DogTV: Initial thoughts on a new leisure activity for dogs

Lab puppy watching DogTVHave you heard of DogTV?  Chances are, if you’re part of San Diego’s dog community, you have.  I was first introduced to it by one of my students who sent me video of her one year old pointer mix puppy attentively engaged in a television program where a dog was chasing a ball in the waves at the beach.  Her dog appeared to love what she saw.

DogTV is a TV channel that airs programming specifically developed for dogs.  That’s right – TV created for dogs.  The concept behind it is that dogs are bored when they’re home alone, and their boredom causes behaviors we dislike, such as chewing the couch, digging in the yard, counter surfing, etc.  This is a reality, and it’s a challenge for all dog owners.

As soon as I learned I could purchase DogTV for online streaming, I became a subscriber.  I was so curious about this new dog programming that I had to give it a shot.  The first thing I noticed is that my shepherd mix was thoroughly intrigued by all the motion, sounds, and crawling things across the screen.  He watched it for several hours, without making a peep.  I quickly began taking the opportunity to drop treats in between his paws as he laid on his blank, quietly watching the program while I typed away on the computer.  My lab mix followed suit, though she seemed to be more entertained by the water and play scenes (true to her breed, I guess!).

During the day while I’m working in my home office, I have an arsenal of things for my dogs to do, such as find treats inside their toys, dig the stuffed birds out of the stuffed birdhouse, eat breakfast from their Kong, play tug of war with me, etc.  When I’m not at home, they stay home alone with as many safe things to do as possible, and I hope that the exercise and play time they get while I am home will be enough to keep them out of trouble.   I think most dog owners can relate.

It’s important to note that no TV program can (nor should) be a complete answer to boredom behaviors dogs do when they’re bored, and although many claim it’s helpful to separation anxiety, we should always understand it to be a tool that sets our dogs up for performing better behaviors, rather than a “quick fix” for behavior problems.  Remember, there is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to training our dogs.

That said, what I love about this channel is that it provides an important reminder of the need for dogs to be properly stimulated throughout the day, and an easy-to-implement tool for people to add to their bag of tricks when it comes to keeping their dog entertained while he’s home alone.  It has opened up many important conversations about how to provide mental stimulation for dogs while people are away, and it has drawn attention to the fact that our dogs need to be engaged socially and mentally, in addition to physically.

The programming also provides unique opportunities for socialization to everyday sounds such as barking dogs, doorbells, traffic, and children’s voices.  This could prove to be a very useful supplement for socialization, especially for new puppy owners or new dogs who are still adjusting to their environments.  I wonder what it means for dogs who are reactive toward other dogs or certain sounds, and I can see the possibility of it functioning as a starting point for modification of the behavior of reactive dogs.

In the meantime, I’m excited about the future of DogTV and the surrounding conversations.  Many of my students are already using it as an additional source of entertainment for their dogs, and the dogs seem to love it.  Are your dogs watching television?  Have you found any creative use for DogTV in your household?  I’d love to hear about it!


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