YAKIMA, Wash. -- Just when you think you have seen it all, look around. That’s when you’ll see something you absolutely won’t believe.
Take, for instance, the other night. I had just returned from a short fishing trip and was catching up on the mail and newspapers. The television was playing in the background and I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to it until I thought I heard the announcer say something about a new television station just for dogs.
I pulled my head out of the paper and turned my full attention to the TV.
Sure enough, according to the promotion on the tube, there is now a channel on DirecTV that is programmed just for dogs. It is appropriately titled “DogTV.”
Now, from what I can tell, the channel doesn’t provide programming such as “The Dog Whisperer” or “Dog, the Bounty Hunter.” Nor will you see reruns of some good old television shows that starred dogs, such as “Lassie” or “Rin-Tin-Tin.” No, the channel will have programming not about dogs, but for dogs. They, not you, are the target audience.
According to the DogTV website, the channel will have three types of programming offering “relaxing and stimulating content as well as positive behavioral reinforcements” for dogs.
The website also says “dogs that are left alone tend to become anxious so the calming sounds and music in the relaxing segments on DogTV were created to keep them peaceful. Many dogs also suffer from a lack of stimulation, which becomes acute when their parents are away. The stimulating segments provide dogs with invigorating images, animation and exciting real world sounds to keep them up and running.”
The website needs this caveat: the word “some.” When “some” dogs are left along they can become anxious.
I’ve had several dogs. And from what I can tell none of them have become anxious when they were left alone. Mostly all of my dogs, including my two current Labs, have just slept.
Or they will sit at the back gate and watch the “real world” go by, which stimulates them plenty. They bark at the mail delivery person, or the Fed-Ex guy. If someone walks a dog down our street, my dogs will give them a good barking. And sometimes, if the spirit moves them, they will raise a ruckus barking at the dogs at the back fence, who in turn bark at my dogs. They will run up and down the fence line, barking and snarling at each other. A good time is had by all.
Other than those brief volleys of barking to help keep their back yard safe, my dogs don’t really crave stimulation. They sleep. They sleep in the shade during the summer and in the sun during the colder days. They sleep on the hard concrete patio, or on one of the several dog beds scattered around the yard.
Occasionally they will also get a chew bone, and will spend an hour or two working on those.
In the mornings and evenings, we play fetch until one of us gets too tired. (Usually that one is the “parent,” not the dog.)
The only time my dogs seem anxious is during hunting season, when they see me getting ready to go. Then it is more excitement than anxiousness and, no matter how much soothing music was on the dog network, I can guarantee you they wouldn’t settle down.
Now, to set the record straight, I actually have seen my dogs looking at TV a time or two.
Those times they have looked at the TV they heard a quail call, or a duck quack on one of the hunting shows I was watching. They will hear a sound they know, and will look at the TV like the RCA dog — ears up, head tilted to one side. But within a second or two, they will lose all interest and will be back nuzzling my hand wanting me to scratch their ears, or they will be over nosing around in the waste basket for some delectable morsel that may have been thrown away.
I have heard of dogs that do suffer from separation anxiety, and when their “parents” aren’t home the dogs go ballistic, tearing up furniture, digging at the carpet, doors and walls. So anxiety in some dogs is a very real problem — luckily, one I haven’t had to deal with.
I’m just a little skeptical, though, about just how much TV will do for dogs that are anxious, or don’t get enough stimulation in their days.
The new channel on DirecTV costs $12 a month. Which, if it works on a dog that is bent on tearing up your house while you are away, is money well spent. For me and my non-television-watching dogs, it would be a total waste of money. Although, I might get DogTV for a month just to see what programs they actually run on there.
Then I can positively say I’ve seen it all.