Americans spend an average of five hours a day watching TV. Human Americans, that is. As pet owners know, our furry wards just don’t share our interest in “Cesar Millan’s Leader of the Pack.” Animals may spend a lot of time in front of the television as our companions, but they rarely watch it.
The folks behind DogTV aim to change that. Billed as “the perfect babysitter,” DogTV isn’t TV about dogs; it’s TV for them. Many dog owners already leave the tube on for their pets when they go out, but until now there’s never been programming made to keep dogs company. Airing 24 hours a day, DogTV will show short clips of canines chasing each other, riding in cars, napping, and, perversely, being visited by the mailman. There will even be animated sequences of bats flying at the screen, for some reason.
The channel — at $4.99 monthly — is on DirecTV; it is also available online and on Roku. 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.
There’s only one problem: It won’t work.
One reason that dogs don’t care about TV is it doesn’t look like TV to them — it looks like a slideshow powered by a dim strobe light. Dogs see the world at a faster frame rate than humans do. Humans’ flicker fusion rate is 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. As Alexandra Horowitz explains in “Inside of a Dog,” canines “see the individual frames on TV and the dark space between them too.” She continues: “This — and the lack of concurrent odors wafting out of the television — might explain why most dogs cannot be planted in front of the television … It doesn’t look real.”
Not so fast, say the folks at DogTV. That may have been true on tube TVs, but dogs are increasingly able to see TV images. How? “New LCD technology,” DogTV answers. “The refresh rate on the newer television screens is now 100Hz and up, perfect for continuous canine viewing.”