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Leaving the TV on for My Dog: Is It a Great Idea?

Leaving the TV on for My Dog: Is It a Great Idea? Featured Image

If you can’t be at home with your dog every day, you’ve probably thought of different ways to make them feel safe and comforted while you’re gone. One of the most common solutions that people hit on is to leave their TV on so their dog can at least hear human voices during the day.

But is this a good idea? Should you give your dog access to your Netflix account, or is that more likely to stress them out than relax them (and will they ruin your recommendations)?

Below, we’ll explore the pros and cons behind this idea so you can make the best decision possible for your pup.

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Should You Leave the TV on for Your Dog?

The answer to this — like the answer to so many pet-related questions — all depends on your dog.

Some dogs seem to enjoy hearing human voices, even if they’re from the TV, while others find the racket to be even more distressing. You’ll need to know which your dog prefers before you can answer this question with any confidence.

A good way to do this is by setting up a camera system — like a spy cam or a pet camera like a Furbo — and watching how they behave both with and without the TV on. Another alternative is to see how destroyed your house is with each option, although this may end up being more expensive than buying a camera.

Once you see how your dog reacts to the noise, you can make an educated decision about whether to let them watch that Fast & the Furious marathon while you’re at work.

french bulldog watching TV
Image Credit: Patryk Kosmider, Shutterstock

Are There Any Positives to Leaving the TV on for a Dog?

Yes, there are good reasons to consider keeping a TV on for your pup. Keep in mind, though, that none of these reasons will outweigh the anxiety that you create if your dog doesn’t care for the sound.

One thing that TV is good for is drowning out other anxiety-causing noises, like construction, fireworks, thunder, or gunshots. If all the dog can hear is the TV, they won’t panic due to the other noises. It’s unlikely that a TV will work better than a Thundershirt or anxiety medication, though.

Also, having the TV on may give the impression that you’re home even when you’re not. This could discourage burglars, dog thieves, or other evildoers from breaking into your home. Think of the TV as a guard dog for your guard dog.

Are There Any Negatives to Leaving the TV on for a Dog?

The biggest negative is one that we’ve already mentioned: It could create more stress for your dog than simply being left alone in peace and quiet.

Beyond that, there’s the possibility that the noise could damage their ears. Dogs have sensitive hearing, so you shouldn’t leave the TV on that loud while you’re gone. However, if it’s too quiet, it loses its effectiveness as a sound masker.

Is There a “Right” Way to Leave the TV on for My Dog?

Many experts believe that instead of using the TV as a sound masker or as company for your pet, you should use it as a safety cue.

The idea is to use the sound of the TV — or the act of turning it on — as a cue that your dog associates with positive things, much like hearing the sound of your keys in the lock. If they think that something good is going to happen when the TV’s on, they’re much more likely to find the noise soothing and reassuring.

To make your dog view the TV as a safety cue, you should start giving them a treat or praise whenever you turn it on. Eventually, they’ll see turning the TV on as a reward in and of itself, and they’ll get excited every time it’s on.

This can make it less traumatic when you leave for the day, not to mention getting your dog just as hyped up for an episode of Golden Girls as you do.

Is There Anything Else I Can Do With the TV to Make My Dog Feel Safe?

If you’re planning on leaving the TV on all day (and you’ve taught your dog to view it as a safety cue), then the next thing to do is pick the proper programming.

Yes, what your dog watches does matter — and it’s not because they have discriminating taste. Rather, they might find certain forms of entertainment much more soothing than others.

There are channels — like DogTV — that are completely devoted to dogs, and their playlists are supposedly backed by scientific research. They’re a much better bet than HBO for keeping your dog calm while you’re gone. You can also find YouTube and Spotify playlists for dogs.

If you want to leave the TV on a regular channel, it’s best to find one that isn’t too loud and relies heavily on human voices rather than other noises. Think C-SPAN, PBS, or anything talk-related, as long as there isn’t a bunch of shouting or explosions involved.

You can also use the radio instead of the TV. Dogs seem to enjoy reggae and soft rock, at least according to one study, so letting them jam out while you’re gone may be better than parking them in front of the boob tube.

french bulldog holding TV remote
Image Credit: Patryk Kosmider, Shutterstock

Will You Let Your Dog Watch?

At the end of the day (or the beginning, whichever the case may be), the decision to let your dog watch TV is a personal one. It’s something that you and your dog should discuss together, and you should let them take the lead. If it seems to soothe them, then by all means, leave it on.

However, don’t expect the box to work miracles. Your dog would much rather have you home than have your Netflix playlist to peruse, so try to limit the amount of time that you spend away from them.

Regardless of which way you end up deciding, the important thing is to do what makes your dog happiest. That will likely involve watching every installment of Air Bud in super slow-motion.


Featured Image Credit: Javier Brosch, Shutterstock

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