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Survey aims to discover what dogs like to watch on TV to help develop canine vision tests


Discovering what types of video content can hold dogs’ attention could be the key to helping them see better as they mature.

StratfordProductions / stock.adobe.com

StratfordProductions / stock.adobe.com

Does your dog bark at vacuum cleaner commercials or ignore the TV completely? One professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison would like to know. A new citizen-science study seeks to better understand canine viewing preferences as a foundation for developing better ways of assessing vision in dogs. According to a press release from UW, Mowat believes videos could potentially be the key to holding a dog’s attention long enough to gather and assess critical information about visual function. The survey aims to determine what content can best achieve that goal.

“The overarching goal in this study is to figure out what dogs like to watch on television,” says Freya Mowat, an assistant professor at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Surgical Sciences and the School of Medicine and Public Health’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. “This is interesting from a dog behavior standpoint, but as dog vision researchers, we also want to develop engaging methods to test dog vision in either the home or clinic, which we currently just do not have.”

The need for better vision assessments, Mowat says in a press release, is to improve the lives of mature dogs whose vision deteriorates as they age. According to Mowat, there are many unanswered questions as to the best way to help aging dogs live better lives despite worsening vision.

“As they get older, do dogs need things like brighter lighting in their environment to prevent them from tripping down the stairs in the middle of the night, or other visual cues to help them locate things? These are questions we genuinely don’t know the answers to,” Mowat said. “We do know that canine retinal function does decline with age and can decline quite significantly. So, it’s more than likely that visual perception does change, but what that actually means from a lifestyle standpoint is the missing piece of the puzzle.”

Mowat is seeking pet parents from around the world to answer a questionnaire that asks for information on their dog’s screen-viewing habits, as well as information about the dog’s age, sex, breed, and where they live. Participants can also take the optional step of showing their dog 4 short videos of subjects potentially of interest to dogs, such as objects and other animals. People will then rate their dog’s interest in each video and how closely the dog tracked the moving objects in the videos.

“We intend for this to be a fun activity for both dogs and their people,” Mowat said. “And we’d really love to get thousands of responses from individuals across the world, so we can better understand if dogs in Wisconsin like the same kind of videos as dogs in New York or Brazil or any other location.”

A secondary goal of the study is to compare how a dog’s vision ages with the humans they share a home with.

“After all, a dog has a much shorter lifespan than their owner, and so if there are emerging environmental or lifestyle factors that influence visual aging, it might well show up in our dogs decades before it shows up in us,” Mowat said. “Our dogs could be our sentinels—the canine in the proverbial coal mine.”

Interested pet parents can click here to answer the questionnaire. The survey will take approximately 10 to 20 minutes complete, according to the press release.


Malina C. Canine TV preferences could lead to answers in protecting dogs’ eyesight. News release. University of Wisconsin-Madison. March 23, 2022. Accessed April 4, 2022. https://news.wisc.edu/canine-tv-preferences-could-lead-to-answers-in-protecting-dogs-eyesight/

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