An average Indian spends around three to four hours a day, watching TV. Ever wondered why we humans need TV? The reason given by experts is “We watch TV for relaxation and stimulation”. Agreed. If it is so for humans, then is this the case with our pets too? Do they need TV for relaxation and stimulation? Wouldn’t it be convenient for all working-pet parents to switch on the TV and leave their pets at home without being worried about separation anxiety? Surely it would be a boon-But only if you could plant your pet in-front of the TV!
Since 2004, many TV channels like ‘The Pet Network’, ‘DOG TV’ etc., have started broadcasting 24×7 programs exclusively for the dogs at home. Interestingly, the idea for such ‘Dog’ programs came from a cat! All of us hate to see our pets looking sad and sulky when we leave the house to go to work every morning. Same was the case with Ron Levi’s (a radio and a TV host) cat. This inspired him to create ‘DOG TV’.
How different are these channels from the ones we watch all-the-time? The regular channels are considered to be inappropriate for dogs. Why? Because it involves frequent disturbances (animations, camera zooms/swooshes), loud music (noise for dogs), angry/sad/shouting human voices etc. According to a research, dogs that watch mellower pet-friendly programs, tend to be happier and calmer than the rest.
Does that mean you can put to rest your dog’s separation anxiety by shelling out a few bucks a month? Yes. But it might not as well work for your dog! Let’s have a small test for your dog. Your goal: You need to plant him in-front of the TV. Seems easy? Do try this at home! Your dog would not even look at the TV screen for more than 30 seconds. How do you make him glued to the TV–set?
According to Animal behaviorists, one reason why dogs seldom care about the TV is that it doesn’t look like a TV to them. Instead, it appears like a dim-lit slideshow. A slideshow? Yes. And that too with individual frames and pitch-black screens (in-between the transition to the next frame) being played at a very slow speed.
Dogs, as compared to humans, visualize this world with a faster ‘flicker fusion rate’ (F.F.R) of 70-80 Hz. While we do the same at 50-60 Hz. Moreover, since dogs have an uncanny motion-sensitivity, the optical illusion which makes the frames appear fluid on TV fails to fool them. Most importantly, your dog might not be able to ‘smell’ what he sees in TV. Since the TV doesn’t charm the dog’s olfactory (smell) senses, it doesn’t look real to him.
For convenience, let’s keep the ‘smell-appeal’ aside and talk about the F.F.R a bit more.
‘Pet channels’ claim that the above said ‘slideshow’ argument might go down well with older tube TV’s and CRT TV’s but with LCD, LED and ULED TV’s on the row, the F.F.R displayed is 100 Hz. What does that mean? In simple words, your dog would be able to watch TV as you do if you have an LCD/LED/ULED TV.
Now, the technology is set, next comes the willingness to sit in-front of the TV and watch. Even if your dog could watch the TV like you do, he might react to it exactly as you would, when somebody calls you in the middle-of-the-night just to say “Hi”. Many Professors of animal behavior say, your dog, instead of wanting to watch TV, wants to sleep when you are away!
He might wake-up every 20-25 minutes, look for you around, scratch his itch, drink some water and go back to sleep. ‘Pet Channels’ claim to have foreseen this issue too and have scheduled the programs according to a dog’s daily routine. These channels might have an afternoon slot for ‘Sleeping Dogs’ where they show various other dogs sleeping.
Problem Solved! Isn’t it? I bet you forgot the ‘smell sense’. Many dogs, even in their most ecstatic point of the day, do not react to these channels. The reason being ‘lack-of-concurrent-odors’.
The dog gets disappointed when he hears you on the phone but he isn’t being able to either see you or more importantly, smell you.
They prefer it this way ‘Smell first, vision next’ and we prefer it the other way around. It might as well suffice to quote Jon Franklin, author of ‘The wolf in the Parlor’:
“Even a dog appearing on the screen, or barking out of a speaker, failed to impress. His two humans might be dumb enough to project their imaginations into the big square-eye thing, but the dog innately understood that it was pure nonsense. The television emitted no odor: Ipso facto, it was not real.”
So if the so-called ‘Pet-friendly’ channels are of no help in mollifying your pets, then is there anything else you can do about it? Yes, you can. It is way more simple and time-tested. In case you have no other choice but to leave your pet home-alone, take him for a long-walk. This would gently push him into his bed-time. You might also want to create an ambience of a safe and soothing place around your pet. This is achieved best with dim lights, soft music and enough food-water at his reach.