- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Filmmakers are calling DogTV a new breed of television - an eight-hour block of on-demand cable TV programming designed to keep your dog relaxed, stimulated and entertained while you are at work.

To get the right footage, videographers got onto their knees and shot low and long. “I shot from the point of view of the dog,” said Gilad Neumann, CEO of DogTV.

In production, they had to mute colors, alter sound and add music specially written for dogs.

There will be no commercials, no ratings and no reruns, although some might argue that watching a slug crawl hardly makes for exciting programming.

One million subscribers with two cable companies have access to DogTV in San Diego. The programming is doing so well that parent company PTV Media plans to offer it nationally in the next several months, Mr. Neumann said.

It will cost about $4.99 a month, he said. If you figure more than 46 million U.S. households have dogs (according to the American Pet Products Association) and 97 percent of U.S. homes have televisions, the future for DogTV looks promising.

Bleu, a year-old French bulldog, has been watching for a month and snorts and grunts his approval, owner Mary Catania of San Diego said. He used to perk up when “Family Guy” came on, Ms. Catania said, but Bleu seems more intrigued by DogTV.

“I always feel guilty leaving him alone all day when I’m at work,” Ms. Catania said. “He’s like my kid. I don’t have any children, so I really treat him like my child. Anything that makes him happy makes me happy.”

For years, pet owners have been leaving a television or radio on when they go out so their pets have company, said Nick Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Mr. Dodman said research on the canine brain shows that dogs could see only a flickering screen with analog television. New technologies including digital TV, high-definition cameras and enhanced production have changed the way dogs perceive the images, while big screens allow them to see from anywhere in a room, Mr. Neumann said.

Do dogs really understand what they’re watching? Mr. Dodman said research is ongoing, but it appears that dogs recognize other dogs on TV and may even respond differently to their own breeds.

They definitely recognize sounds, whether it’s barking or sirens, and audio on DogTV has been tailored accordingly. Because high-frequency sounds can be irritating to dogs, they have been removed. Music is written and tailored for dogs’ hearing, though it sounds like elevator music to humans.

What you won’t find on DogTV are the sounds that blare on regular TV: no gunshots, no explosions, no heavy metal music, Mr. Neumann said.

Dogs can see blue and yellow, but not red or green, Mr. Neumann said, so colors are altered for DogTV.

Based on dog sleeping-pattern studies, programmers alternate footage and soundtracks designed for stimulation, relaxation and exposure throughout the eight hours.

Exposure is designed to acquaint dogs with things they will see each day. “There are studies that show when young puppies are exposed to video images of other dogs, it acts as a form of socialization,” Mr. Dodman said. Sights and sounds during this part of the programming expose the animals to things such as traffic, babies, other pets and doorbells.

Relaxation segments feature sleeping dogs and nature scenes - like the slugs - accompanied by dog lullabies.

Stimulation includes dogs running, playing and surfing, animation and a lot of panting. The idea behind this part of DogTV is to get a dog moving, even if the pet is home alone.

Shows are “refreshed” daily for variety.

A lot of feedback from viewers indicates that cats like the show as well as dogs, Mr. Neumann said. CatTV may be added later, but DogTV is strictly for the dogs, he said.

The Escondido Humane Society, on the outskirts of San Diego County, isn’t wired for cable, but DogTV offered to give the organization relaxation-only test videos.

“We handle 5,000 animals a year. We get high-energy, big dogs that need to calm down. When we plugged it in, we saw almost immediate results,” said development director Jean Loo-Russo.

If an extremely active dog is confined for long periods of time, a chemical imbalance can occur and it can go kennel crazy, Ms. Loo-Russo said.

You can prevent that with DogTV and 20-minute walks twice a day, she said.

Every dog at the shelter can’t see a TV, but they are all within hearing distance and that’s helping too, Ms. Loo-Russo said.

Pets one day may be able to sniff DogTV, Mr. Dodman said. “The technology is here to add smell. There are boxes you can buy that have 60 different wells that you can fill with scents. Like fireworks, you can cue them with what’s on television.”

Too bad the dogs can’t work the remote.



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