As of this week, we can add one more item to the growing list of once uniquely human things that we have, with mostly good intentions, bestowed/inflicted upon dogs.
Dogs now have their own television station.
DogTV, which debuted yesterday, features short clips of canines romping and playing. It airs 24 hours a day, and is designed to keep your dog company, providing him with relaxation and stimulation when no one is home. It costs $4.99 a month and is available on DirecTV.
Now they, too, can be couch potatoes — just like us.
Maybe that’s what we want — for our dogs to be human. Maybe we just assume, given their willingness to please, that if we like something, they’re going to love it, when in fact the reason they love it is because we’re doing it. Maybe we just like free, or $4.99 a month, babysitting.
Whatever the case, we keep passing on or making available to them our curious and not entirely healthy habits, quirks, trendy “must haves” and addictions — be they pharmaceuticals, beauty contests, bling, funny haircuts, halloween costumes, spa services, day care, neuroses, high tech health care no one can afford, or gourmet food.
We seem to keep trying — consciously or not — to make dogs more like us, when the actual truth of the matter (and the secret of life) is that we should be more like them.
(Maybe, if we watch DogTV, we can learn how.)
On human TV Wednesday night, NBC ran this feature on DogTV, introduced by Brian Williams, who closely resembles a Bassett hound, and reported by Kevin Tibbles, who dutifully includes about every canine-related pun there is.
As Tibbles notes, pets are a $55 billion industry in America, and the nation’s 78 million dogs could make for a lot of viewers. That, even though dogs don’t have disposable income, could prove lucrative.
DogTV bills itself as “the perfect babysitter for dogs who have to stay home alone.”
Therein lies the problem.
Dogs don’t want electronic babysitters. Dogs want to be out in the real dirt, bug, critter and scent-filled world. We do, too, though often we don’t realize it, mainly because we get so caught up in and numbed by TV, video games, Facebook and the like.
I do often leave my TV on for my dog Ace when I leave the house, even though he’s never shown a great deal of interest in it. His ears will perk up when he hears a dog whining or barking on television, and he’ll watch for maybe 10 seconds or so before moving on to more important things, like sleep.
I, on the other hand, who grew up being babysat by TV, will stay up past bedtime and sit riveted for 60 minutes watching a “Law & Order” episode I previously viewed less than a month ago.
Who, I ask you, is the superior being?
“For those of us who suffer the guilt of leaving a dog alone for hours each day, the prospect of forking out five bucks a month to allay our dogs’ separation anxiety might sound attractive. It’s certainly cheaper than hiring a daily dog walker,” Ryan Vogt writes in Slate. “There’s only one problem: It won’t work. ”
Vogt goes on to explain 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… To them, it looks like a slideshow powered by a dim strobe light.”
I don’t begin to understand that (probably because I’ve watched too much TV), but the article goes on to quote some experts, including Alexandra Horowitz. She explains that, in addition to the “frame rate” differences, the fact that no smells come out of the television keeps dogs from getting too interested. “Dogs are not primarily visual … and what interests them is typically smell first, sight second.”
In other words, they know it’s not real.
I don’t have a problem with DogTV existing — just with the possibility it could be overused by busy dog owners. There are better ways to keep you dog occupied during the day, even when you’re not home. And too much TV — be it forensic drama, cooking shows, or even just watching dogs romp — can’t be good for anyone, two or four-legged.
What we fail to realize as we continue to work the wild out of dogs, continue to make them more human, is that dogs don’t need vicarious thrills.
That’s just us.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 2nd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alexandra horowitz, animals, babysit, babysitter, babysitting, behavior, brian williams, channel, couch potatoes, directv, dog, dogs, dogtv, for dogs, home alone, humanize, humanizing, humans, images, nbc, network, pets, play, relaxation, station, stimulation, television, thrills, tv, vicarious