TV Goes to the Dogs

Does your dog bark when he sees dogs or other animals on the TV screen? Does he run to the back of your TV set sniffing madly to see where they went? When a doorbell rings during a movie, does he rush excitedly to your front door to see who’s there? When you go out, do you turn on Animal Planet to keep him company? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are not alone!


According to the American Kennel Club, 50 percent of owners surveyed said their canine pals show an interest in television.

“There’s no doubt that television has an animal audience, even if their attention span varies from a few minutes to several hours,” says animal behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, North Grafton, Mass. “The fact that they watch proves how visual and thinking dogs really are. Their interest in the small screen has nothing to do with their olfactory senses.”

What dogs watch

Dodman says that dogs will sit and watch those things that interest them, such as other dogs, squirrels, cats and rabbits. But programs about horses and even NASCAR racing seem to hold the interest of some dogs. Some also react to the commanding voices of certain TV talk-show hosts and personalities. Anja, the Jack Russell in our family, refuses to eat her chicken dinner until the TV is switched on and the authoritative voice of Judge Judy presides over the dog-food bowl!

Animal Planet, in deference to its growing canine (and feline) audience, has started broadcasting special programs for a pet-related audience on Friday evenings. Part of the network’s “Tail-Evision” lineup is a dog clip called “Good Dog.” It’s a mere 15 seconds long and features a man petting a camera and trying to get the camera to play with him as one would with a dog. The clip airs between other dog-friendly shows such as “Amazing Animal Videos” and “The Planet’s Funniest Animals.”

“People always tell us that their pets watch Animal Planet, and send us photos of their dog in front of the set watching our shows,” says Maureen Smith, vice president and general manager of the network. “This program is our first step to creating content for our animal audience. Although it may look a little funny to us humans, we are betting your pets will love it.”

Filmmakers also pander to the new canine audience with special, continuously playing videos designed to pet-sit your pal while you are out. For the more sophisticated dog, feature films such as “The Adventures of Jack, the Bitterroot Beagle” might appeal. The net proceeds from this DVD movie are donated to nonprofit animal shelters, pet rescue agencies and humane societies across the country. This is a great way to entertain your pal and support your local animal shelter. To find out more about the donation program, contact the producers at 406-363-6616.

When you are the main attraction

Admittedly, for a large number of pets, it’s not the programming but the people on the couch that are the main attraction. In fact, 87 percent of people surveyed in the AKC study admitted that their pets curled up with them when they watched television primarily because they were seeking undivided attention. No bones about it, watching TV with your dog is an excellent way to spend quality time.

You might even turn it into a grooming opportunity. You can give your dog a good brush down, trim his nails and check for any little lumps or bumps under his coat that need the attention of a veterinarian. And while you munch on popcorn, your pal can enjoy a dental chew that will improve his breath and keep his teeth pearly white.

Of course, when the two of you are curled up together enjoying your favorite weekly show, you’re not obliged to do anything more than scratch your pal behind the ears and enjoy his company as he does yours.

As far as your dog is concerned, this is undoubtedly the best daily treat ever!

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