While we're busy at work, our pug has to endure a lot of time alone at home during the week, so we leave the TV on for him while he spends the day on the couch.
Supposedly, this is one way to help keep your pets from getting too lonely when they have to spend extended periods away from their owner. I'm not sure if it really works, but I guess it can't hurt. Our little snub-nosed dude isn't the kind that can keep up on two-hour hikes through the woods with dogs eight times his size, so options are limited.
The Food Network is probably the most-watched channel in our house, so it became the de facto doggy daytime channel as well. But the station's logo occupies the bottom corner of the screen during each and every show, so after a couple of years of this, a Food Network emblem had burned itself permanently onto the screen. It didn't matter if we switched to the news, a hockey game, the Kardashians — we were always watching Food Network, according to the little red logo that would never disappear.
Not wanting to ruin another TV set, we've since been leaving on ABC instead, which doesn't have any on-screen graphics during the day that can be forever etched into the display.
But I've always wondered: How much of the day's programming does the pug absorb? Does he look forward to each day's Hot Topics segment on The View? Is he really invested in the latest love triangles on General Hospital? Have his culinary horizons expanded by watching celebrity chef Michael Symon prepare barbecue feasts on The Chew?
Most importantly, I suppose, is leaving the TV on for him actually doing any good?
With all of these questions in mind, I was very interested to stumble upon DogTV — the first network made specifically for dogs, by dogs by a panel of animal behaviourists, veterinarians and representatives from the American Humane Society.
Launched early in 2012, the network is available on DirecTV and online. The channel's website provides this description:
"DOGTV provides television for dogs as a 24/7 digital TV channel with dog-friendly programming scientifically developed to provide the right company for dogs when left alone. Through years of research with some of the world's top pet experts, special content was created to meet specific attributes of a dog's sense of vision and hearing and supports their natural behaviour patterns. The result: a confident, happy dog, who's less likely to develop stress, separation anxiety or other related problems."
I had to know more. Thankfully, the DogTV website has a number of sample clips available for human viewing. They're a bunch of short videos, three to six minutes apiece, of a wide variety. Some of them show dogs running around and playing with their owners, play-fighting with each other or reacting to somebody ringing the doorbell and entering a home. I think my favourite one documented a golden retriever slowly dozing off in a flower-filled meadow, with a sunset on the horizon and Scandinave Spa-esque music playing in the background.
As far as making the content dog-specific, they've done a pretty good job (I think). When humans appear on camera and speak, they're filmed from a low angle, looking directly into the camera as if they are giving commands to canines on the other side of the screen. Animated segments look like they were produced in a Soviet-era, Eastern European country, with odd designs and weird movements, but they are apparently drawn up this way to most effectively appeal to a pooch's sense of vision.
The whole idea is to keep your dog stimulated instead of stressed, but I'm not entirely convinced that it would work for our pug.
Most of the time, he completely freaks out at any number of things that come on the TV screen when we're watching it at home. When we're out for a walk, he pays no attention to the sound of birds chirping all around him, but if it's coming from the television, a barking fit ensues. If he sees another dog on the screen, he'll launch himself off the couch and put his paws up on the TV stand, whining away. And he really, really hates the theme songs to The Office and People's Court.
But then again, what do I know about dog stress? Maybe having him bark at the TV for eight hours a day, Monday to Friday, is actually constructive. Could it be any worse than having him lie around or sleep through "Five fat-burning tips for the holidays" on The Dr. Oz Show?
Without a DirecTV subscription or a computer to leave laying around for him every day, I guess I won't be able to find out. But I'm definitely not handing over control of the remote to the pug. He already gets to watch TV all day.