Home >Lounge >Features >Press paws: A TV channel for your dog

Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day," John Grogan famously said in the heart-tugging book Marley And Me.

For countless years, we have wondered what our pet companions really think, what their behavioural patterns mean and how their responses can be interpreted—and while millions are spent on research, one fact is indisputable: Pets, especially dogs, do suffer from separation anxiety when left alone for long periods. In a modern world, where most human members of the family are out all day, this is, unfortunately, unavoidable. This also means the dogs will, in all probability, not get enough exercise and will have no companion to play with.

For some years now, a novel concept has been trying to address this situation—a television channel especially for dogs, that dog parents can leave on when they are out to work. DogTV is a 24x7 cable network that was developed on the basis of over 60 research studies and backed by a panel of leading experts. Launched eight years ago in the US, it works on the basic premise that dogs see the world differently from us: They do not see colours the same way we do and their auditory sense works at a different level. DogTV’s programmes are focused on relaxation, simulation and exposure.

DogTV, which reaches over 70 million households in the US and over 250 million homes worldwide, has now collaborated with Amagi Media Labs to open up the channel for wider global access. It’s hoping to launch in India, perceived as a major territory, later in the year. As of 2019, there were an estimated 19 million pet households in India, with 85% of these having a dog.

I tried DogTV through its website for a brief period with my young Golden Retriever. While he was fascinated initially by the colours and sounds on the screen, he was soon back to doing what he does best—creating havoc and making the most of the bonus time with his pet parents, currently working from home due to the lockdown. It will be interesting to see if the programming has a calming effect on him when normal routines resume.

Gurugram-based Udayan Mitra, who works in publishing, has tried out the channel with his four dogs. “Many of us have been amused, and a little surprised when we have seen our dogs look intently at our TV screens sometimes—just like humans—but then their attention wavers because of course what’s on the screen is meant for humans, not dogs. If you want to make sure your pet is having a good, relaxed time when you are away at work or at home but otherwise engaged, all you have to do is turn on DogTV," he says.

Adds Delhi-based event management consultant Sheuli Sethi: “I played one of the videos for my pet, Juno, and by the end of it he was fast asleep (in fact I found myself knocking off too!). Certainly relaxing. I can see Dog TV working well, especially for calming anxious and excitable pups at home."

Gurugram-based vet Jasjeet Josan thinks the use of DogTV could be explored for dogs recovering from illnesses, as well as in pet boarding facilities.

Some pet parents are, however, sceptical—they wonder if it would be able to sustain the dog’s interest over a long period. Some critics also cite the absence of olfactory stimuli, one of the most critical factors in getting a dog’s attention.

Yoav Ze’evi, senior vice-president, content and distribution, clarifies that DogTV is not meant to be a substitute for human companionship and does not encourage you to leave dogs alone longer than you have to.

During the pandemic, the channel has worked to address issues related to care and ownership—it launched a covid-19 response campaign titled “Together at Home", offering its content free for dogs and humans to enjoy #TogetherAtHome worldwide. Its website can be accessed by everyone.

“Interestingly, during covid-19 the number of animal adoptions has gone up in some countries." says Ze’evi. “People don’t want to be alone during a time of such stress and uncertainty and many have taken to adopting dogs for companionship. For these new pet parents as well, the channel is a good way to build a bond with their new pet."

Given the success of DogTV, will it be Cat TV next? Watch this space.

Hemali Sodhi is a brand consultant and a dog parent.

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