Is Your Pooch a Couch Potato?

No couch potatoes here!

I remember coming home one evening long ago to find not only my dog, Timo, on the sofa watching TV but Buddy and Daisy, my mom’s two dogs, up there as well. Even better — whoever had pawed the remote to turn on the TV had somehow hit the right button to bring up Animal Planet — a favorite of the humans in the household as well.

The people at DogTV think those three were onto something. Developed in Israel (where the three dogs described above lived), this first cable channel directed at dogs, rather than just being about them, says it offers “the right company” for dogs who are home alone. Or, presumably, those having a dogs’ night in with their buddies.

DogTV’s website promises that, with its 24-hour-a-day programming, our furry friends “should never again feel alone.” According to the website, the content was developed to meet specific attributes of canine vision and it “supports their natural behavior patterns.”

Since most dogs who are left home all day while their humans are at work or school snooze the hours away on the sofa, I suppose it is not a huge leap to claim that providing TV for them does support that natural behavior pattern …

Setting my skepticism aside and remembering how Timo, Buddy, and Daisy enjoyed their Animal Planet viewing, I decided to test out the sample content on Jana. The results of my statistically insignificant survey (sample size of one) are not terribly promising. Jana does not appear to aspire to couch potato-hood; she watched the “Stimulation” sample for about 3 seconds before her eyes and attention wandered. She ignored the “Relaxation” sample completely.

And it’s not that she’s simply more of an intellectual. Jana’s most strident reaction — indignant, vocal rejection — came in response to the “Exposure” sample, essentially doggy PBS. Described by DogTV as “using the most advanced veterinary science, special sounds and visuals help comfort and habituate dogs by exposing them to different day-to-day stimuli,” the sample on the website features a person telling her dog to sit as she answers the door (this made-for-TV dog is not only willing to sit, he doesn’t even bark at the doorbell or the guy at the door), people and traffic on a busy street, a baby in a car with a siren audible outside the car, small children playing. Jana, of course, barked at all of these as she turned tail and flounced away.

Tuning in a dog-centered channel when you leave your furry friends at home might do little more than make you feel better. A young, healthy dog would  much prefer a game of Frisbee or a run in a park to watching some other dog on TV have all the fun. And even an older or less energetic dog would prefer to get out and sniff the grass herself. And any dog would rather spend quality time with her humans than sit around on the sofa — TV or no TV.

On the other hand, dogs have been shown to be more relaxed in kennels and shelters if there is background music playing. The only problem is getting them all to agree on a radio station!