Virginia Simpson and Chance

Ask The Trainer

Television Obsession



We have a West Highland White Terrior who just turned one year old last month. He is, by far, the most wonderful best friend we could ask for. He is very loving and would do anything for us.

Unfortunately there is one bad habit that he has that we just cannot seem to break him from! He LOVES to jump up and bark at our big screen television. When we first brought him home we noticed his love of television. He would often sit in front of the TV and watch a program like any human! Now it is just unbearable. It has gotten so bad that he has scratched my television!!! We have tried everything! We are loyal owners and play with him and walk him but that just doesn't wear him out enough.



Hi Thomas,

Thank you for your inquiry!

It sounds like your pup has become a bit obsessed with the movements or the lighting changes from the television. I’ve seen dogs respond this way after chasing a laser pointer. Some of them seem to then become obsessed with any light/shadow/reflection movements on the floor and walls. It’s part of prey drive, but they never get the satisfaction of actually catching anything, like they would in a game of fetch for example. But the real problem develops the more times he engages in this behavior. The more the behavior becomes part of who he is. And I mean this quite literally. He develops brain pathways with this repetitive behavior and this behavior becomes a permanent part of his brain. Whenever we are training a dog for a certain cue, we are training to develop an automatic response. We want the dog to react to a cue (sit, down, stay, etc.) without appearing to think about it. We gain this through repetition and consistency. So, you can develop positive automatic responses with your obedience cues so that you can utilize them during times of high escalation. However, if you allow negative behaviors to happen over and over again you develop an automatic response as well, just not one that you want. So, we need to figure out a way to redirect and retrain his brain.

It sounds like you’ve tried a few things out and I apologize if I’m repeating any of them, but here are a few suggestions I have:

Initially, you may think about crating him in another room with some tasty chew items. Let him get used to the sound of the TV being on without being able to really react to it. I don’t want him to see it either in the beginning until he becomes calm with the sound of it in the other room. At the same time you are doing that, when the tv is not on, you need to develop a very strong “place” command, where you can place him on a mat/bed/towel and he learns to stay on it until released regardless of the distraction. Then you can break it down into the following steps only moving to the next step after you have complete calm.

1) Crate in another room when TV is on.

2) “Place” command in another room with TV on.

3) “Place” in room where TV is on with no sound.

4) “Place” in room with TV with sound on.

I would play fetch with him and/or scent games where he will “catch” something at the end. You can try some agility or even teach him a new trick every week. You need to redirect and retrain his brain to think about other things and create new brain pathways that will override the current one while the TV is on.

I hope that gives you some new tricks to try! Please keep us posted as to how it is going!

Thank you for contacting Unleashed Canine Obedience at Cincinnati Dog Pages!

For more information, please feel free to contact:

Virginia L. Simpson, CDT
Unleashed Canine Obedience, LLC
4955 Creek Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242