Dog TV will give you ‘your money’s woof’

The new YES channel provides dogs left alone at home the comfort of sights and sounds that they enjoy.

Dog TV (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dog TV
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If it weren’t for the sticker on the door that says, “Dog TV, Good Human,” this office on a quiet street in Ramat Gan might be any other Israeli start-up. Dog TV, a new 24/7 channel aimed at man’s best friend, doesn’t have a canine office mascot or any cutesy trappings.
But there is a large television tuned to the channel, which features quiet, relaxing images, mostly of dogs and people walking with them through attractive settings, just what you’d imagine a dog would want to see.
Now, before you make a snarky remark about this, know that Dog TV CEO Gilad Neumann is way ahead of you. Before I sit down, he asks if I’ve seen the clips of various a recent Saturday Night Live sketch poking fun at the channel, as well as David Letterman, Jay Leno and others getting a few laughs out of it. While most people would bristle at this kind of attention, Neumann welcomes it. He knows very well that while you can buy a lot of ads, you can’t pay for SNL to laugh at you. For that to happen, you have to become part of the American zeitgeist. And in a dizzyingly short period of time, Dog TV has accomplished that.
The channel, which is available in Israel on Channel 39 on the YES cable network for NIS 9.90 per month, was launched about a year ago in San Diego. Now available all over California, Neumann hopes that soon it will be a part of cable packages all over the US, and – why stop there? – the entire world.
“We expected that people would make jokes about it, sure,” Neumann admits. “It’s an out-of-the-box idea, and you can be very funny about that. But we’ve got a lot of subscribers – dog owners are taking it seriously.”
That’s because there is a great deal of research to suggest that a channel such a as Dog TV can ease the pain that pooches feel when their owners leave for the day.
“The Humane Society of America suggests leaving your TV on for your dog when you go out,” he says. “But what do you leave on? Animal Planet often shows violent images of animals killing, and that can upset a dog. People put on CNN but then again, dogs are upset by seeing violence. And the commercials can be loud and irritating.”
Dog TV, which does not have commercials, has content that has been developed with a team of experts to be soothing and engaging for dogs.
These experts include animal trainer and radio-show host Warren Eckstein; dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, who hosts the popular Animal Planet show, It’s Me or the Dog; and veterinary behaviorist and professor at Tufts University, Nicholas Dodman.
But what exactly is it about the images and programs that appeal to dogs? Neumann shows me an image from the channel, a landscape with flowers.
“For years, people thought that dogs only see black and white, but it turns out they’re color blind, meaning they don’t see red and green,” he explains. “The colors they see most strongly are yellow and blue.” He shows me how the landscape image has been enhanced to bring out the shades of yellow and blue in it, and then shows an image of how that looks to dogs.
The channel does not currently feature programs by dog trainers such as Stilwell (although that’s a possibility for the future) but simply shows pictures of dogs, landscapes, humans and soothing graphics that dogs can watch safely and comfortably, all set to original music.
The concept was the idea of Ron Levi, the channel’s co-founder and a former host of the Israeli Music Channel and a writer for such shows as The Amazing Race.
“Have you seen the clips of dogs howling along to the Law & Order theme?” Levi asks, as a section showing a dog walking near the Hudson River in New York City comes on.
Those viral clips were part of what gave Levi, who loves dogs but owns a cat (“It’s hard to have a dog when you’re working such long hours”) the idea for the channel.
“Dogs obviously relate to what they’re seeing on TV,” he says. “When you look at the research, it’s not a crazy idea at all.” He cites some scholarly papers on the subject, adding, “The research shows that dogs have a day cycle. It takes them about an hour to calm down after the humans leave. That’s why the programming day is divided up into stimulation and relaxation, to work around the way that their day normally goes.”
Levi is convinced that the channel can help dogs release energy during the day, so they are not so crazed when their owners return after many hours away.
While he admits that “every dog is different,” he says that this channel gets high barks from most canines.
“It’s really designed for dogs and what they need and like. There’s nothing scary – no cats.”