Many dog owners leave their televisions on when they’re away from home. They believe this prevents their pets from getting lonely and engaging in destructive behavior while alone.
But does watching TV reduce what veterinarians call “separation anxiety”? And, if so, does it matter whether dogs watch football games, network news, or reruns of Lassie?
According to Ron Levi, the answers to both questions are a resounding “Yes!” Levi created DogTV, the world’s first television network exclusively designed for dogs. DogTV was recently launched throughout the U.S. via DIRECTV. It is available on Channel 354, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a subscription.
“Dogs are not people”
Levi, who has been involved in human television for 20 years, says, “Dogs are not people. They demand different ways to keep occupied. They need to stimulate their bodies and minds, but can’t do it when home alone. They are really dependent on their owners, so you need to think of ways to keep them busy so they won’t be bored and bark and eat your furniture.”
Levi’s team of animal experts, trainers, and researchers focuses on three kinds of programming:
Relaxation – to help dogs relax, reduce their stress, and keep them calm through soothing music, sounds, and visuals.
Stimulation – to stimulate dogs using scenes with and without other animals, animation sequences, and moving objects.
Exposure – special sounds and visuals to help dogs feel more comfortable in their environment.
Unlike regular television networks, Levi can’t conduct focus groups or surveys with his four-legged audience. Also, there is no advertising.
So how does he know his programming is working? “We install security cameras in apartments and monitor dogs’ reactions to our content and that of other networks,” he explains.
Creating the “perfect babysitter”
Owners also send in thousands of videos and images of their dogs watching DogTV. “They tell us their dogs are calmer and their stress and separation anxiety have been reduced, which is the main idea of this channel. Our goal is to create the perfect babysitter for dogs and provide them with enrichment when they’re home alone,” says Levi.
“There has been a shift in technology,” adds dog trainer and author Victoria Stilwell. “And now, because TV is digital, dogs can see what is on the screen. This is so exciting because now we can use TV to give our dogs the sensory stimulation and the company they need, especially when they’re home alone.”
To hold viewers’ attention, video segments are usually only a few minutes long and change frequently. “We’ve learned dogs don’t really enjoy hearing barking,” says Levi. “So we changed our content and took out the barking sounds.”
As Levi and his team continue to improve their content and awareness among dog owners in the U.S., they are looking to expand to markets overseas. DogTV is already available in Israel and South Korea, and they expect to add more countries—and their dogs—soon.
Learn more about DogTV
Visit their website at dogtv.com to learn more. To watch their programming live (a subscription is required), click here.
Jack Sommars is a Denver-based freelancer who often writes about animal issues.
Photo credit: iStock images