A story about a new TV network developed exclusively for a canine audience piqued my interest recently.
Lots of dog owners (and cat owners, and bird owners too) will leave on the television set for their dogs while they're away, or a radio. Generally, the reason given is less about dogs liking to watch TV and more about background noise intended to keep them company.
This, of course, is not really achieved. Noise can never fool a dog into thinking he's got a companion when he is all alone.
Anyhow, this new TV network is based on the premise that with the advent of digital television, dogs can now enjoy TV with us.
This is true; at least up to the point of saying they may actually enjoy it.
Here's the video report on the new doggie TV network
Interestingly enough, I had just finished reading about dogs, their vision and how it affects canine TV viewership (if you guessed I was reading Alexandra Horowitz's Inside of a Dog, you're totally right) when that story popped up.
Fun trivia about dogs, vision and TV viewing
The rate at which any living being with eyes sees the world is called the flicker fusion rate. Horowitz defines the flicker fusion rate as "the number of snapshots of the world that the eyes take in every second."
The flicker fusion rate for humans is 60. For dogs, it's between 70-80.
Think about the old-fashion film reels to understand how this works and what impact it has your dog's TV watching capabilities.
Because the human flicker fusion rate is 60, films are generally shown at 60 frames per second. This makes the series of still images appear as one fluid moving image to us.
If the old-fashioned film reel were to slow below that rate, we all know what happens. We start seeing the black space between the frames. It would be really hard to watch a film this way — no doubt, we'd feel like we were watching a bunch still images in a choppy slideshow type format.
That is exactly what the dog sees watching non-digital television, which projects at 60 frames per second.
"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 to engage them," Horowitz writes. "It doesn't look real."
Digital television fixes this problem, which is what opened the door for this new canine-oriented television network.
But the question remains, will dogs start liking TV now?
We must remember that to the dog, the world is first and foremost a world of scents, not sights. Vision is secondary to that all-important dog snout.
The chances that our television sets can become babysitters for our dogs like they so often are for our children is not likely, I think.
"So, you mean to say they need to invent a scratch-and-sniff television for dogs?" asked my coworker Charlie Crumm, who grins and bears my never-ending dog anecdotes on a daily basis.
Yes. Scratch and sniff might just work — but then, you might also come home to a broken TV set.