ran a recording of the frisbee program. This time, Shiner became so excited that he rushed up and knocked our brand-new TV off its stand.

So, obviously, future experiments will have to be performed more carefully, but I was wondering: Has anyone else seen this behavior in their dogs? Have any studies been done to determine how dogs process symbolic information?
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Old 11th June 2007, 06:41 AM   #2
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Interestingly, he seems especially focused when animals appear on the screen, and shows a marked preference for mammals over reptiles or birds.
Was this with or without the volume at an audible level? I've seen my dog intently watching television, but it's generally only when animals are making some type of animal noises. She'll watch it other times when there is a lot of movement, but her interest doesn't seem as piqued as when there are animals making their noises.

My mini aussie's favorite pastime is frisbee, so I'll have to try the frisbee on t.v. experiment myself.
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Old 11th June 2007, 06:57 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by aggle-rithm View Post
So, obviously, future experiments will have to be performed more carefully, but I was wondering: Has anyone else seen this behavior in their dogs? Have any studies been done to determine how dogs process symbolic information?

Something very similar happens with my dog, Domino. She's a Rat Terrier and Chihuahu mix and probably the smartest dog I've ever owned. We got her when she was only about 3 months old and took to training very easily and quickly (except potty training, which took about 6 months).

When I'm not actually in front of the TV watching it, I tend to switch it over to Animal PLanet becuase she reacts to any dogs that are on. When they whine, she tends to whine. When they bark, she tends to bark. We won't even go into what she does when she hears some kind of squeak toy, but she's almost toppled the TV cabinet twice.

I, too, would be interested in anything you come up with.
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Old 11th June 2007, 07:00 AM   #4
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Can't speak for dogs but many years ago had two cats - Germaine Growl and Madame Mew (Ger Bear and Maddy). Ger Bear was a very smart cat and Maddy was ,well, not (though both went crazy for Little Friskies). Anyway, only one occasion with television comes to mind - my wife had turned on a science show (pre-cable) and a segment started on an experimental surgical procedure for increasing intelligence. Ger Bear popped up on the bed and stared at the screen through the whole segment - when it was over she jumped down off the bed and went on about her business. For several weeks after, we kept a close eye on the knives.
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Old 11th June 2007, 07:01 AM   #5
aggle-rithm
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Originally Posted by cloudshipsrule View Post
Was this with or without the volume at an audible level? I've seen my dog intently watching television, but it's generally only when animals are making some type of animal noises. She'll watch it other times when there is a lot of movement, but her interest doesn't seem as piqued as when there are animals making their noises.

My mini aussie's favorite pastime is frisbee, so I'll have to try the frisbee on t.v. experiment myself.
The volume was audible, but it was like any sports coverage; all you could really hear were the announcers.

Animal sounds will capture my dog's attention, but it's apparently the images that keep his attention once he looks at the screen.
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Old 11th June 2007, 07:04 AM   #6
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My dog brings me the remote and drops it in my lap when the TV is off. I am not sure if he wants the TV on or he wants me to throw the remote to play fetch with it.
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Old 11th June 2007, 07:24 AM   #7
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I've had two dogs: one was a beagle/corgie mix, the other was a sheltie.

The former was never terribly bright, and the only interest he ever demonstrated in the TV was if he heard dogs barking...but he never even managed to make the association that it was on TV, he'd just stand there looking around wildly trying to figure out where the other dogs were.

My sheltie was the exact opposite. As an example -- and one which I believe demonstrates that he definitely recognized what was on the TV -- every time I would come home, he would greet me excitedly, jumping up and down. One day, my girlfriend was watching some videos we had made, and when I appeared on the screen, she said his reaction was exactly the same as the reaction when I walked through the door. I was not speaking in that portion of the video, so he was not responding to sound. Similarly, if I was watching TV and he demonstrated interest in it (usually, this was when recognizable animals such as dogs, cats, etc. were being shown), he would continue to watch and show interest even when I muted the sound.

So yeah, I do think that at least some dogs have the ability to perceive images on a TV screen, and interpret and respond to them correctly.
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Old 11th June 2007, 09:59 AM   #8
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My Icelandic Sheepdog is very interested in animals on TV as well. In his case, it's obviously the sounds that captures his interest, but it would be interesting to know more!
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Old 11th June 2007, 10:19 AM   #9
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My son-in-law took his dog out for some frisbee exercise one day, and made a short video while they were playing. Later, when he played the video on the tv, the dog (a lab) tried to catch the frisbee on the tv. This was repeated many times, and he made another video of that scene.

I've been told that most dogs can't see tv, because their eyes work differently than human eyes. Perhaps some of the scientists here can explain that. My only dog, a Cavalier, showed no interest unless he heard barking noises.
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Old 11th June 2007, 10:36 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by aggle-rithm View Post
The volume was audible, but it was like any sports coverage; all you could really hear were the announcers.

Animal sounds will capture my dog's attention, but it's apparently the images that keep his attention once he looks at the screen.
Well, all we can hear is the announcers. Cameras have been recording audio and video with more detail that we are capable of recognizing for a long time, so it's not unreasonable to think that a) the dogs in the background noise are easily audible to a dog's heightened hearing and b) a dog's attention is more likely to focus on the noises of another dog than on people he doesn't know (or people at all, for that matter).

I've had two dogs, both standard poodles (very smart and calm dogs, not like their miniature and toy namesakes). Neither of them has responded to noises or images from the tv, even if the sounds are recorded versions of things they would otherwise quickly respond to.
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Old 11th June 2007, 10:40 AM   #11
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I've got some video of my Jack Russell dog, Angie, running around and eating treats from my hand.

I've played the clip back to her, but she seems to have an aversion to looking at the the screen at all. It's much the same reaction I get when I try and get her to look in a mirror - she'll look anywhere BUT at her reflection.

It's almost like she can't quite understand what she's seeing so just ignores it.
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Old 11th June 2007, 10:52 AM   #12
aggle-rithm
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Originally Posted by pmckean View Post
I've got some video of my Jack Russell dog, Angie, running around and eating treats from my hand.

I've played the clip back to her, but she seems to have an aversion to looking at the the screen at all. It's much the same reaction I get when I try and get her to look in a mirror - she'll look anywhere BUT at her reflection.

It's almost like she can't quite understand what she's seeing so just ignores it.
A Jack Russell, huh?

Probably just being ornery.

We have another border collie that does something similar. When she is in obedience training, we are supposed to wait for her to look at us, then we reward that behavior to reinforce it and encourage her to do it repeatedly. Only problem is, in a 30-minute span she'll look at everything around her BUT the handler.
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Old 11th June 2007, 12:32 PM   #13
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My dog keeps thinking the the mouse-pointer on the computer monitor is a fly (or something) & he keeps trying to catch it - I have to keep a pack of screen-wipes with me for whenever he comes near the computer.
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Old 11th June 2007, 12:35 PM   #14
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We don't let my dogs go into the living room with us to watch TV. So all I can vouch for are sounds.
One of my dogs will pick up on doggy sounds and frequently bark at them. This is a reaction that she would generally have if she saw another dog in person. The dogs also hear explosions, gunshots, etc. and come to the door to make sure everything is okay.
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Old 11th June 2007, 12:43 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by aggle-rithm View Post
A Jack Russell, huh?

Probably just being ornery.
Quoted for truth! Mine used to respond to sound and pictures; if an animal or apparent animal (i.e. not vehicles) ran about on screen and disappeared out of shot, he would run around the back of the TV, apparently to find where it had gone.

I see no reason why predatory or scavenging animals wouldn't be able to react to moving objects, whether 3D or 2D. He didn't know he was trying to hunt a wildebeest filmed thousands of miles away that wasn't really there; he just saw movement

The little bugger used to go ape whenever he thought there was an animal on TV, even with it on mute. The picture would actually jump and crackle when he barked - powerful lungs for a 14lb dog!

I miss the little sod
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Old 11th June 2007, 03:56 PM   #16
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You guys should try some 3-D goggles and the appropriate movies. But how is dogs color vision? Maybe won't work?
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Old 11th June 2007, 04:19 PM   #17
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My dog (a lab mix) definitely responds to sounds she hears on the TV but it doesn't hold her attention for very long. The funniest thing is that she HATES my husband's guitar playing and actually acts afraid of the guitar (barks at it and won't go near it and then comes to "protect" me when he's playing), but she doesn't react at all to the guitar lesson DVD that he practices with.
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Old 11th June 2007, 05:11 PM   #18
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Few of my dogs were interested in the TV, but when I was caring for my sister's dog while she served in the navy, her dog was very interested in other dogs on TV. We watched the Iditarod dog sled race, the Westminister kennel club dog show, and many episodes of Lassie together.
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Old 11th June 2007, 06:38 PM   #19
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I see a niche in the TV market. Channel K9, anyone?
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Old 11th June 2007, 07:06 PM   #20
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All my books are packed up at the moment (I HATE MOVING! HATE HATE HATE!) so I can't dig out specifics, but you might want to look into "The Dog's Mind" by Bruce Fogel, as well as "How to Speak Dog" and "How Dogs Think" by Stanley Coren. The "editor reviews" at Amazon sum them up fairly well.

All three provide science-backed explanations for several woo-ish myths about dogs (e.g. they can predict earthquakes, have some sort of ESP, etc.), and as is almost always the case, the science turns out to be far more fascinating than the woo. I enjoyed "How To Speak Dog" in particular for its lengthy examination of canine body language.
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Old 11th June 2007, 07:38 PM   #21
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My last standard poodle not only liked to watch TV, he figured out how to turn it on with the remote. No joke. He liked nature shows with bears and also soccer. (The iguana was a huge fan of auto races, but his cage was next to the speakers)

He liked dogs, of course... but the most interesting event happened a few years back when we were watching Westminster. All of a sudden, he got up and CHARGED the TV, both paws on it, barking furiously.

... it was his uncle. (Won, best of show, so you can figure out the year. Standard poodle, white.)

Another time, we were watching a nature show about bears, and in the background, there was a blind. And this guy got out of the blind, and looked around, and he started barking at the guy. Apparently something about that offended him.

Previous poodles weren't so much into the TV. He was, and that was unusual.
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Old 11th June 2007, 07:42 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
You guys should try some 3-D goggles and the appropriate movies. But how is dogs color vision? Maybe won't work?
More than you wanted to know about dogs' color vision http://www.uwsp.edu/psych/dog/LA/DrP4.htm
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Old 12th June 2007, 06:08 AM   #23
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My dog doesn't pay much attention to the TV but I have a cat who does. The funniest moment with my cat was when I was watching a show on cheetahs. They showed some baby cheetahs on the show. My cat got up, jumped up on the TV table, stared at the screen, tapped it with his paw, and then ran around the back and looked. I think he was searching for the baby kitties who were trapped in that strange box!
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Old 12th June 2007, 06:21 AM   #24
aggle-rithm
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Originally Posted by negativ View Post
All my books are packed up at the moment (I HATE MOVING! HATE HATE HATE!) so I can't dig out specifics, but you might want to look into "The Dog's Mind" by Bruce Fogel, as well as "How to Speak Dog" and "How Dogs Think" by Stanley Coren. The "editor reviews" at Amazon sum them up fairly well.

All three provide science-backed explanations for several woo-ish myths about dogs (e.g. they can predict earthquakes, have some sort of ESP, etc.), and as is almost always the case, the science turns out to be far more fascinating than the woo. I enjoyed "How To Speak Dog" in particular for its lengthy examination of canine body language.
I'll have to look into those. Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation" is also a good one.
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Old 12th June 2007, 06:48 AM   #25
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I seem to recall reading/hearing some time ago that, in general, dogs are not interested in what's on tv because there is no smell associated with the things they see.
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Old 12th June 2007, 09:27 AM   #26
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Dogs can watch TV!!!
Sure they can. They just don't get it.
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Old 12th June 2007, 10:04 AM   #27
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I recall reading an article about Bottlenose dolphins in an aquarium having TV
piped into their pools. The animals apparently showed interest in the images,
especially when the TV showed another dolphin pool in the same aquarium.
When the dolphins saw on TV that a keeper was feeding the dolphins in the
other pool (the feeding times were allegedly varied to prevent the dolphins
just learning a routine), the TV watchers would get excited and rush over
to their feeding area in anticipation of the arrival of the keeper.

Dolphins are much cleverer than dogs of course
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Old 12th June 2007, 10:50 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by SteveGrenard View Post
My dog brings me the remote and drops it in my lap when the TV is off. I am not sure if he wants the TV on or he wants me to throw the remote to play fetch with it.
You can perform an experiment by throwing the remote instead of turning the television on. Tell us what you discover.
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Old 12th June 2007, 11:17 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by l0rca View Post
You can perform an experiment by throwing the remote instead of turning the television on. Tell us what you discover.
Okay, I gently tossed the remote. He fetched it, dropped it back in my lap but this time he asked why did you throw it, I just wanted to you to turn on Animal Planet for me.
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Old 12th June 2007, 11:41 AM   #30
e-sabbath
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In my case, my poodle was a very paw-using dog. He discovered that if he kept punching the remote with his paw, the TV eventually turned on.
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Old 12th June 2007, 11:48 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by SteveGrenard View Post
Okay, I gently tossed the remote. He fetched it, dropped it back in my lap but this time he asked why did you throw it, I just wanted to you to turn on Animal Planet for me.
What langauge did he ask you this in? (I assume it's not something obvious, like German from a German Shepherd or Welsh from a Welsh Corgie.)
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Old 12th June 2007, 12:01 PM   #32
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I knew a standard poodle once that enjoyed watching animal programs on TV. When something got him particularly excited, but then "left" the screen, he would often check around behind the TV to see where it went. His owner would even put in videotapes of animal shows when the dog was alone all day.

He definitely responded to animal sounds--'cause he'd often come running in from another room if animals came on.

My cats seem less selective (and generally less interested) in their TV habits. They'll track movement, and sometimes even paw the screen when something moves across (not necessarily animal). Other times, I think they're only "watching" because the direction they're sitting and staring happens to have a TV there. Switching it off has no effect on their continued concentrated gaze in that direction.
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Old 12th June 2007, 12:05 PM   #33
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On the issue of dog's color vision and their perception of television images:

I have wondered about that. Does the method used to simulate colors on a television produce an image that a dog would perceive in the same way as the dog sees the world.

It obviously works pretty well for humans, but does it work for dogs that only have two different color receptors instead of the three that most humans have.

I asked a color blind individual what his thoughts were on this. He said that he thought a TV image was a good representation of how he saw the world so he thought it might be the same for a dog.

Does anybody have any thoughts on this?
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Old 12th June 2007, 12:13 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by aggle-rithm View Post
If you think about it, looking at a two-dimensional screen and extrapolating three-dimensional events from it isn't necessarily as easy as we think it is. It's easy for US, but does it require more brain power than a dog can handle? I have never had a dog, other than Shiner, that showed any interest whatsoever in the television, except on a few occasions when they heard sound bytes of dogs barking.
My boyfriend had a rotweiler who loved to watch Telly Tubbies. I don't know exactly why specifically that program; but "they" do say that an adult dog has the same mental capabilities as a toddler.

Anyway, one day she was watching a nature program that had one of those wide aerial shots of a herd of ungulates running across a plain. They were running away from the camera, and, when they ran off the screen, the rottie ran around the back of the television presumably to see where they had gone. The evidence is anecdotal and second hand at that but I think it does imply that at least this dog could extrapolate 2-D to 3-D. I'm not sure what that says about other dogs, but I thought I'd add my two cents.
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Old 12th June 2007, 12:16 PM   #35
aggle-rithm
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Originally Posted by davefoc View Post
On the issue of dog's color vision and their perception of television images:

I have wondered about that. Does the method used to simulate colors on a television produce an image that a dog would perceive in the same way as the dog sees the world.

It obviously works pretty well for humans, but does it work for dogs that only have two different color receptors instead of the three that most humans have.

I asked a color blind individual what his thoughts were on this. He said that he thought a TV image was a good representation of how he saw the world so he thought it might be the same for a dog.

Does anybody have any thoughts on this?
I didn't think the problem would be so much the color perception as the different ways canines and humans process vision. I thought that humans, being language oriented, were already primed to think symbolically and thus could sense that the two-dimensional images on TV corresponded to three-dimensional images in the real world.

In order to do this, you have to pretend that depth perception doesn't matter, and judge relative distances by relative sizes. I thought dogs might have a problem with this.

A lot of times, people assume that dogs can do things that are simple for humans, but if you think about it, that's not necessarily correct. The example that pops to mind is the dog trainer who asks a dog to sit and then says, "Good sit!" as if the dog is able to grammatically parse sentences.
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Old 12th June 2007, 12:23 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by aggle-rithm View Post
I didn't think the problem would be so much the color perception as the different ways canines and humans process vision. I thought that humans, being language oriented, were already primed to think symbolically and thus could sense that the two-dimensional images on TV corresponded to three-dimensional images in the real world.

In order to do this, you have to pretend that depth perception doesn't matter, and judge relative distances by relative sizes. I thought dogs might have a problem with this.

A lot of times, people assume that dogs can do things that are simple for humans, but if you think about it, that's not necessarily correct. The example that pops to mind is the dog trainer who asks a dog to sit and then says, "Good sit!" as if the dog is able to grammatically parse sentences.
I understood that this was what you were talking about and I was interested in that issue also. I have watched our dog watching TV with exactly that kind of question in mind.

I just thought I'd use your thread to throw in a question of my own, not completely on topic though it be.
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Old 12th June 2007, 12:37 PM   #37
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A dog's eyes are specially designed to pick out motion. At the level of a single cell in the eye, a moving target appears as a flicker. The average human doesn't see flickering above a speed of 55 cycles a second (55 Hz). The image on a television is redrawn at a rate of 60 Hz. Humans don't see this flicker, and the image appears continuous. However, because many dogs can resolve images at higher speed, the TV screen probably still appears to them as a rapid flicker, making the images look less real.

--from http://hashout.blogspot.com/2007/04/...-watch-tv.html

ETA: My JRT hasn't cared much for television since MTV stopped showing videos.
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Old 12th June 2007, 12:58 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by MWare View Post
The image on a television is redrawn at a rate of 60 Hz.
On a traditional U.S. television screen (i.e. an NTSC standard CRT), the image shown consists of "interlaced" fields that are alternately drawn every 1/30 of a second. That is, the even numbered scan-lines are drawn over the course of 1/60 sec., then the odd-numbered scan-lines are drawn over the course of 1/60 sec., then the process repeats. This produces a noticeable flicker for the human viewer.

Many modern TV sets have what is known as a "progressive scan" mode, that draws both interlaced fields simultaneously. These sets typically refresh the entire screen every 1/60 sec., and so the flicker is much less noticeable.

Traditional British and European televisions (i.e. PAL standard CRTs), however, show an image consisting of interlaced fields that are drawn every 1/25 of a second. Even in a modern "progressive scan" PAL television set, the screen is only going to be refreshed every 1/50 sec..


And let us not forget that movies are only filmed at 24 frames per second, yet we humans have no trouble viewing a movie as though the things on the screen were in motion.
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Old 12th June 2007, 12:58 PM   #39
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My cat can watch TV, but only after she's finished her homework.
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Old 12th June 2007, 01:03 PM   #40
aggle-rithm
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Originally Posted by cgordon View Post
My cat can watch TV, but only after she's finished her homework.
I can't get my cats to do their homework. They just sneer at me, steal my wallet, and go out on the town.

My wife won't let me beat them, otherwise....
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