If your dog loves you, and is not used to you being gone for long periods of time, then leaving your dog home can make for an anxious pet. This is especially true in dogs who’ve been recently rescued or even bounce from household to household among family members. So, will it help to leave the TV on for the dog?
Many dogs with separation anxiety respond well to radio music or TV noise, if used as a safety cue. “The whole idea is to get them to like something that doesn’t remind them of you," says Jeff Werber, a licensed veterinarian in Los Angeles. To puppies, you are the best entertainment – as long as you are available. They are used to you walking them, playing with them, feeding them and snuggling with them. When you’re not home, they just try to stay occupied. That might look destructive, unless you find another way to occupy their minds. Using the television as a distraction can help alleviate their boredom.
Dogs, however, really only see flickers of images on the television; They don’t actually perceive images the same way we do. They see broken pieces of movement, rather than a continuous stream. Also, the TV doesn’t produce smells along with sights and sounds, which means dogs aren’t going to pay as much attention as they do when they do in the presence of actual stimuli.
When the house is quiet, your dog might feel lonely and bored. They might bark at every outside noise, and annoy your neighbors. They could even decide that the couch cushion is much more interesting when it’s shredded all over your floor. They’re used to hearing you make noise and talk to them, so having the TV in the background can help keep them calm. Of course, this doesn’t work with all dogs; It really depends on what senses are most prominent with them. If they rely most heavily on their sense of smell, it might not matter whether the TV is on or not. However, if they use their hearing prominently, the ambient noise of the television can keep them from being anxious, when left home alone.
For anxious dogs, TV or even a fan that produces ‘white’ noise, can cut out sounds from outside that may heighten their anxiety. Especially for newly adopted pets who are not familiar with their new surroundings, outside noises can signal internal alarms that are really just part of the normal sounds of the neighborhood.
Another positive trait about the TV is that the noise and pictures are constantly changing. Your pup might be enjoying a nice gnaw on a rawhide bone when he suddenly hears a dog barking on TV. He’s instantly distracted, turning to look at the television or investigate the source of the sound. Puppies don’t have long attention spans, so distractions can keep them on their toes and out of trouble. The more distracted they are, the less likely they are to take their boredom out on your belongings.
So, to be clear – YES, leave the TV on for your dog.