Is adding five dollars a month to your cable television plan the solution to your poor lonely pet’s separation anxiety? DirecTV’s thinks so, and their new venture DogTV isn’t a TV channel about our canine companions– it’s actually for them. Touted as “the perfect babysitter for dogs who have to stay home alone,” DogTV fills twenty-four hour cycles with attention-grabbing clips of cute canines in a various real life situations, programming that they say “helps stimulate, entertain, relax and habituate dogs with shows that expose them to various movements, sounds, objects, experiences and behavior patterns, all from a dog’s point of view.” But are owners subscribing to “The First Television Channel for dogs” barking up the wrong tree? Perhaps.
DirecTV’s new venture DogTV isn’t a TV channel about our canine companions– it’s actually for them.
Slate.com notes that, “Dogs see the world at a faster frame rate than humans do. Humans’ flicker fusion rate is about 50–60 Hz, meaning we see the world in 50 to 60 images per second. For dogs, that rate is closer to 70–80 Hz.” Alexandra Horowitz explains in her book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, that dogs “see the individual frames [in TV] and the dark space between them too.” This, she continues, “…might explain why most dogs cannot be planted in front of the television … It doesn’t look real.” DogTV agrees that that was true of old tube TVs, but says the refresh rate on the more modern LDC screens is 100Hz and up, which can accommodate a pup’s needs.
However, Katherine Houpt, a professor of animal behavior at Cornell University, told Slate that dogs don’t want to watch TV while their best friend is out earning a paycheck, they really just want to sleep. “Most dogs sleep while you’re gone and wake up every 20 minutes or so and get a drink of water and scratch themselves and turn around and go back to sleep,” she says. To curtail their desires to curl up and sleep miss out on quality television, though, DogTV claims that their daily programming schedule is “designed to work precisely with a dog’s daily routine: dogs need to play at certain times and rest in others.”
But while Dog TV seems to have worked hard to think of the pitfalls of tempting your pitbull with vegging in front of the boob tube, the one facet of captivating a dog that they simply can’t accommodate is Spot’s uncanny sense of small. In his book The Wolf in the Parlor, Dog evolution expert Jon Franklin writes, “Even a dog appearing on the screen, or barking out of a speaker, failed to impress. His two humans might be dumb enough to project their imaginations into the big square-eye thing, but the dog innately understood that it was pure poppycock. The television emitted no odor: Ipso facto, it was not real.”
Without Smell-O-Vision to indulge a dog’s important sense of smell, it seems that a dog owner can’t truly expect a DogTV to take their place. Would you subscribe to DogTV streaming or add it to your cable plan, or would you rather invest in a dog walker or a similar caregiver for your canine? — Casandra Armour