Middle East

New TV channel for dogs sets tails wagging in Israel

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Media captionProgrammes on Dog TV are developed to comfort pets left home alone

If there is already competition for the television remote control in your home, then the situation could be about to get worse.

An Israeli-produced cable channel aimed at dogs is proving a big hit with its target audience. Dog TV successfully launched in the United States last year.

Now it is available for subscribers in Israel and online.

At the dog beach in Tel Aviv, owners are enthusiastic about the new option for their four-legged friends.

"I work during the day because I have to pay for his food," says Jeff from Jerusalem, ruffling the fur of his bandana-wearing golden retriever, Palsie.

"Generally when I leave the house I put on the radio, play him some music. When Dog TV started I thought it was the perfect thing for him. He actually sits and watches it."

"It's a great idea. Why not?" remarks Danni, as she sits on the sand with her three playful terriers. "It's a very animal-friendly country. Everyone here is talking about it lately."

Customised content

In his office in nearby Ramat Gan, Ron Levi explains that it was actually his cat, Charlie, who gave him the original idea for the channel.

"I just felt guilty leaving him by himself every day for so many hours and I thought I need to do something. As the TV set was already there, I thought why not use it to entertain cats or dogs?" he says.

Eventually his production company decided to prioritise programming for dogs because they are pack animals and suffer most from separation anxiety.

The content of Dog TV, the producers say, has been developed using scientific studies and help from expert trainers. There is no irritating barking or high-frequency sound.

Instead there is music that dogs find soothing. Blue and yellow tones work effectively but not red or green because of canine colour-blindness.

Based on research into dog sleeping patterns, there is a cycle of images that provide pets with stimulation, relaxation and gradual exposure to everyday sounds.

"We get a great response from dogs that are normally bored. Dogs that bark all day and their neighbours go crazy because of it - all of a sudden they are sleepy and relaxed," Mr Levi says.

"We had to do focus groups for dogs. We installed security cameras in 38 apartments to monitor them and see how they respond. We got to learn a lot from it and changed our content accordingly."

Mixed perceptions

Research on the canine brain shows that new technology has made it easier for dogs to view the television.

"In the old days of analogue TV what would happen is the dog would see individual frames, so a flickering, but now that's not even an issue with digital TV," says Nicholas Dodman, Programme Director of the Animal Behaviour Department of Clinical Sciences at Tufts University in the US.

"Dogs can see the picture as clearly as you and me and they can watch and be entertained by it."

Animal shelters have given positive reports about the use of Dog TV, but it does not work well for everyone.

One woman in Tel Aviv told me that her three mongrels just ignored it.

"We tried to get them to look at the television and they just sat there looking at us as if we were crazy and then went on with their normal doggy life," she laughs.

"Every dog's perception is different according to the breed, the energy level, the age of the dog and even the way their noses are built," Mr Levi admits. "We are trying hard to please everyone."

In a surprise turn of events, there have been some reports from cat-owners that their pets have been spotted watching Dog TV.

That has prompted the creators of the channel to suggest that they might set up a more feline-friendly version in future.

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